Mar 1, 2018
Casino Royale (1967) (part 4 of 13)
Wow, a Mega Recap! I feel like I’ve just been initiated into a cult! I keep waiting for Sydney Pollack to show up and tell me it was all just a big Tupperware party.
We crossfade into Sir James’ bedroom, later the same night. He’s sitting up in bed reading, and like always, he’s dressed for the occasion, with pristine white socks, a knee-length white nightshirt, and the cutest little white silk nightcap, complete with a tassel [!]. Of course, he has his other nightcap—the whiskey he looted from the dinner table—with him as well. What’s interesting about this ensemble is that the nightshirt has a pleated front, like a tuxedo shirt. Poor James Bond. Even when he’s not wearing the tux, it’s like he still has to have a bit of it with him as a security blanket.
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His bedroom, in keeping with the whole overdecoration theme, is ridiculously ornate. He’s ensconced in a huge four-poster bed with scarlet velvet curtains, that exactly match not only the duvet, but also the scarlet flock wallpaper as well [!]. On every wall are gigantic oils that look like they’re on loan from the Musée Hoity-Toity, and the mahogany tables and dressers are all crammed with fancy sculpture. The set decorator must have been running around screaming at his assistants, “More sculpture! More sculpture, you demented monkeys!” Because into every conceivable corner is also jammed a pedestal topped with yet more marble or silver figures. You really wonder where they got it all, especially since some of it looks very curious on closer examination.
Next to the bed, for example, is what looks like a miniature Rodin, apparently from his Baby Got Back period. It’s got a full-figured naked gal lolling across the lap of another figure, whose arm is raised up high as if this tableau were meant to depict a really good spanking [!]. I think this is Rodin’s depiction of that classic work by Dante, Lesbian Spank Inferno.
The door handle turns, and Sir James looks up warily, setting aside his book. (We don’t see what the book is, but it’s white as well, with gilt edges.) Into the room sweeps none other than Lady Fiona. Not only has she recovered from the massive epidemic of narcolepsy we just witnessed in the dining room, but she’s also taken the time to change into a black silk peignoir under a diaphanous ruffled black nightgown [!]—a definite wardrobe must for every bereaved-yet-slutty widow. Oh, poor, poor Deborah Kerr. What did they have on you that got you blackmailed into doing this movie?
As she comes in, clutching the see-through gown to her chest, we incidentally see that there’s one more element to David’s snappy white ensemble: draped across a chair by the door is a snowy white silk dressing gown. At this point, I’m pretty sure there’s a matching alabaster silk jockstrap as well, though fortunately we won’t get to see it. Given Sir James’s reputation, it looks like we’re the only ones.
Fiona wanders in a few feet, and eyes James like a pork roast in a butcher’s window. Then it suddenly occurs to her to turn back and snap the deadbolts shut. In response, James takes a fortifying swallow from his drink. Might as well toss down the rest, James.
They play peek-a-boo around the bedpost for a moment [?], then Fiona coyly slides the gown off her right shoulder, while innocently looking the other way. Right, it’s only her body that’s wanton. Her mind is as chaste as the driven snow, I’m sure. If it’s been driven through by a clutch of semis, that is.
Fiona’s shoulder-baring causes James’ white-stockinged feet to snap to attention. Ha, ha. Isn’t erection humor great? That’s right up there with that Britney Spears Pepsi commercial where Bob Dole popped up at the end and said, “Down, boy!” (Excuse me while I shudder violently.)
Finally, Fiona starts talking, and my God, I have no idea what she’s saying. Her Scottish burr is so thick, I think I’d have better luck understanding the Swedish Chef. I turned on the closed captions, and it was just screen after screen of What are you asking ME for?
From what I gather, Fiona couldn’t get to sleep because she was thinking about her dead husband. Apparently, this made her so horny she had to hurry down the hall and try to bonk Sir James. And if you really want to be creeped out, simply recall that her husband was an especially seedy-looking John Huston. Oog. Can I go back to shuddering over Bob Dole, please?
