#8 Mr. Bean in Room 426 [1993)

First, a short list of Hulu failings:

-Pootie Tang (shite)

-Mordecai (shite)

-Lars and the Real Girl (epically shite)

-The Voices (shite)

-Mystery Team (shite)

-Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (shite squared) [catalog dilemma]

-Anchorman 2 (shite to the second power)

-Beverly Hills Cop II (repetitive shiteness) [catalog dilemma]

-Cannonball Run II (must see first episode to appreciate this shite)

-Teen Wolf Too (now with word shite!)

-The Naked Gun 2 1/2 (quasi-decimal shite)

-The Naked Gun 33 1/3 (LP shite)

-My Best Friend’s Wedding (shite)

-Cashback (shite)

-Dear White People (shite)

-Everything Must Go (shite)

-Jerry Maguire (shite)

-The Skeleton Twins (shite)

-Trailer Park Boys (shite)

-16-Love (shite)

-Novocaine (sic shite)

-Dark Horse (Judeo-Nepotistic shite)

-Little Paradise (shite)

-Frances Ha (epically shite)

-Stranger Than Fiction (shite)

-8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (shite)

-C.S.A.:  The Confederate States of America (ambitious shite)

-Trees Lounge (depressing attempt at shite)

-King of California (total shite)

-Dead Hooker in a Trunk (go-back-to-film-school shite)

-Are You Joking? (more Judeo-Nepotistic shite)

-And Now a Word From Our Sponsors (shite)

-Falling Star (Kosher Casino shite)

-Jewtopia (no comment)

-The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish shite)

-Heathers (cruel shite)

-Sleeping Beauty (barely shite)

-Gold (Irish shite)

-The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire (quintessential shite)

-Jack Ryan:  Shadow Recruit (lazy shite)

-Mission:  Impossible (a colon-full of Scientologist shite)

-Space Milkshake (actually, not too bad…)

[I hate to say it, but the number of films by mediocre directors named Schwarz is really astonishing.]

Now, you might reason:  these are just the rantings of an anti-Semitic film snob.

I admit I don’t laugh easily.

It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry.

Mostly I don’t like waste.

Entitled filmmakers are more likely to make shite.

They didn’t earn their stripes.

They have an uncle who works for Sony Pictures.

Actually, the film school rubbish on Hulu is astonishing.

It is completely venal in nature.

I just happen to have had some bad experiences with unfunny Jewish films.

What do I mean, “Jewish films”?

I mean exactly what Brandon Tartikoff was referring to when he first saw the Seinfeld pilot.

In that instance, Tartikoff (himself Jewish) was wrong.

Seinfeld was genius!

Seinfeld is a funny show.

Yes, it exists in a Jewish milieu.

Tartikoff thought the show was “too Jewish” to appeal to Americans in general.

He was wrong.

But, sadly, now we have a gaggle of filmmakers who think they are Woody Allen or Mel Brooks.

Status update:  those two guys actually have talent!

Which is not to say they didn’t make some clunkers.

Hulu happens to have picked up two of those clunkers:  Bananas and Life Stinks.

No one’s perfect.

But please…dear world Jewry,

Please tell your precocious sons and daughters that they aren’t all geniuses.

Who’s funding this shit?

Hulu:  who the fuck is in charge over there!?!

Your catalog indicates that you enjoy wasting the monthly fees people pay for your woeful service.

Ok, ok…

A short list of Hulu successes:

-the Criterion collection


And so…what part of the Hulu catalog presently needs the most work?

Answer:  the comedy genre of movies.

Second most problematic lack of imaginative curation?

Answer:  the drama genre of movies.

[If you think that Hulu’s selection of movies might be lacking (based on my first two points of emphasis), then you are right:  it is!]

Third crappiest category on Hulu?

Answer:  the “action & adventure” genre of movies.

Even Hulu’s genres are ass-backwards compared to the pinpoint precision of iTunes.

