Tag Archives: 1967 movies

Casino Royale (1967) Review

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Casino Royale (1967)

Time: 131 Minutes
Cast:
David Niven as Sir James Bond
Peter Sellers as Evelyn Tremble/James Bond
Ursula Andress as Vesper Lynd/James Bond
Joanna Pettet as Mata Bond/James Bond
Daliah Lavi as The Detainer/James Bond
Woody Allen as Jimmy Bond
Barbara Bouchet as Miss Moneypenny/James Bond 007
Terence Cooper as Coop/ James Bond
Deborah Kerr as Agent Mimi/Lady Fiona McTarry
Orson Welles as Le Chiffre
William Holden as Ransome
Charles Boyer as Legrand
John Huston as M/McTarry
Kurt Kasznar as Smernov
Jean-Paul Belmondo as French Legionnaire
Director: John Huston, Ken Hughes, Robert Parrish, Joe McGrath, Val Guest

James Bond, a secret retired agent, sets a plan to take down SMERSH. Later, James Bond renames a group of agents with the same name in order to hide the real one.

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I had watched all the James Bond movies, including the unofficial Never Say Never Again starring Sean Connery. But one Bond film I hadn’t gotten to yet was the 1960s Casino Royale. Casino Royale was the first novel in the James Bond book series, there were attempts to adapt it in the 60s with Sean Connery, but from what I could tell, there was issues with the rights. Eventually it was made as a spoof of the James Bond movies, and most nowadays people don’t really know about this film (especially after the 2006 film). Despite the reviews, I went in open minded and was hoping to enjoy it on some level. However, it ended up being worse than I thought it would be.

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The movie is titled Casino Royale, it features characters named Le Chiffre and Vesper Lynd, and there is a card game that takes place at Casino Royale. But that’s as far as the similarities to the original James Bond story go. The movie is pretty much a James Bond spoof, unfortunately it doesn’t really succeed as that. The script really is a mess, and its not surprising that 11 scriptwriters had worked on it. It just felt like they had thrown a lot of different ideas at the wall and saw what stuck. The plot is bizarre and absolutely incoherent, even spoof movies are at least comprehensible. The setup is that a retired James Bond played by David Niven returns from retirement to take on SMERSH (parody of SPECTRE) which involves giving multiple agents the name of James Bond. That’s as far as I can describe the plot. As for the spoof/satire aspect, it largely deals with the themes of sex and womanising in the James Bond franchise, and this is established very early on. Eventually it forgets that, and very little of the overall humour is based on Bond tropes. Most of the jokes aren’t funny and really miss the mark, and it only grows more tedious to watch as the movie progresses. I won’t say that its completely unfunny, there are some moments which are so absurd that I did find them funny, the ending is particularly insane. But those take up a very small part of the movie, and with the unfunny and annoying humour and the prolonged sections, Casino Royale is quite boring and a slog to sit through. The worst part of this movie might be the length. Had this just been 90 minutes long, I think I wouldn’t have minded the movie as much. It would’ve been a weird and trashy 60s James Bond spoof that would’ve been somewhat enjoyable in its weirdness. However, Casino Royale is over 2 hours and 10 minutes long, there’s just so much pointless and random padding, and it makes the experience even more insufferable.

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There is a weirdly large cast, filled with known names from the 60s. Unfortunately, they are all wasted here. I did somewhat enjoy David Niven, in this movie he’s playing the original James Bond. His stuttering and flustered Bond was amusing to see, even if you can easily call him the worst on screen James Bond. For the most part though, the cast are just wasted and given bad parts. There are a couple of exceptions. For examples, Woody Allen is in this movie and while his character is bad, his presence makes the whole movie even more annoying when he appears on screen. This is the first time I’ve seen Allen act in a movie and I’m very content with never seeing him again. That being said, his final scene did actually make the viewing worth it in the end. The other exception is the surprising addition of Orson Welles. In this movie he plays Le Chiffre, and for what its worth he was one of my favourite parts of the movie. He is good in his scenes, unfortunately he’s not in this movie as much as I would’ve liked. Its just a shame that out of all the James Bond movies he could’ve been in, he ended up in this one.

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As if 11 screenwriters for one movie wasn’t enough indication that Casino Royale was going to be a mess, its also directed by 5 people: John Huston, Ken Hughes, Robert Parrish, Joe McGrath and Val Guest. Just by looking at the movie, you can easily tell that its from the 60s and the direction is really a mixed bag. For what its worth though, there is some creativity on a visual level, from the production design to the colours and lighting. There’s even some German Expressionist inspired visuals in the Berlin segment. I also liked the score, its very 60s and probably deserves to be in a better movie than this.