As she talks, Fiona climbs onto the bed, which causes James to ease off the other side. Fortunately for me, I have now been able to bring in Groundskeeper Willie to translate, so let’s listen in:
|Lady Fiona: Comfort me, Jamie lad. Give me your booosom to weep on. Doooodle me, Jamie! [!!!]|
Wow. You have not heard ridiculous dialog until you’ve heard Deborah Kerr telling David Niven to “doooodle” her. I know the Brits have come up with some wild euphemisms for fucking over the years, but that is just about the goofiest ever. I definitely need to remember that as a come-on line. Next time I’m in a bar and I see someone I want to bonk, I’ll just walk straight up to them and say, “Dooooodle me!” And my dream date will say, “Sure! Let me get my crayons!”
Sir James is shocked, I tell you, shocked. “Really, madam!” he exclaims, his silk tassel positively quivering with dismay. But Fiona is unrelenting. “I hereby claim a widow’s due, according to McTarry tradition,” she says. “Let me be comforted!” Sir James, still backing away, observes dryly that this is one of those customs that’s more honored in the breach. I think the breach would be just fine with her, actually.
Here’s the thing, though. The rest of this movie seems to indicate that Sir James Bond is something of a rake. Yes, his one great love was Mata Hari, but I think it’s clear he didn’t mind a bit of crumpet on the side. He certainly had a thing with this movie’s version of Moneypenny (as we’ll soon see). So why is it okay to “doooodle” an employee, but not this handsome, (newly) single woman? Perhaps it’s a guest thing. When visiting a friend’s home, Miss Manners says, it is impolite to sneeze on the drapes, leave the seat up in the guest bath, or “doooodle” the hostess.
Faced with rejection, Fiona switches gears from seductive pant to boiling rage. She calls him a “mim-mou’d ill-willie coof”, according to subtitles, and even Groundskeeper Willie is shrugging his shoulders at that one. She shouts that James will now “have to pay the piper!” This introduces the weirdest set piece I’d ever seen… until I watched the rest of this movie, actually. The chief accomplishment of which is its consistent ability to top its own wacky stupidity scene after scene after scene.
Fiona stomps over and hauls open the heavy door, and snatches a bugle [!] off the hallway wall. And while I’m wondering who exactly decorates their homes with musical instruments, Fiona puts the bugle to her lips and blows a twenty-note trumpet riff that absolutely never, no way in hell, came out of the lips of Lady Fiona McTarry.
I really do feel bad for Deborah Kerr. First, Marni Nixon sings all over her in The King and I. So she picks herself up, dusts herself off, and stolidly moves onto the brass section, figuring, “All right, maybe I can make the bugle my own.” And what happens? They haul in Herb Alpert and have him totally take away her one moment in the sun. Bastards! Makes me wonder what else she’s done that’s gotten dubbed over. Hey, maybe that actually is Groundskeeper Willie!
This trumpet solo summons the other young ladies and the six burly Scotsmen with glued-on beards, last seen playing bagpipes at the Ambien CR Memorial Dinner. Fiona, still shouting loud enough to be dressing down the audience at Live Aid without a microphone, tells the bagpipers that they’ve been challenged to “wessle” Sir James [??]. All I can figure is this means he’s being forced into a duel with Pavel Chekhov.
The entire assemblage tromps downstairs, with Sir James commenting that he hasn’t “wessled” in a long time and might be a bit rusty. The men gather in the main entrance hall while the women array themselves on the grand staircase. And all through this is a jaunty tuba-and-piccolo number that’s frantically signaling to us that we’re entering a comedy bit. Oh good. The laughs we’re about to encounter are intentional.
Sir James is now positioned with the Scotsmen circled round him. Herb Alpert—I mean, Lady Fiona—does another lick on the bugle and hollers, “Play ball!” At first, this makes no sense, with no balls being in evidence. Unless Fiona is perhaps interested in watching an NC-17 form of “wessling”.
Her meaning, however, is made clear when one of the Burly Tartan-Patterned Paper Towel Guys walks past Sir James and, with great difficulty, hefts a large stone cannonball from a pile of four in the middle of the room. I bet a lot of toes get stubbed on those things when people wander around the castle looking for their midnight snacks. Next to the cannonballs is a cannon, naturally, except its bore is not as big as the shot. Maybe that’s why the Scots kept losing to the English.