Korean Drama?  Really???  Ok.  I guess Hulu is really killing it in Seoul (and Pyongyang).

CEO Mike Hopkins needs to take a long look in the mirror.

Whoever got the Criterion catalog, give that person an infinite raise.

The rest of them?  Fire their sorry asses.

Beth Comstock needs to overturn the moneychangers’ tables.

Destroy YOUR business, Ms. Comstock.

Jason Kilar…you know what doesn’t work?  Faux-dreams.


A catalog of shite.

Make a call.  Do lunch.

“Anywhere, Anytime:  Shite”

“For the Love of shite”

“Come Shite with Us”

Lot of people drawing a check at Hulu and turning out a subpar service.

The name Hulu comes from two Mandarin Chinese words…both of which translate roughly to “shite”.

Now, just to be fair…I wouldn’t sign up for Netflix if my life depended on it.

iTunes is a horribly antiquated business model (and offers very little value for consumers).

Amazon Prime Video was petty to disallow MacBooks (as incompatible devices) as late as last year.  Not to mention that Jeff Bezos is just a wannabe Rupert Murdoch who bans books like Nobody Died at Sandy Hook.  [And yes, Virginia, Murdoch is the great Satan.]

And so, with such a paltry selection of movies on Hulu, I’ve been forced to examine its television offerings.  The prospects are not much better.

But I will give credit where credit is due.

Mr. Bean was an excellent pickup.

If you want a tight, seamless work of art (unlike this rambling, frothing review), then check out the episode under consideration.

You know, not even the childlike Rowan Atkinson was above making fun of old people (in this episode) or suggesting that continental Europeans be purposefully killed by British drivers (tourists).  Check out his standup comedy album from 1995 for the latter bit.

Which just goes to show…we all lose our heads.

We all exercise poor judgment.  We all have poor taste now and then.

You may not believe it, but I have put my own sorry butt on the line to stand up for world Jewry.

I will be the first to admit that my term “Judeo-Nepotistic” is incredibly crass and insensitive.

And still, I would ask that Jews (who are no doubt hard-pressed on all sides) please exercise some judgment of their own.  Transparent nepotism is really tasteless.  It goes against our better Jeffersonian principles.

So there you have it.  Bobby Fischer was a jerk.  The Holocaust really happened.  Not so sure about the gas chambers.  You’re welcome Faurisson.  The Earth is not flat.  9/11 was an inside job (and therefore not an Israeli job).  Insofar as it was an Israeli job, the U.S. government was at least half-responsible.  It was much more likely an Israeli job than a Saudi job.  Much more likely a purely self-inflicted inside job (no substantial Israeli involvement) than an Israeli job.  And finally, Israel is a criminal country oppressing the Palestinians in a most disgusting manner.

And for good measure, yes Donald Trump is a bigot.  And he’s horribly wrong about immigration (both in regards to our Mexican brothers and sisters and our Islamic brothers and sisters).  But he’s still the only real choice for President.

Sanders has been right about one thing:  Snowden.  Snowden’s a hero.  But America is not a socialist country.  Sanders would actually be a bigger step backwards than Trump.

The other candidates (Clinton and Cruz) are worthless.

So there you go, Hulu…I need some better circuses here!

To keep me out of the political arena!!

I could use some bread as well 🙂

In any case, I’m sorry for my vile ranting.

But film is my religion.  Through film, omnism.

Stop defiling my religion, Hulu.  Your thoughtlessness is ghastly.

Hire some people who love cinema.

Get your shit together.





SNL Season 1 Episode 23 [1976)

This is a very smart installment, but also a very strange one.

The host is Louise Lasser.

It is hard to know what this was all about 40 years after the fact.

The crux is the show Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman…a parody soap opera which ran for a mere two seasons (1976-1977), yet included an astounding 325 episodes in that timespan.

No wonder Louise was so tired.

The airing schedule for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was five nights a week.


