Royale, although a send-up, was actually an 'official' Bond film in so much
as Ian Fleming had already sold the screen rights to the book to American
producer Charles K. Feldman before he signed the deal with Saltzman and
Broccoli for the other stories. Columbia Pictures originally distributed
this version of the film but, in 1997 a Columbia/MGM/Kevin McClory lawsuit
resulted in the rights reverting to MGM. Feldman, feeling he was unable
to compete with the lavish treatment EON were giving their films, and unable
to come to any agreement with them regarding a partnership, decided to turn
it into a spoof on the Bond films where various actors play the part of
Bond during the many, almost episodic skits and sequences, handled by five
different directors, in a very confused plot bearing little relation to
Fleming's original storyline.
Film sequences were directed by Ken Hughes (Berlin), Joseph McGrath (Sellers / Andress / Welles), Robert Parrish (casino scenes with Sellers / Welles) John Huston (Bond's house and the Scottish castle) and Val Guest (Woody Allen and additional scenes with Niven). Richard Talmadge is uncredited but co-directed the stunts and final scenes. Val Guest was also responsible for the knitting together of the individual sections (although he refused to be credited as 'co-ordinating director').
James Bond, secret agent, has been long retired but is visited by representatives from the heads of British MI6, the CIA, the KGB and the Deuxième Bureau to persuade him to return in order to deal with a new threat that is arising from old enemies Dr. Noah and SMERSH, who have been steadily eliminating agents around the world. Bond refuses their exhortations, following which his mansion is destroyed by a mortar attack initiated by 'M', the head of MI6, who is unfortunately killed in the incident. Bond does the decent thing and travels to Scotland to deliver 'M's remains to his widow, but the real widow, Lady Fiona McTarry, has been removed by SMERSH and replaced with one of their own operatives, Mimi, as has the rest of the household staff, a large number of which seem to consist of rather beautiful young ladies. SMERSH's attempt to have the young ladies seduce Bond and destroy his 'gentleman' image fails to lure him into an indiscretion, which so impresses Mimi that she 'defects' and tries to help Bond to foil the plans of the enemy.
On being promoted to the position of head of MI6, it becomes clear to Bond that so many agents have been eliminated is due to the fact that they seem unable to resist the attractions of the opposite sex. Bizarrely, he is also informed that the womaniser who was renamed 'James Bond' after his retirement has left the service and gone to work in the television industry. One of his first orders is to decree that all current remaining MI6 agents will be called 'James Bond 007 in order to confuse SMERSH and initiates a strict training program to train male agents in how to ignore the charms of female enemy agents. His secretary, Miss Moneypenny, recruits an expert in karate called 'Coop' to carry out the training but who comes into contact with an exotic agent known as 'The Detainer'.
A SMERSH operative called LeChiffre has embezzled his organisation's money and is desperate to try and win the money back at the card table before his superiors discover the theft. Bond recalls millionairess ex-agent Vesper Lynd to the service, tasking her to find him a baccarat player who he can use to defeat Le Chiffre at the casino tables, and Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers) is recruited for the operation. Meanwhile, pursuing information supplied by Mimi, Bond persuades his estranged daughter, Mata, to travel to East Berlin and try to infiltrate 'International Mothers' Help', which is actually a cover operation for a SMERSH spy school. Confused yet? Mata is successful and uncovers a plot hatched by LeChiffre to acquire compromising pictures of military leaders from China, America, Russia and Britain and sell them for extortionate amounts at an 'auction'. She manages to destroy the incriminating photographs, leaving LeChiffre with no other option but to raise the money he badly needs at the card table.