Well, Burly McBagpiper makes to throw the cannonball at Sir James, who spits on his hands and rubs them. From this, I gather that the purpose of this game is to throw a cannonball at each other, and whoever drops the ball loses. That’s the way “cannonball toss” is played today, anyway (usually, by Cub Scouts with water balloons, though). The joke here being that Sir James, an English pantywaist, will certainly lose when pitted against six strapping Scotsmen. But never underestimate an English pantywaist, folks. Why, Neville Chamberlain couldn’t lift so much as a saltine, and look what trouble he managed to get into when no one was looking.
We quickly see how this particular bit’s going to go, when Burly McB overbalances and pitches backwards into the next room, with all the crash-and-clang sound effects you’d imagine.
Fiona watches this with dismay, and hastily blows another Tijuana Brass solo on her bugle. (I, for one, keep expecting to hear Richard Pryor deliver sweeping pronouncements after each one of these.) The ball rolls out from the other room, and Burly #2, who’s stripped to the waist, picks it up. He hefts it to his chest and then over his head, but he, too, overbalances and falls backwards, with the cannonball smashing straight through the floor [!]. You know, I’m starting to suspect one of the uncredited directors on this film was Chuck Jones.
Another trumpet blast calls up Burly #3, who reaches down for a new cannonball. He can’t quite pick it up, though, and just as he’s turning beet-red from trying, we hear a loud pop! The poor guy duck-walks away, hunched over with his hands still in a cannonball grasping position, no doubt crippled for life. Hilarious!
An increasingly agitated Fiona blows another trumpet-blast, and Burly #4 steps up. (During these cutaways to Fiona, we also see the young women sitting around her on the stairs. And they could not be more colossally bored if they were watching Seven of Nine making out with Chakotay.) A drum-roll on the soundtrack hints that this guy might actually be able to make the toss. But once he’s got the ball in his arms, Burly #4 starts spinning like he’s throwing a shot-put, which I’m willing to bet is not a good idea. Yep, he lets go at the wrong moment, flinging the cannonball right into the chest of Burly #5, who collapses in true extra-hamming-it-up style. Burly #4, meanwhile, keeps spinning all the way out of the room. And don’t come back!
Fiona, now positively frenzied, Alperts one more time on the bugle. Burly #6 steps up to the plate. He’s just barely able to lift the next-to-last cannonball and toss it at Sir James, who catches it deftly. James even swings it back and forth a few times, and throws it back at Burly #6 with such force that the Scot tumbles backwards and smashes against the wall. Not only that, but he collapses into a display of weaponry that all comes crashing down, including a suit of armor that falls onto a miniature cannon, setting it off [!].
The mini-cannon in turn shoots at, and explodes, a mounted buffalo head [!!]. So… the mini-cannon in the foyer is kept loaded? And pointed at a buffalo head? What, is this some kind of bizarre Rube Goldberg burglar alarm? Does the back entrance have a trip-wired trapdoor that releases a pigeon that’s trained to fly into a ceiling fan, showering the intruder with feathers and bird entrails, thereby distracting and/or grossing him out long enough for the constabulary to arrive?
Fiona has now risen to her feet, and she’s evidently switched gears again, because now she’s shouting rapturous praise at him—in French. “Mais c’est incroyable!” she mewls, while being translated by some really mod subtitles. “Quelle force! Quelle majesté! Vraiment il est superb!” Okay, Fiona, I’m with you on the “incroyable” part. Meanwhile, the Boredettes are muttering to themselves (also in French) that “Mimi” has missed her chance and fallen in love.
Sir James is inspired by this torrent of froggy adoration to show off a bit. With Fiona/Mimi bellowing in rapid succession every French 101 adjective she can think of, James lifts the last cannonball with great effort and, holding it up with one hand, karate-chops it in half [!!]. Uh… yeah. Behind Fiona, the Boredettes send two of their number off to secure the key to her room and notify, I presume, SMERSH.