In addition, Lasser was the wife of Woody Allen from 1966-1970.

Her contribution to Allen films includes Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *(*But Were Afraid to Ask), and voiceover work on What’s Up, Tiger Lily? 

So it’s no surprise that this episode of SNL has an artful (if disjointed) feeling to it.

Particularly funny is the Ingmar Bergman spoof (in Swedish) starring Lasser and Chevy Chase.

But yes:  most of this episode involves the psychodrama of Ms. Lasser.

Actually, I quite enjoyed her film (in place of Gary Weis, as it were) shot in a NY diner.

One thing is apparent:  Lasser has immense talent.

The opening monologue hints at the brilliant cruelty of Andy Kaufman.

It is fairly disorienting in general.

For those needing a reason to live (I’m right there with you), we will be revisiting Lasser as Alex’s ex-wife on Taxi (God willing).

Yes, Lasser has a nice skit with a dog (her dog?) named Maggie.  It is a cute piece making fun of those tense talks between couples at the kitchen table (though this one is rather surreal).

Lasser would later feature in Todd Solondz’ Happiness.

Likewise, Lasser would appear in two episodes of Lena Dunham’s Girls (3rd season).

So what else is shakin’ in this tense SNL installment?

Well, Garrett Morris is pretty fantastic as Idi “VD” Amin.

John Belushi has a pitiable-yet-funny piece in which he tries to hawk all of his belongings (particularly his clothes…the shirt off his back).

The ladies (Laraine Newman, Jane Curtin, and Gilda Radner) do a strange Phil Spector-esque tribute to the history of television (the apparatus, not the programming).  The doo-wop/girl-group song features lines about Cathode Ray (as if he’s a personage), electron guns, etc.

Laraine Newman also reprises her role as Squeaky Fromme (with excellent help from Jane Curtin).

Finally, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is fantastic on their one number.

It is a bit wistful for me as I once had the pleasure to write horn charts for them.  I’m not sure that they actually used them, but I did (anyhow) get to perform with the band at a particularly star-studded New Orleans Jazz Fest some years ago.

Really, this performance from 1976 is not to be missed.  The crazy logic of Dixieland counterpoint is an excellent metaphor for the fugue of emotions running through this particular episode of comedy.  And the stretto might just be the Preservation Hall cats themselves.



Le Mepris [1963)

I dated Brigitte Bardot for awhile.  Well, not THE Brigitte Bardot, but it might as well have been her.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Ah, but all those hours on the highway didn’t end happily.  No, there weren’t many happy endings for those involved.  Anna Karina.  Jean-Luc Godard.

Contempt.  You must look beyond the characters.  Look beyond the actors.  And even so, you must take note…Fritz Lang as Himself.  It’s like the old U.S. TV tradition of saving that one zinger character for the end of the opening credits.  Say, for instance, you’re watching The Jeffersons or Laverne and Shirley…or even Three’s Company…”and Don Knotts as Mr. Furley” [zing!]

But Fritz Lang isn’t funny.  He doesn’t wear a powder-blue leisure suit.  No, the mood is very grave around here.  Even when we relocate to Capri.  It all begins with a quote from André Bazin.  Twenty-five years later Godard would turn to that quote to kick off his masterpiece Histoire(s) du cinema.  “Le cinema substitue…à notre regard…un monde…qui s’accorde.”  Cinema substitutes in our eyes a world which harmonizes.  Ersetzt das Kino in unseren Augen eine Welt qui harmoniertSostituisce il cinema nei nostri occhi un mondo qui armonizza.

This is the world of Le Mépris.  Babel.  Babble on.  Whore.  Vulgarity doesn’t suit you.  How ’bout now?  Does it suit me now?

He commands me…ou il me prie?  Le Mépris.

Once again we miss Anna Karina.  Two films in a row.  Les Carabiniers and now this:  replaced by Bardot’s ass.  Ass ass ass ass ass.  Blue ass.  Yellow ass.  Natural ass.  The tricolor.  God save the queen!