Evelyn Tremble arrives at the Casino Royale accompanied by Vesper Lynd, who deflects an attempt by a seductive SMERSH agent, Miss Goodthighs, to incapacitate him. On observing Le Chiffre at the baccarat tables later that evening, Tremble figures out that he must be using infra-red glasses to cheat his way to victory but Lynd manages to steal the glasses, giving Tremble the opportunity to beat him. Vesper is supposedly subdued and kidnapped when leaving the casino and, in pursuing her, Tremble is captured as well. This has been arranged by LeChiffre who is desperate to get his hands on the card winnings and tortures Tremble with hallucinogens to try and obtain it. Lynd apparently rescues Tremble but subsequently manages to kill him 'accidentally'. While this is going on LeChiffre meets his own fate at the hands of SMERSH who have discovered the cash discrepancy and raid his base. Are you still with me?
Meanwhile, back in London, SMERSH use a giant flying saucer to kidnap Mata who is taken back to the Casino Royale, which is actually just a front for a secret underground SMERSH installation run by Dr. Noah, who also just happens to be Sir James Bond's nephew, Jimmy Bond. James and Moneypenny pursue the kidnappers, but are captured, after which Jimmy reveals to them his plan to release a biological agent that will render all women beautiful and be fatal to any man over 4'6" tall, which will ensure that he becomes 'the big man who gets all the girls'. Jimmy apparently persuades the seductive agent 'The Detainer' to be his queen, but she has other plans and tricks him into taking one of his own 'atomic pills' that has the effect of causing him to hiccup until he explodes.
The original James Bond, 'Coop', Mata and Miss Moneypenny successfully effect their escape, fighting their way to the Casino Manager's office where Bond manages to establish that Vesper Lynd is, in fact, a double agent. At this point confusion reigns as the building is stormed by lots of other agents and a pitched battle ensues until Jimmy's atomic pill eventually explodes, destroying the Casino Royale and all the people inside. Closing scenes show James Bond and the 'good guys' finding their way to heaven while Jimmy Bond and the 'bad guys' descend into hell.
The production had an approved budget of $6million but due to various problems and delays the final film cost about twice as much, making it one of the most expensive films ever made at that time. The slogan for the film was 'Casino Royale is too much... for one James Bond!' referring to the bizarre plot in which other 'agents' are also designated as 'James Bond' to confuse the enemy. These various 'Bonds' were played by Woody Allen, Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers), Vesper Lynd (Ursula Andress), Miss Moneypenny (Barbara Bouchet), Bond and Mata Hari's daughter Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet), Agent 'Coop' (Terence Cooper) and 'The Detainer' (Daliah Lavi). The cast is sprinkled with Hollywood stars and there were also a number of film stars and other personalities who were prepared to play uncredited roles in the movie, including Peter O'Toole and racing driver Stirling Moss.
Conversely, some big name stars such as Jean Paul Belmondo and George Raft were given major billing despite only appearing for a few minutes in the final sequence. Quite a few of the cast had either already appeared in an EON production or would go on to do so, including Ursula Andress, Vladek Sheybal, Burt Kwouk, Jeanne Roland, Angela Scoular, Jack Gwillim, Caroline Munro, Milton Reid and John Wells. Geraldine Chaplin was employed by stunt director Richard Talmadge in a 'Keystone Cops' style sequence, Anjelica (daughter of director John) Huston's hands were used as close-ups for Deborah Kerr and a notable screen debut in the film was Dave Prowse, later to become Darth Vader in Star Wars.
The film suffered from drastic cutting and editing, to the extent that some scenes involving well-known actors such as Ian Hendry, Arthur Mullard and Mona Washbourne were removed completely. Peter Sellers was absent from the set for days at a time and actually left the production before the completion of all his planned scenes. Whether this was by choice or by being 'fired' is unclear, but it is well documented that he was in almost constant conflict with Orson Welles during the filming. The absence of Sellers explains his dramatic departure from the storyline and absence from the end sequences.
The original soundtrack music was composed by Burt Bacharach with Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass performing some songs and Mike Redway providing vocals for the title song heard over the end credits (there was also another version of the song with vocals by Peter Sellers).
Although the film's planned release date was for before Christmas 1966 it did not premiere until April 1967.
click on above for larger images
also see Bill Harry's Sixties pages on Sean Connery as 007
All Original Material Copyright SixtiesCity
Other individual owner copyrights may apply to Photographic Images