Fiona/Mimi moans that Sir James is “plus q’un homme—c’est un dieu!” Sir James struts past her and nonchalantly mounts the stairs through the crowd of Boredettes. He stammers something about getting “beauty sleep before the grouse hunt.” Yes, whenever you’re staying over with people who have revealed themselves to be hostile to you, always make sure to go through with all planned social events. Especially the ones involving firearms.
Once Sir James is out of sight, the Boredettes crowd around Fiona/Mimi ominously, as the scene fades to black. And then—they eat her! Really, I think that’s what we’re meant to infer.
Fade up on morning in the Scottish Highlands. Now I have to say, this is where the film reveals just how cavalier it is with the facts. Because I’ve been to the Scottish Highlands, and I can tell you they don’t have mornings there. That would involve some sort of direct sunlight, a thing unknown in that part of the world. The days begin, in fact, with a late-afternoon tea-time haze. That lasts until around three or so, when it shades into a sort of pre-sunset gloaming. So if you haven’t figured it out already, you can now take for granted just how fast and loose this film plays with reality.
The Boredettes roll up, all hanging over a specially modified beige Volkswagen pickup truck, with some kind of machine mounted in back. They jump down, and after one of them issues orders (in a broad Cockney [?] accent), most of them fan out into the moor and start cooing and whacking away at the brush, trying to call up grouse. They’re all in hunting kits, too, and between that and the whacking, I’m really wondering if this whole otherwise irrelevant scenario was inserted into the movie purely because it’s somebody’s odd little wet dream.
There’s a brief shot of Sir James in a blind, getting reading to knock some birds out of the sky. Then we cut over to Mimi, who’s been locked in her bedchamber. She bangs on the door disconsolately and then starts wandering around the room, declaiming that her love is “like a red, red rose/That’s newly sprung in June.” Two things to notice: first, she’s back to being Scottish for some reason, which is why she’s ripping off Robert Burns and not… whoever the French equivalent of Robert Burns would be (sprain your brains on that, lit majors!). Second, she’s still wearing the black peignoir and see-through nightie, even though she’s been trapped all night in her own room. So love will make you forget to change clothes, I guess. I’m going to go ahead and count that as a minus.
The Boredette Beaters succeed in rousting a flock of grouse, and Sir James plugs a few of them. The sound of gunfire puts Mimi in a lather and she rushes over to the window and yanks it open. She sticks her head out and sees nothing—the reverse angle is just empty highlands. But she can still hear the banging of Sir James’s gun, so she clambers out onto a nearby drainpipe [!]. Now, class, given this drainpipe scenario, which of the following outcomes is absolutely inevitable?
(a) Mimi calmly and expertly descends the drainpipe without incident.
(b) The drainpipe suddenly swings away from the building, causing Mimi to cling to it desperately as it careens wildly across a rear-projected landscape.
(c) Clark Kent emerges from the drainpipe with a dog he rescued.
If you answered (b), you may stamp a big “duh” across your foreheads and continue on. (And if you scribbled in the margins that the wires attached to the drainpipe will be plainly visible, you get bonus points.) Anyone who answered (a) is directed to immediately staple their eyelids shut, as their bad-movie-watching privileges are hereby revoked. Those answering (c) need to seriously cut back on the hash, dude.
I don’t know why they continue to put these kinds of tired slapstick bits into movies. Humor is supposed to arise from the unexpected, right? So how, how, how can a gag that Harold Lloyd would have considered old hat possibly be funny?
One thing here did surprise me, though. And that would be the glimpse of the footwear that Mimi chose to go with her peek-a-boo trousseau, which turns out to be black knee-high leather boots [!!]. (I went back to look at the earlier scenes in which Fiona/Mimi is wearing this outfit, and the evidence as to whether she was wearing these boots all along is unfortunately inconclusive.) That’s one hell of a mixed message: silk nightie, leather boots. Does the whip come with that, or is it extra?
Anyway: Deborah Kerr falls on her ass, film at eleven. Moving on.
