What's the Mata Bond

You're going to nothing me to death? - Evelyn Tremble

Deborah Kerr and David Niven in Casino Royale (1967)

The mind can play tricks on you as is the case as to why I once though the 1967 spoof Bond movie "Casino Royale" was good, that is until I recently rewatched it and realised what a lot nonsense it is. The irony is that this version of "Casino Royale" starts well, has a pretty impressive cast and a catchy soundtrack but whilst you may enjoy remembering all the cameos or the theme music the actual storyline and humour is staggeringly poor. And the biggest problem is that "Casino Royale" is a complete and utter hotch potch with several writers and directors all making various parts of the movie but none of it comes together which makes it impossible to follow.

With spies dropping like flies all over the world various agencies from around the world approach the original James Bond (David Niven - The Guns of Navarone) to come out of retirement to help them get to the bottom of what is happening, especially as his own nephew Jimmy Bond (Woody Allen) is one of those missing. But unhappy with his replacement and how the spy world has gone 007 refuses until M (John Huston) is killed and so he comes to his countries service. With Le Chiffre (Orson Welles) and SMERSH at the centre of all this trouble Sir James not only orders all agents to be called James Bond to confuse people he recruits a select group of specialist including Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers - The Millionairess) and Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet) to go undercover. But with double agents and sexy women it gets messy and Sir James is in for a shock when he discovers who is behind all this trouble.

Peter Sellers and Ursula Andress in Casino Royale (1967)

So as I said "Casino Royale" starts well, the opening scene with Evelyn Tremble being approached in a public toilet sets the benchmark for the daft humour and the introduction to retired spy James Bond is clever. I say clever because it does poke fun at the James Bond franchise with him deriding his replacement as being a sex addict reliant on gizmos and gadgets. It also allows us to enjoy the gentle comedy of David Niven playing an eccentric version of Bond and whilst the whole funeral element with him heading up to Scotland is messy it is also amusing as Agent Mimi falls for him, a wonderfully over the top performance from Deborah Kerr.

But as soon as this is over "Casino Royale" quickly descends into complete and utter nonsense as a whole range of characters and stories are introduced all of which have a different style because they are from different directors and writers. As such we have a story surrounding Miss Moneypenny trying to find an agent who can resist women, Vesper Lynd trying to help Evelyn Tremble take on Le Chiffre, Mata Bond going undercover and a whole lot more. It is simply one big mess of different ideas, characters, directors and writers all of which put their own spin on things. And it culminates in such a daft scene with so many different Bonds that you question whether producer Charles K. Feldman gave up on it.

The sad thing is that this disjointed movie wouldn't be an issue if it made you laugh but 9 out of 10 jokes fail. In fact the majority of the jokes which are funny come in the first 20 minutes with the rest of the movie struggling for laughs. It gets to the point that anything close to being clever is disregarded for something closer to being slapstick yet it's not funny slapstick.

As such, because so much of the humour falls flat on its face many of the performances from a whole cavalcade of stars end up feeling weak. You can count the good performances on one hand and they mainly consist of David Niven, Deborah Kerr and Ursula Andress but that is only because they get the best written parts. In the end you get more amusement from just star spotting and so when you see the likes of Bernard Cribbins, Ronnie Corbett, Jacqueline Bisset and Orson Welles it brings a smile to your face rather than for what they actually do in the movie.

What this all boils down to is that if "Casino Royale" had continued in the same manner that the first 20 minutes came across it could have been a fun spoof. But in the end too many cooks spoil the broth and so with a whole list of directors and writers all with their thumbs in the pie the end result is simply a mess. It's a mess only memorable for numerous cameos and a catchy theme tune rather than anything else.

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