This was Godard’s shot at the big time.  Like Dune for David Lynch.  “Walk On the Wild Side” for Lou Reed.  Godard as Neil Young skipped Harvest and went directly to On the Beach.

That’s how it goes.  Perhaps it’s why Godard got on with Woody Allen.  Yes, Godard the neurotic drove his life and career directly into the ditch.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.

He even made the biggest star in France (B.B.) wear the same shabby Louise Brooks wig which his wife (Karina) had worn in Vivre sa vie.  Yes, something is amiss with this film.

I feel the Godard/Karina relationship problems bubbling to the surface.

“No, go do it!  This is your big chance!”

“But you won’t be mad at me?”

“Why should I be jealous of Bebe?”

“You know I would prefer to cast you.”

“Forget about it.  I’m not mad.  I’m happy.  I just look mad because I’m crying.”

Something like that.

All,                                                of,                          that,           aside,

this film couldn’t be more masterful.  It is a precarious film.  It threatens at every turn to fall headlong into a sea of shit, but it doesn’t.  The waters of Capri blue.  Bardot’s golden ennui chevelure.  A white Greek statue and a Shirley card in CinemaScope.  Go ahead and give Ulysses some sky-blue eye shadow and lipstick.  And Penelope.  Pen elope.  Moravia.  Javal.  dactylo.  camérastylo.

The poet’s vocation.  Vacation.  Terrorist.  Tourist.  Coutard.  Kutard.

Casa Malaparte is abandoned.  99 steps and a bitch ain’t one [hit me] (!)  Gulf of Salerno looking out to…nothing.  Ulysses sees something I don’t.  There is no homeland.  Only insecurity.  Die Heimat?  Fritz Lang would know.  Is that a command or a request?  Please tell Goebbels that Herr Lang has politely declined the offer to head up the film efforts of the Nazi propaganda program.  And by the way, he’s leaving the country.  Maybe call up Leni Riefenstahl.  I’ll bet she has a nice ass… lagniappe!  L.H.O.O.Q.

99 steps from the Gulf of Salerno.  that last step’s a doozy [hit me]!


Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist [2008)

The great director Samuel Fuller said in a cameo during Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le Fou that, “Film is like a battleground.  Love.  Hate.  Action.  Violence.  Death.  In one word…emotion.”  Writing about film is often an intellectual parlor game.  Drop the right reference.  Sound erudite.  But one must confront the emotion of film with the emotion of criticism…in a harmony of pathos.

This film makes me cry.  We’ve all heard a similar phrase, but perhaps never applied to this new classic from director Peter Sollett.  When this film came out, I needed this film.  It restored my faith in the romantic quest–to find a soul mate.

From the opening titles this film hits all the right notes.  Much has been made of Sofia Coppola’s prescient use of music in her films.  To not only employ the proto-shoegaze of 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” (The Virgin Suicides), but also follow it up with some MBV (Lost In Translation) before Kevin Shields and company mercifully reformed a few years later is, in a word, genius.  However, Peter Sollett and crew (editor Myron Kerstein and music supervisor Linda Cohen) score a coup right off the bat which sets the stage for a brilliant cinematic experience…intertwined with the trappings and longings which a life in music (whether as performer or enthusiast) weaves into our thoughts and very being.

Simply put, “Speed of Sound” by former Big Star member Chris Bell is my favorite song off of his posthumously released masterpiece I Am The Cosmos.  To know that someone else felt the same way about this particular composition is really what Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is all about.

Chris Bell was a homosexual heroin addict in the deep South (Memphis) who got kicked out of his own band, ended up working at his dad’s hamburger restaurant, and (like Marc Bolan) died when his car collided with a tree.  That such a sensitive soul was subjected to such unbefitting circumstances and then layed down the tracks at Château d’Hérouville for the sublime strains which open this picture is truly touching.  Sure, “In The Street” by Big Star (from his time in the band as co-writer) was used as the theme for That ’70s Show, but the song placement for “Speed of Sound” long after his death is a tribute to both his genius and the artistry of Peter Sollett and his team.