The Cockney woman at the VW Bus of Death shouts ridiculously nonsensical orders (“Fire mission! Fuse alarm missiles! Supercharge!” Hike!), and the contraption mounted in the vehicle’s bed fires off a wooden duck. It’s the kind of thing you see mounted in people’s flower gardens, only there it would have rotating wings that windmill in the breeze. The fake bird soars toward Sir James. He fires on it, and it explodes into a tremendous fireball. So either that decoy was rigged as a bomb, or Sir James just shot down Gene Simmons’ briefcase.
At this point, Mimi appears off in the distance behind Sir James, scrambling desperately over glen and cove to reach the foreground of the shot, almost like she’s the weird Scottish lady version of the “It’s” Guy. All the while, she’s screaming, “The button! The button!” Hey, I think she’s talking to me! The button! Push the eject button! Save yourself!
Another deadly duck is fired, and Sir James shoots this one down, too, with an explosion just as massive. Mimi finally arrives and explains frantically that the button we saw being sewn onto Sir James’s cape is in fact a “magnetic homing device”. I’d think you only need a homing device if your intended target isn’t, like, standing just down the hill from you, but then I’m clearly not SMERSH material. I could never get away with a peignoir and shit-kickers.
Mimi declares that they must get rid of the button. Although, I don’t see why James can’t simply continue to shoot down the wooden ducks, letting them explode harmlessly in midair. It seems to be working pretty well for him so far.
Nevertheless, Mimi manages to cut off the homing device button with a knife from Sir James’ pocket. As another Duck of Doom homes in on them, he directs her to remove his suspenders (he actually says “braces”, but I don’t think Mimi is a licensed orthodontist). Using the suspenders as a slingshot, they propel the magnetic notion into the air, causing the latest Destructoduck to bank around and head after it, back toward the Boredettes.
James, meanwhile, politely requests some answers. “Our orders were to corrupt you,” Mimi says, “to foul your image of yourself. Failing that, we were to kill you!” So their plan was to corrupt him by, what, offering him liquor and sex? We’re talking James Bond here. That’s like trying to corrupt Al Gore by offering him an attentive audience and a slide projector.
The Boredettes find the button and rig up their own slingshot using—I dunno, it looks like spare bra straps, but I really can’t tell. They fling the button back at Sir James, who catches it handily. The Destructoduck veers towards James and Mimi, but they launch the button back the other way, while James asks who gave the orders. Mimi answers, “Authority. International Mothers’ Help, East Berlin!” Actually, I think I saw International Mothers’ Help perform back in ’94 at the Meadowlands, when they were opening for Hootie. Bitchin’ concert. Beer tasted like warm piss, though.
By this time, the button has of course landed right inside the duck-firing mechanism. The Destructoduck dives in eagerly after it, and the VW Bus of Doom explodes like Mr. Creosote after eating that wafer-thin mint. Sir James brightly declares this mayhem to be “jolly good sport, what?” But he sobers when it turns out Mimi was somehow nicked in the blast. This leads into some truly overbaked dialogue:
| James: You’re wounded.
Mimi: ‘Tis but a thimbleful, but heart’s blood. Farewell, Jamie.
James: My dear.
Mimi: Again. Say it again. James Bond. My jo James. James Bond, my jo!
James: My dear.
Mimi: One more request. The last. Think of me as the second woman in your life. The one after Mata Hari. Kiss me, Jamie. Kiss me goodbye. [He kisses her.]
James: Madam, are you quite sure you’re dying?
Mimi: Not dying… but giving up my life. I’m going to another world! There’s a convent over that hill [!].
And she immediately runs off up the hill, apparently to get herself to a nunnery. Or possibly to try to escape the picture. Sorry, Deborah. You won’t get off that easily!
She waves at James from partway up the hill. James, waving back at her with his hat in hand, goes to take a step toward her. But due to his “braces” being cut loose, his pants are around his ankles and he falls on his face. Nonetheless, he gamely pulls himself to a kneeling position and waves back to her with great dignity. That James Bond. Anybody can save the world, but if you want it done without pants on, James Bond is definitely your guy.