1962 was the year that saw James Bond explode onto our screens as the suave and sophisticated, but hard-hitting international spy in Dr. No. It was after it's huge success that the rights to all but one of the original Ian Fleming books were snapped up, the one that got away? Casino Royale. This was largely because it had been optioned several years previous for an hour long TV show featuring Barry Nelson as the international man of mystery. It would be five years, each punctuated with another of Fleming's original stories turned into a successful movie, before Casino Royale would see the light of day, and when it did, it would feature a cast to die for, no less than six directors, on-set feuding bested by none since, and a plot so chaotic that attempting to keep up with it bears...[Read the complete movie review]
Suffice it to say that Casino Royale has never looked so good. The 1080p 2.35:1 widescreen presentation is pleasing. There are few signs of restorative procedures here, with no unruly DNR and very little edge enhancement, making it a delight to watch, feeling authentic to its age, without wanting for the removal of any artefacts. By no means perfect, but then with a less than perfect original print, that's to be expected.
Blacks are deep and strong, and shadow delineation is decent, allowing for creases and folds in the many dark suits in the casino scenes to be visible. A good portion of the movie is spent in the obscure house in West Berlin, where shadows are prevalent, and the levels of contrast, though not overbearing, do lend a depth to the image in these scenes.
Colour is rich and vibrant, if at times a little over saturated. Warm oranges and yellows are predominant in the grading of the movie, one of the few things about the entire production that is linear throughout the whole movie. Skin tones are a little plasticine-esque. I put this down to the age of the movie, and the fact that there's a gentle soft focus to a lot of the shots, in particular those featuring Peter Sellers. That being said, texture doesn't seem to suffer too much, and nothing feels horribly unnatural.
The production design is one of the areas that the movie really stands out, with incredible sets and lighting pretty much throughout. It's here that we're thankful for the level of detail that is present, though a little more would have been nice. Great care has been taken when lighting scenes too, and although much of the movie is in semi darkness, it's a delight to see it in such glory, with a relaxed and utterly acceptable level of grain to the picture, lending it a film-like quality. Overall, not a bad picture for a movie of its years.
Picture score : 7
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is decent. I'm afraid that with subject matter this old, you're rarely going to get a sonic treat worthy of the DTS lossless format, (unless perhaps you consider the likes of Kelly's Heroes), but there's nothing to be disappointed with here. It's true to the source, and certainly doesn't fall into the territory of disappointment.
With a good level of dynamic range in the mix, the dialogue is never lost under the often chaotic tomfoolery and loud kerfuffles on screen. It's a vaired and accomplished mix. From Peter Sellers' soft and sophisticated delivery, to Orson Welles' rotund and loud booming delivery, everything with the dialogue track is well balanced, and fits effortlessly into the mix.
Explosions sound dated and occupy mostly the mid ranges, which is disappointing, but something that is all too frequent in movies of this era. Nothing going on in the surrounds that warrants much of a mention, completely underused. The only glaring issue I found was in a scene in Dr. Noah's lair, shortly after the LSD bomb goes off, two great big water jets shoot water into the room, and there's a degree of phasing on the sound effects track. I suspect this could be attributed to the source having been recorded in mono, and for the Blu-ray release having been doubled up without any offset, leading to a little phasing. Not a big problem, and the only noticeable problem I found with the audio.
Burt Bacharach's score is fantastic. Rich and colourful, and was at the time considered to be one of the finest recordings around. Why this didn't get consideration for any awards is beyond me. Worth checking out in isolation if you get the chance. Incidentally, for one scene featuring Peter Sellers and Ursula Andres, Bacharach was desperately struggling to find a piece that fit the tone. Workprints of the scene were set against The Girl From Ipanema, which Bacharach insisted - "I'll never be able to write a tune to cover that". Years later, he would send a case of Bollinger to Joseph MacGrath, the film's original director who left the tune he wrote in with a note saying - "I wrote the tune to cover it, thanks". The tune was The Look of Love. It received an Oscar nomination - the only one the movie would see.
All in all, a solid and true to the source audio presentation, giving little cause for qualms or disappointment.
Sound score : 7
Yet another rather infuriating menu system whereby there is no front end menu authered. Meaning that the movie begins immediately, and the only access we get to the Audio Commentary and other features is by bringing up the in-movie pop up menu.
Audio Commentary with James Bond Historians Steven Jay Rubin and John Cork - Jam packed with some fascinating insight into the background behind everything to do with the movie from the soundtrack to the cast. Exceptional commentary, worth a watch for any Bond fan, despite this not being a part of the "main" James Bond series.
The Making of Casino Royale -
- Bond... James Bond? - 13 minute featurette that covers how Casino Royale became a spoof with a lot of disdain on display for how it turned out. Includes snippets from the directors of the movie. Joseph MacGrath discusses much of the movies disputes, including one where he and Peter Sellers came to blows over Sellers request never to be on set with Welles.
- A Three Ringed Circus - 5 minutes of further discussion from MacGrath about the problems surrounding the shoot. Much of the blame is laid at Charlie Feldman's feet. Having watched this I feel saddened at the turmoil surround the movie, as it seemed that despite the problems with script and screenplay, or lack there of, that the movie was destined to failure. Once Feldman was fired, John Houston came in. Houston was responsible for much of the movie's more psychadelic sequences.
- More Directors, More Stars - 8 minutes of discussion about how directors on the project changed so frequently. Often, shooting schedules were put on hold whilst a replacement director was found. Niven is praised as being a stoic professional during the entire production, despite being surrounded by absolute chaos.
- The Big Climax - With such disparity between the directors segments, a story had to be written to bind them all together. This is an 8 minute look at how this came about, and the stuggles involved with the slowly deteriorating mess of a production.
- It's a Wrap - The cast and crew discuss how rather than a wrap party, after shooting finished, everyone just went their own way. Bridges seemed to have been built with apologies from Sellars for the problems he may have caused. A lot of post shoot nostalgia from the likes of MacGrath and Joanna Pettet. Pettet recalls at the premier, attended by The Queen, how she worried whether it would really be The Queen's "cup of tea".
Extras score : 7
I'm sure that at some point, someone had a plan, perhaps even a script for Casino Royale, but what little evidence that remains thereof is minimal. It's an out and out farcical comedy romp, that sees numerous people playing James Bond amidst a plot that's nigh on impossible to follow. The narrative is a complete mess, and at no point do any of the six directors attempt to hide this. Lessons should be learned from this approach, sure, but with a cast full of heavy hitters, and a pinch of salt, it's not impossible to enjoy Casino Royale for what it is - A spoof parody of arguably the most successful secret agent franchises ever. Rarely pausing for breath, the ridiculous story jumps from one plot line to another, almost at random, with a huge portion of the dialogue ad-lib'd. This is the perfect example of what you get if you give six different directors a different segment of a movie to shoot, without any knowledge of what the other directors are doing. It has its moments, but sadly they're few and far between unless you like your comedy to come from the obscure. Never a dull moment, many a confused moment is the order of the day here.
With Extras a-plenty by way of an extended Making Of, and a brilliant commentary track, coupled with a great looking picture making this package a pretty sound purchase. Without a doubt a contender for one of the weirdest and most peculiar additions to your Blu-ray collection, but also a strong candidate for one of the finest casts. It's just a shame the movie doesn't make more sense.
Overall score : 6
1,586 word review written by Alan Mcdermott.
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