Monday, March 19, 2007

AndressFest (Part 1)

Now that the empty liquor bottles have been cleared away and the memories of the truly awful movies have dulled, it's time to revisit the pain and the passion that was AndressFest '07.

Our first movie was 'Casino Royale', the 1967 Bond spoof that aimed to take the mickey out of the burgeoning Bond phenomenon. Its conceit is that the original James Bond was a gentleman spy of the old school; courteous, resourceful and highly disciplined. So successful was he that, after his retirement, the British government continued to codename one of their best spies "James Bond", just to keep their enemies from realising that the real one had retired.

However, as the original Bond laments in an early scene, the new breed of James Bonds are all about driving fast cars, using flamboyant gadgets and shagging beautiful women (who more often than not end up dead soon afterwards). That is not the original Bond way. So when MI6 calls him out of retirement, after the evil SMERSH organisation kidnaps or kills most of their other spies, he resolves to deal with things in a more gentlemanly fashion.

It's a clever premise for satirising the Bond franchise, but unfortunately the film suffers from having five directors and ten writers, and it ends up as a gorgeous but confusing mess. The various set pieces are entertaining in themselves, full of sumptuous 60s design and acidic 60s colours, but they bear little if any relation to each other. Frankly, the whole thing looks like it was edited together by Coleman Francis.

But it wasn't a complete loss. One of the best things about the movie was its concentration of mid-60s icons. Woody Allen plays Bond's nephew. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass play the title theme. And there's a wonderful scene in which Ursula Andress lures Peter Sellers into her vast modernist apartment, while Dusty Springfield sings Burt Bacharach's 'The Look of Love'. The vibe couldn't have been more 60s if Lyndon Baines Johnson had been go-go dancing on the coffee table.

The other best thing about Casino Royale was, of course, our Ursula herself. In a movie full of beautiful women, she dazzled like a spotlight in a field of candles. I'm developing a theory that her performances waxed and waned according to the quality of her co-stars, so when she was teamed up with the genius of Peter Sellers, she was never more engaging, or more ravishing.

casino royale ursula

Ursula Andress uses her mysterious powers of sex to control the world, or at least cinema-goers.

The only problem with 'Casino Royale' was that it wasn't quite bad enough. While it wasn't actually good, it was good enough to keep our minds on the story and not on MST3K-style riffing. Fortunately, the same cannot be said for our second AndressFest '07 movie.


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