January 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings / January /

Casino Royale  
Music composed and conducted by Burt Bacharach
  Available on Varèse Sarabande Records (VSD-6409)  
Running Time: 34:20
  Amazon UK   Amazon US

casino royale

In 1953, Ian Lancaster Fleming published his first novel, Casino Royale, and with it iconic literary spy Commander James Bond and his lavish lifestyle was born. A live television adaptation of the novel on American television followed a year later, despite poor sales of the book in the United States (which had even prompted a title change), and the film rights were subsequently secured from Fleming by Charles Feldman. It took until 1967 for Feldman, and Columbia Pictures, to adapt Casino Royale for the screen, opting to produce a kitsch madcap comedy rather than compete with the successful franchise that Eon Productions and United Artists had been developing since 1962. With an all-star cast including David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Orson Welles, not to mention a budget of over $12 million, the critical and financial success of the film dented the box-office receipts of You Only Live Twice upon its release. Indeed, the fifth addition to the official Bond series, that had cost almost $10 million dollars to make, would gross less than its predecessor, Thunderball (1965).

Casino Royale is then again revived when Columbia Pictures and Eon Production released a new version of the film on 2006. This version of Casino Royale is far from the 1967's comedic version, here James Bond played by Daniel Craig is assigned to stop Le Chiffe (a banker to the world's terrorist organizations) by playing casino games at Casino Royale in Montenegro.

Composer Burt Bacharach’s contribution to Casino Royale, discussed in great detail by the generous liner notes (Penned by FMOTW's very own Paul Tonks) included with this re-release of the score, is remarkable. With regular songwriting partner, Hal David, Bacharach provides the film with a humorous air that remains consistently fresh throughout. From the offset, with the Tijuana Brass-flavoured "Casino Royale Theme" (led by armchair favourite, trumpeter Herb Alpert), Bacharach toys with the audience, notably by paraphrasing material from his previous film scores – as can be heard in "Home James, Don’t Spare the Horses" – and through off-kilter jazz writing that cannot fail but to up-the-ante in the wackiness stakes. Comedic highlights of the album include the exaggerated Scottish flavourings of "Le Chiffre’s Torture of the Mind" and a homage to the parlour songs of Noël Coward in "The Venerable Sir James Bond", later on in the album. Bacharach acquits himself exceptionally well in the action-packed "Sir James’ Trip to Find Mata", of interest to fans of John Barry’s James Bond scores as it would not sound out of place in Saltzman and Broccoli’s ‘straight’ Bond films.

Casino Royale is the ultimate in outlandish spy scores and the perfect accompaniment to the film’s on-screen lunacy. As an example of the wild antics of 1960’s spy-mania Burt Bacharach’s score to Casino Royale can be seen to have aged gracefully. To its credit it provides a sense of musical overstatement that very few composers have managed to successfully pastiche in the years since.

Of trivial interest is the inclusion of Dusty Springfield’s hit song "Look of Love" which, for readers with an open wallet this month, also makes an appearance in newly-released Catch Me If You Can (2002).

Glen Atkin


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