But here I have up and gone on a tangent…and deviated from my goal of emotion for emotion.

Reset.  A few days ago.  My birthday.  I walk into Barnes & Noble with a fistful of dollars.  I look at almost every DVD in the joint.  Criterion, action, sci-fi/fantasy, thriller, drama, comedy…even family!  And I come out of the place with one film:  the one under review.

The reason is simple.  Kat Dennings is an acting goddess among (mostly) prattling girls.  With this film she took up the reins which Thora Birch strangely released after Ghost World.  Peter Sollett has made a timeless film of equal to the cinematically stunning aforementioned Terry Zwigoff gem.

But back to Dennings.  There are moments in this film (very few) where her acting might be termed hesitant, but in retrospect I believe this to be part of the Norah character which she was conveying with the utmost thespian delicacy.  For the vast majority of her screen time, she shines like the new star which she is.  I imagine that I’m not the only one who came away from this film wishing that her character was real and that I might meet a Norah around the next corner (just as Thora Birch had made me believe that Enid Coleslaw was really out there somewhere).

A word about Michael Cera.  I didn’t think much of his acting on first view, but I realize now that his droll comic timing might just presage his emergence as the Woody Allen of this generation.  He is, without a doubt, talented beyond many of his peers.

Kudos to writers Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (as well as to screenwriter Lorene Scafaria) for working the Where’s Fluffy? idea into this tapestry (almost like a nod to The Residents…mysterious anonymity in rock music).  Likewise, the supporting cast here is essential and outstanding (particularly Aaron Yoo and Rafi Gavron).  Also indispensable is Jonathan B. Wright in the small role as Lethario.

Two final bits about this music-infused juggernaut…  The Electric Lady Studios portion (particularly the potentially unwieldy orgasm segment) is director Sollett at his finest.  As the VU meters monitor a keyed mic in the main room we are brought the irresistible symbology which the auteur has been tracing throughout this hipster Easter egg chase in a yellow Yugo…perhaps zipping past the parking garage where Warhol’s Factory used to stand…speeding with exhilaration over the Velvets’ old stomping grounds…the deli where Max’s Kansas City once stood (but now with a mile-long sneeze guard around its salad bar)…maybe past the empty hole where the Mercer Arts Center once stood before it collapsed.  Director Sollett takes us “into the red” at just the right moment…just as Lou Reed knew when to step on the stompbox after delivering the line “and then my mind split open” in the song “I Heard Her Call My Name” from the classic angst-fueled White Light/White Heat album (1968).

Last bit…Mark Mothersbaugh delivers just the right dose of simpatico for this journey to the end of the night.  Thank you friends.  I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.


Casino Royale [1967)

Strange that the first James Bond novel didn’t come to the big screen until several 007 films had already been made–and that it came in the form of a slapstick comedy.  This is certainly no Eon production.  In fact, it takes the piss (as the British would say) from the opening credits.  Indeed, this is a very loose adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, but it is a thoroughly entertaining film.

Any film with Peter Sellers is worth checking out, and this flick does not disappoint (with Sellers as the nervous baccarat master Evelyn Tremble).  Ursula Andress, herself the first Bond girl (Dr. No), plays Vesper Lynd:  the woman so rich that she buys the statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square and has it moved to her own residence.  This is just one of the many ridiculous details which make this a polarizing tapestry.

Joanna Pettet is quite good as the love child of Sir James Bond (David Niven) and Mata Hari.  Mata Bond (as she is known) takes up the spy trade of her progenitors in the film and, notwithstanding claims to the contrary, is quite a good dancer indeed.