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1960s Casino Royale is easily the worst movie with the James Bond character, but also one of the most ill-conceived films I have seen. I do like some of the actors, and there were a few moments of absurdity I did enjoy. On the whole though, it is really bad. Most of the humour misses, it fails to be a solid spoof or satire of James Bond, and its just dull to sit through. The troubled and messy production certainly comes across in the end product. If you are looking for a good parody or spoof of James Bond, Austin Powers and Johnny English deliver on that much better. I’d only recommend Casino Royale (1967) to those who are very curious or want to watch all the James Bond movies, but you really aren’t missing out if you don’t watch this.

You Only Live Twice (1967) Review

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You Only Live Twice

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] 
Cast:
Sean Connery as James Bond
Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki
Mie Hama as Kissy Suzuki
Tetsurō Tamba as Tiger Tanaka
Teru Shimada as Mr. Osato
Karin Dor as Helga Brandt/No. 11
Donald Pleasence as Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Bernard Lee as M
Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny
Desmond Llewelyn as Q
Director: Lewis Gilbert

An American space capsule supposedly gets abducted by a Russian spaceship. However, as James Bond discovers that SPECTRE is responsible for it, he embarks on a mission to unearth the motive behind it.

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I didn’t know how they would hold up today, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with the Sean Connery era. However with the fourth movie Thunderball, I was rather disappointed and found it okay at best. I wasn’t sure about how the next movie You Only Live Twice would fare. Having seen it, I would not call it a good movie; it is really silly and I would not place it as the better half of James Bond, but I got a lot of enjoyment out of it.

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This script (co-written by Roald Dahl of all people) is undeniably silly. Goldfinger and Thunderball leaned into the silliness and camp, but YOLT takes it steps further. It is one of the goofier James Bond movies for sure, and was by far the goofiest at that point in the series. You can definitely tell the early signs of the series moving towards the Roger Moore era. YOLT is less of a political spy thriller and more of a silly action adventure; While this won’t work for everyone and might get too crazy for some in the second half, I found it entertaining in the wackiness and absurdity, even if it borders on self-parody. It helped that You Only Live Twice is self aware, it doesn’t play it straight faced by any means. The tone feels lighter, rather than having a serious spy plot with out of place humour. It also benefits from tight pacing and a lot of creative and ambitious moments within. Out of the Bond movies, the Austin Powers movies definitely took the most from You Only Live Twice, and it kind of makes sense when watching it.

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Although I thoroughly enjoyed You Only Live Twice, it is far from being problem free. Despite its enjoyable silliness, the story really is lacking, especially when compared to some of the previous Bond movies. There are certainly sequences and parts that are memorable, but I can’t say that the movie is memorable on the whole. Finally getting to it, You Only Live Twice is very problematic, in fact it’s probably one of the most problematic of the Bond movies and that’s saying something. There are some very weird undercurrents with its racial and gender policies. Despite being considerably less rapey here compared to Bond’s appearance in Thunderball, there really is an air of misogyny and sexism throughout that is prevalent. Then there’s the very weird racial politics. It’s pretty clear that the producers were fascinated with Japanese culture in this instalment, and wanted to make the most out of the setting, and with that came with all the stereotypes including ninjas, sumo wrestling, and Japanese-face. There’s no nice way of putting it, Bond does yellowface, which strangely makes him look more like a Vulcan than actually Asian. It is by far one of the most embarrassing moments of James Bond, and again that’s saying something.

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While Sean Connery is enjoyable to watch as James Bond as usual, compared to many of the previous films his work isn’t all that special here. He seemed a little bored and worn down, and it makes total sense that another actor played Bond after this movie. Still, he has his moments. Some of the returning Bond actors are good, like Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny, Desmond Llewelyn as Q, and Bernard Lee as M, and some of the other main supporting actors in the film are decent too. However the highlight for me is Ernst Stravo Blofeld, the main villain and the recurring antagonist for Bond as the head of SPECTRE. From his first appearance in From Russia with Love, the leader of the criminal organisation has had his face obscured, now we finally get to see the man, and the payoff was strong. Now I wouldn’t call Blofeld one of the all-time best villains by any means, I wouldn’t even say he’s the best Bond villain, however I do really like him. Part of it has to do with Donald Pleasence’s wonderful performance, who is riding a fine line. He is perfectly over the top and cartoonish (fitting for a character who has an evil lair in a volcano with a piranha pool death trap), yet still menacing. He is a memorable character, and you can definitely see why tat Dr Evil from Austin Powers was based specifically off this version of Blofeld. In some ways he is underutilised in the movie, you only see him in the final act. But I don’t think he would’ve been as effective otherwise.

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Lewis Gilbert directs You Only Live Twice, it is the first of three Bond movies he would make. It definitely loses the grounded aspects from the past movies to focus more on the action, and considering the absurd plot, it was worth it. The action set pieces are pretty good, there are some large scale sequences, including a mini helicopter chase and an elaborate set piece at Blofeld’s rocket base. The setting of Japan was a good change for a James Bond movie, on a visual level at least. There are some great locations and environments, and the film definitely takes advantage of them. It’s quite visually impressive, helped by the amazing set design. The look of the volcano lair in particular is immaculate and impressive, ranking among the best production designs for the Bond movies. The visual effects can be very uneven, but then again, it’s a 60s Bond movie, so that’s to be expected. Finally, John Barry’s musical score is typically great.

