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Casino Royale (1967)

Dullsville

Casino Royale (1967)

     For a movie whose cast is made up of 10 big-name stars (0r more depending on your definition), the 1967 James Bond spoof movie Casino Royale, was one major let-down. The DVD of this flick has sat on my shelf unwatched for seven years despite my being convinced that the cast line-up promised endless laughs. But watching it this weekend with my grandmother, the convoluted plot and drawn-out nonsensical ending led her to comment, “This is kind of dumb.”

     I could not help but concur with her sentiment. Although the story borrows some of the elements of the Ian Flemming novel that contributed to the 2006 Casino Royale, it largely goes off in a strange direction in search of ways to mock the successful movie franchise.

     David Niven plays Sir James Bond who has been retired from spy work for a number of years while substitute James Bond 007 spies have been recruited to continue his work and uphold the legend. Sir James is a celibate, stuttering version of the spy who is lured back into the trade when his home is demolished and his superior “M” (John Huston) is killed by the evil organization SMERSH. His allies are played by William Holden as “Ransome”, Charles Boyer as “Le Grande”, and Kurt Kasznar as “Smernov”.

     First Sir James is seduced by M’s “widow” (Deborah Kerr) and 11 “daughters” who are actually SMERSH agents, but he easily escapes their clutches to return to his old office. He decides to continue to recruit a number of James Bonds to join his work against the evil organization to the point that we cannot keep track of all the different missions that are going on. The star also recruits his own daughter, Mati Bond (Joanna Pettet), who is his love child with Mata Hari.

     Vesper Lynd (Ursula Andress) is also renamed James Bond and is set on seducing and recruiting Peter Seller‘s baccarat pro Evelyn Tremble, who will become another 007. Tremble must play Le Chiffre (Orson Welles) in the game and beat him to prevent the evil banker from securing more money for other unsavory organizations. Meanwhile, there is also Jimmy Bond (Woody Allen), Sir James’ nephew, who gets himself in and out of trouble throughout the picture.

     It was next to impossible to keep track of all the moving parts Casino Royale employs in its story line. Most of the excess was unnecessary and no particular attention was given to the plot, which stood merely as a means to hurl jokes at the audience. One cannot really say any of the acting was poor, it was just utterly dumb. Casino Royale simply tries too hard to make it enjoyable to watch. Not only is it exhausting, but one could easily turn it off at any juncture and feel just as satisfied as sitting through the whole thing.

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4 for Texas

Dullsville

4 for Texas (1963)

     Immediately upon it’s opening, 4 for Texas informs us that Charles Bronson‘s character is the villain and characters named Zack and Joe are the good guys, a fact that is easy to forget as we stumble through a sloppy story in which Rat Packers Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra arenotgood pals.

     Sure the two characters seem to be on great terms as the start of the movie takes us on a high-speed horse-drawn stagecoach race. Bronson’s Matson is leading a horseback gang that seeks to take both the $100,000 the coach is carrying and the man defending it, Sinatra’s Zack Thomas. With Sinatra on the roof of the coach and Martin’s Joe Jarrett inside, they fend off the attackers with some sharp shooting before the coach crashes a safe distance from the villains. The following exchange, however, sees the money and power change hands a few times between Zack and Joe, who are firmly enemies by the time the latter walks off with the cash.

     The money came from dirty Galveston banker Harvy Burden (Victor Buono) who hired Zack to protect the coach and Matson to attack it. The money was meant to be Zack’s to buy a bum river boat that he would transform into a gambling operation. The man is consoled by French girlfriend Elya, played by the ever voluptuous Anita Ekberg.

     Joe meanwhile arrives in Galveston and makes a fast friend in Angel (Nick Dennis), who deposits the stolen money from Joe’s jacket lining into Harvy’s bank, where it cannot be touched. Our two main men have back and forth arguments about the money, but Joe opts to pursue setting up the gambling boat himself, especially after meeting its owner, the less-classy seductress Maxine (Ursula Andress). When the gambling operation is ready to open, however, Joe will have to fend off Zack before both parties are forced to team up against Matson.

     4 for Texas is a silly comedy complete with cameos from the aging Three Stooges. Sinatra and Martin had the time of their lives on the set, much to the chagrin of Director Robert Aldrich. Sinatra in particular often arrived late and refused to do more than a couple takes. The lack of effort does not necessarily show in the performances, but the story and overall picture are sloppy. Sinatra comes off as the villain for a good portion of the movie while our favors side with Martin. The women do not particularly bring anything to the picture, nor do they advance the plot in any irreplaceable way. And let’s be honest, in many ways Ekberg with her mountainous bosom and Ursula with her comparable curves were probably only incorporated into the picture as eye candy and/or as a distraction for the stars.

     4 for Texas was certainly not the worst Sinatra or Martin movie I have seen, nor the worst western Sinatra did (see  The Kissing Bandit). It also has a certain amount of glamor that has its appeal, but as a story it lacks all quality. One will not be bored watching this movie, it just is likely to leave the viewer dissatisfied.

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