But it is not just the details which make this film thoroughly puzzling.  The film credits list John Huston as director, but that is only part of the story.  Nicolas Roeg was a cinematographer on the film.  In fact, even auteur/actors such as Orson Welles and Woody Allen participate in their thespian capacities.  Surely, there was plenty of talent involved in the making of this mess-of-a-film.  But what a pleasant mess it is.

The film begins in a pissoir (reminiscent of Henry Miller’s oeuvre) and never looks back regarding the “tradition of quality” it leaves behind.  The plot (liberties taken with Fleming’s plot) is absolutely Joycean and akin to The Big Sleep.  If one is not painfully attuned, the entire first quarter of the movie makes no sense whatsoever.  Sir James Bond’s house is blown up by MI6, but somehow the head of the service (M) is killed in the explosion which he himself ordered.

Indeed, the entire episode in Scotland (near the top of the film) is confusing at best.  M’s widow has been replaced by a SMERSH (Russian conjunction meaning roughly “death to spies”) agent named Mimi…who, of course, falls for Sir James Bond (himself reluctantly returning from retirement after his house is blown up by his former employers) and thus fails to do her duty for mother Russia.  This apocryphal film in the Bond saga fails to take the same liberty as Eon Productions in that the name SMERSH (Soviet counterintelligence) is retained in the stead of SPECTRE (an Eon creation which neatly changed the “enemy” focus from being the U.S.S.R. to simply organized crime…on a grand scale).

David Niven’s portrayal of 007 bears no likeness to Connery…especially in that “Sir” James Bond is a man of utmost morals.  This couldn’t be further from the womanizing Connery-Bond we see in From Russia With Love and other Eon production classics.

Mention should be made of Barbara Bouchet’s portrayal as Miss Moneypenny.  Her overtime work (beyond the call of duty) to find a spy capable of controlling his libido is really rather hilarious and she plays this part quite well.  In a nod to Spartacus, Sir James (now the new head of MI6) orders all British agents to henceforth go by the name James Bond.  Terrence Cooper is chosen by Moneypenny (or, perhaps, vice versa) as the most capable candidate as regards warding off the temptation of “feminine charms.”

Orson Welles plays Soviet agent (a gambler trying to save his neck) Le Chiffre.  Having such an auteur on set couldn’t have but helped the knowing “direction” of this movie.  Mata Bond’s foray to East Berlin in fact is a foray back into the Expressionist cinema of Robert Wiene (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari).  The set designing in this particular section is quite remarkable and, if we are to go by the credits alone, we might credit John Huston with this deft reference.

The spoof hits higher and higher levels of satire as when Evelyn Tremble (himself also now known as James Bond…quite laughable) encounters Miss Goodthighs (a singular name, what?).  But the real pinnacle in this absurd film is Welles’ (Le Chiffre’s) torturing of Sellers (Tremble).  I have seen nothing quite like it in cinema except for the psychedelic boat ride in the original Willy Wonka movie with Gene Wilder.  Certainly, the year was 1967…but still:  this could have been an outtake from Roger Corman’s The Trip!

It becomes so that one senses the ghost of Buster Keaton in this ever more Dadaist confection.  A flying saucer lands in London.  Sir Bond’s nephew Jimmy Bond (Woody Allen) is revealed to simultaneously be Dr. Noah (a hilariously Hebrew reference to the original Bond villain Dr. No).  Jimmy Bond’s plan for world domination (he has defected from MI6 over to SMERSH) bears a striking resemblance to the film The Tiger Makes Out.  Strange times…

The coup de grâce is when not only the American cavalry arrive at the casino (straight out of a John Ford film for all we know), but when amidst the equestrian chaos Jean-Paul Belmondo finally appears to say merde a few times (after each time he punches someone).  By this time all sense of taste has been trampled underfoot, but it was so fun getting there.  Indeed, Mata Bond at one point takes a taxi from London to Berlin!

