Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Forgotten Bond

by Charlie Albuery

After fourteen novels, nine short-stories, twenty-two films, one reboot and seven leading actors (yes, you read that right, seven), the James Bond franchise has cemented itself as not only an unmistakably British masterpiece but a mainstay of pop-culture film the world over. In honour of the ‘lost and found’ them of the forthcoming issue of Portsmouth Point magazine  (as well as the fiftieth  anniversary, this year, of the death of Bond’s creator Ian Fleming), I think it is only fair that we show appreciation of a lost piece of the bond franchise: Casino Royale. No, not the good Casino Royal starring Daniel Craig from 2006 or even the book that kicked it all off in 1953, but the off-the-wall parody spin-off of the film franchise from 1967 starring Woody Allen.

At first this may sound promising: spy parodies certainly have mileage in them (as made clear by the surprisingly non-tiresome Austin Powers franchise) and the cast is frankly stellar, including Woody Allen, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress and even Orson Welles. However, I’ll warn you now, don’t be under impression that this film is any good; it’s a hidden gem that’s hidden for a reason. At the time of writing the aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes collates 33 ratings to give Casino Royale a whopping average of 27%, leading to its selected comment: ‘A goofy, dated parody of spy movie clich├ęs, Casino Royale squanders its all-star cast on a meandering, mostly laugh-free script’. For comparison, the three most recent Bond films (Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace and Skyfall) received 95%, 64% and 92% respectively.
The first issues arise with the plot - ‘After the death of M, Sir James Bond is called back out of retirement to stop SMERSH. In order to trick SMERSH and Le Chiffre, Bond thinks up the ultimate plan: that every agent will be named James Bond. One of the Bonds, whose real name is Evelyn Tremble, is sent to take on Le Chiffre in a game of baccarat, but all the Bonds get more than they can handle, especially when the ultimate villain turns out to be Bond’s nephew, Jimmy Bond’ (I should once again point out that this role is played by Woody Allen at the height of his apparent insanity).
So that’s the shark jumped right there, but we haven’t even gotten to the truly ridiculous bit yet: Jimmy's plan.

After Jimmy is revealed, in a Wizard of Oz-esque sequence in which an imposing shadowy figure gives way to the meek, neurotic ‘mastermind’, he reveals (although not through speech as Bond is quick to explain his ‘performance anxiety’ *sigh*) that he plans to release a toxin into the world that ‘will make all women beautiful and kill all men over four foot six’, presumably intending that, from that point on, society would resemble a stunted-growth edition of Playboy magazine.
Come to think of it, maybe it’s best this sordid chapter in the great institution of Bond be left lost rather than found - for the foreseeable future, at least.

1 comment:

  1. Terrific soundtrack by Burt Bacharach saves the day on this film!


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