in One Takes | 23 NOV 02
Featured in
Issue 71

Picture Piece: Casino Royal

An inspired moment amidst the folly and feathers in the James Bond spoof

in One Takes | 23 NOV 02

The 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale is a complete mess. After Oscar-winner Ben Hecht died in the middle of writing the screenplay (or, as some have suggested, as a result of writing it), no fewer than ten writers were brought in to finish it off. Then five directors, among them John Huston and Val Guest, arrived to spoil the broth. Despite this, amid the two hours of loosely cobbled-together satirical silliness and swinging trippiness there sparkles a diamond of a scene.

It features the unlikely couple of Peter Sellers (as baccarat genius Evelyn Tremble – one of the many 007s in the film) and Ursula Andress (billionaire double agent Vesper Lynd). Andress lures Sellers into her boudoir, complete with a huge, pink, circular bed in front of a multi-faceted mirror wall. He strips down to striped passion-killer underwear, and she, in a rosy night-gown with down in her hair, films him with a Super-8 camera from the centre of the revolving bed. At one point the image, with no explanation, is flipped upside down.

What is even more striking than the confrontation of Bond parody with Burt Bacharach romanticism (the scene’s slow-motion opening sequence features the
couple passing behind an aquarium to the accompaniment of Dusty Springfield singing Bacharach’s ‘The Look of Love’) is the crystal clear moment of conceptuality in between. We see a beautiful woman with a hand-held camera filming a preposterous man from the centre of a revolving platform in front of a set of mirrors, bending both gender roles and perspective. The scene could have been written by Dan Graham. The most notable difference between Graham’s TV Camera/Monitor Performance (1970) or Body Press (1970–2) and Casino Royale is that, sadly, we will never see what Andress’ Super-8 actually recorded.