So what, if any, relic is left of John Huston’s direction in this anti-masterpiece (besides the hairpiece which succeeds M…a role likewise acted by Huston at the film’s start)?  And should this vestige be given Christian burial?  In Fleming’s original novel, MI6 has no “Christian name” on file for Le Chiffre.  He is a total mystery:  Mediterranean with perhaps a dash of Prussian or Polish.  But that’s it.  He is a cipher–a number.

Vladek Sheybal (who had played Kronsteen in From Russia With Love) appears in a minor role during the East Berlin portion of the film.  In fact, we last see him (having sauntered into West Berlin) firing shots at the fleeing Mata Bond (right under the nose of an American soldier).  What is the meaning of this, one might ask?

With turns like that of John Wells (as Q’s assistant), this might very well be considered the true predecessor of the Airplane movies.  In fact, there were FIVE different directors employed in the making of this film (not including Richard Talmadge, who co-directed the final chaotic episode).  It is believed that not only Allen and Sellers contributed to the script, but also Ben Hecht, Joseph Heller, Terry Southern and even Billy Wilder.  Again (in my best British tone):  just what is the meaning of this?

It appears that John Huston only directed the beginning of the film.  Ken Hughes, in fact, pulled off the Calagari-referencing East Berlin scene.  Three other directors shot various scenes among them to bring the total to five.  Ben Hecht was initially the principal screenwriter, but his “straight” adaption eventually became so bastardized as to bear no resemblance to its original self (nor the Fleming novel).  Hecht, of course, died in 1964…well before Casino Royale made it to the big screen.

Rewrites were handled (it appears) principally by Billy Wilder.  The Spartacus idea, though, (all the James Bonds running amok) would be preserved from Hecht’s adaption.  It is interesting to note that Peter Sellers (in his well-reported competitive dealings with actor Orson Welles…as well as Woody Allen) had Terry Southern write his dialogue.  Sellers and Welles were famously at odds (no pun intended) during the shooting of this film–Welles being unimpressed with Sellers, and Sellers feeling insulted and perhaps insecure by the presence of Welles.

Whatever can be conjectured, one thing is certain:  this was the most expensive Bond film made at the time it came out.  It indeed runs like an extremely indulgent film-school joke.  Fortunately, it’s a good joke.  Welles’ magic tricks as Le Chiffre (at the baccarat table, no less) were real life annoyances to Peter Sellers (all of which–the tricks and the irritation–made it into the film).  The film really is a bloody mess (in plain Cockney).  It is interesting to see this burgeoning side of Welles (the magic) which would play such a large role in his last major film F for Fake (1973).  Indeed, there is only one film in the entire cinematic canon which outshines F for Fake and that is Histoire(s) du cinéma by Godard.

Part of the nonsensical nature of this film can be explained by the fact that Sellers was either fired or quit before filming was completed.  This posed an enormous problem for director (1 of 5) Val Guest who was tasked with patching all of this incredibly expensive footage together into a quasi-cohesive whole.  Indeed, one is rightly confused by the James Bond Training School being in the bottom level of Harrods because the scene which was to set this up was never shot.  Many other such aberrations make the narrative at times completely inexplicable and unnavigable.

“Ooch,” as Belmondo translates from his phrase book:  merde.  I can very well see why many would consider this film just that:  complete shit.  But it is not.  It’s not because David Prowse (the physical Darth Vader in Star Wars) appears in his first film role (as Frankenstein giving Niven directions by dumbly walking into a steel double-door).  Perhaps it is because the film has at least a hint of legitimacy from John Huston, Orson Welles, etc.?  All of these intellectualizations aside, it is simply an entertaining template for Austin Powers which dates all the way back to the time Mike Myers would have to recreate three decades later.

Eon would have to wait until 2006 to get its shot at Fleming’s novel Casino Royale.  And there just really is no beating a film in which “The Look of Love” (as sung by Dusty Springfield) plays such a highlighted part.  So we wish Daniel Craig and Adele well on these recent ventures, but Casino Royale of 1967 will always be in our senseless hearts.