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You Only Live Twice is not exactly one of the most beloved of the James Bond movies. The plot isn’t the best, it’s a bit too silly for its own good at points, and it is undeniably problematic with its racial and gender politics. However, I still found it to be very entertaining. I enjoyed it more than Thunderball at least, especially with how over the top and absurd it is, and there are some enjoyable set pieces. I would probably place it as being mid-tier Bond, but nonetheless fun to watch.

Who’s that Knocking at My Door (1967) Review

Time: 90 Minutes
Cast:
Zina Bethune as Girl
Harvey Keitel as J.R.
Director: Martin Scorsese

Exploring themes of Catholic guilt similar to those in Martin Scorsese’s later film Mean Streets, the story follows Italian-American J.R. (Harvey Keitel) as he struggles to accept the secret hidden by his independent and free-spirited girlfriend (Zina Bethune).

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With The Irishman coming soon, I wanted to watch/re-watch many of director Martin Scorsese’s movies, including his feature films that I haven’t seen yet. Who’s that Knocking at My Door is his first ever movie, and I hadn’t seen it yet, so I decided to start from there. I wasn’t expecting much going into it, and indeed I guess you could call it one of his ’weakest’ movies, but there’s still a lot of solid parts to it.

I guess one of the problems of Who’s that Knocking at My Door is that it’s a little unfocussed, it wasn’t too much of a problem for me as for much of the movie I could follow along with where it was going. However occasionally, there were portions of the movie which weren’t really going anywhere. With that said, this movie is an hour and a half long, so it doesn’t really overstay it’s welcome. The big turn of the movie happens in like last third of the movie, so if you heard what the plot is really about and the big ‘reveal’, you may just be sitting around waiting for that moment to come. I was just watching Keitel’s character interacting with his friends and with his girlfriend, and I was fine enough with that. You need to know that first and foremost that this film is dialogue driven. Thankfully the dialogue works really well, it feels very realistic, and indeed the script was written by Scorsese himself. Characters are often talking about things that aren’t necessarily relevant to the plot or anything that furthers it, whether it be about movies, John Wayne or whatever, but it makes them feel more real and naturalistic. The highlights were of course the interactions between the two main leads, especially their first scene feeling particularly authentic. Even the scenes of R.J. (Harvey Keitel) with his friends felt very genuine. The movie also involves Catholic guilt as one of the main themes, which is something that would appear quite a lot in Scorsese’s other movies. Without revealing too much (who don’t know about them already), some of the themes explored later in the movie might not be impressive by today’s standard, but for 1967 the subject matter is actually handled quite well and ahead of its time really.

There isn’t a huge cast, but the acting is pretty good. Harvey Keitel and Zina Bethune are the leads, and they are believable in their roles. It is definitely helped by the naturalistic dialogue, but they delivered it so well and are very convincing. For Keitel, his lead character of J.R. almost sets up the kind of archetypical character that Scorsese would create and explore in films like Mean Streets, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas. Bethune was also really good in here too as the unnamed girlfriend, and some of the decisions made with her character in the latter part of the movie I thought were done well.

It’s Martin Scorsese’s first film, so you’re definitely not going to expect him at the top of his game here, but he nonetheless does a solid job. Definitely low budget ($75,000 to be exact) but for a student film it’s actually pretty good, and the black and white seemed to fit the rest of the movie. Interesting fact, Scorsese could only get the distribution by someone who worked with exploitation movies by agreeing to the condition to feature a sex scene to give the film sex exploitation angles for marketing purposes. Indeed there is a gratuitous sex scene here but he managed to film it well as a fantasy sequence that fitted into the movie perfectly here, even if the movie is perfectly functional without it. Something that Scorsese demonstrated with his debut was his excellent use of songs and fitting them perfectly with scenes. From the opening of Jenny Take a Ride to The Doors’ The End being played over the aforementioned exploitation sex scenes, all of the music choices added a ton to the scenes that they were placed in. The editing was also pretty solid by Thelma Schoonmaker, and you can see why she and Scorsese would continue to work together for quite a long time. A lot of the transitions and cuts just feel perfect for the moments. The movie definitely has an experimental feel to it, and while it is very rough, it does make it interesting to watch.

Who’s that Knocking at My Door is a decent debut, despite how unfocussed it can be, Scorsese even from this first movie showed himself to be a real talent and Keitel and Bethune ultimately carry much of the movie. I guess it’s not really essential viewing by any means, but if you’re a fan of Scorsese I’d say that it might be worth checking out.