Review: ‘Casino Royale’ 3-Disc Collector’s Edition DVD
I’m not objective when it comes to James Bond. [[[Dr. No]]] was the first “grown-up” movie I ever saw, and I’ve been writing about 007 in magazines and my books ever since.
Nor am I particularly dispassionate about [[[Casino Royale]]]. The New York premiere at the great Zeigfeld Theater was the best experience I’ve had in cinemas for the last few decades — and it was there that I ate humble pie because, to my shame, I had been dead set against Daniel Craig in the role prior to that (I had been rooting for runner-up Henry Cavill, and anyone who’s seen him as “Charles Brandon” in the second season of Showtime’s [[[The Tudors]]] can see why).
The only thing I wasn’t a big fan of was the original, cautious, DVD release that didn’t even include an audio commentary. Naturally, everyone knew that a big special edition would eventually appear, and, following record-breaking grosses and a Blu-ray release that really put the medium on the map, this is it.
The film remains exceptional but quibbliable (some nitpick at the central, drawn-out poker game, while I cavil [if you’ll excuse the expression] at the dispassionate off-screen dispatching of the main henchmen, to be hastily replaced by some generic thugs for 007 to slaughter at the climax).
The three-DVD status of this Special Edition (tomorrow) is also questionable, since the second disc only contains the extras found on the original release, promoted to their own disc apparently to make way for the previously absent audio commentaries. Even the DVD menus aren’t particularly distinguished.
However, the approximately nine hours of new Special Features made it worth the wait. Having done forty good, bad, or ugly audio commentaries myself, I know a great one when I hear it, and Casino Royale now has two. The first, with director Martin Campbell and producer Michael Wilson, is packed with illuminating info (including that the opening was inspired by The Ipcress File and the finale by Don’t Look Now), but the second is even better.
Seemingly designed just for the Bond fan, it’s a tag-team epic featuring virtually every important crew member, including the writers, cinematographer, and, my personal favorite, the legendary editor Stuart Baird (who I met on the set of [[[Superman]]]) who shows that great cutting is eternal, no matter how MTV it seemingly looks. The entire experience is like sitting down at the crew screening party and listening with delight to all their stories and secrets.
Befitting one of the Bond films with the most subtle plot, the other special features are equally as challenging, but even more fascinating. The main documentaries tell the truly impressive stories of Casino Royale’s literary and cinematic creation through talking heads, archival footage, rare photos and 007 movie clips. The docs’ writer/director John Cork, also a well-known Bond expert, cleverly uses himself to caulk the tales together.
Following those are two more that chart 007, and his creator’s, allegiance to the Bahamas, which seemed redundant at first, but wound up resonant and particularly satisfying. The next four featurettes go into absorbing detail on the elaborate creation of the film’s first and last action showcases — the freerun chase and the Venice battle in a sinking palazzo. Finally there are what they call “Filmmaker Profiles” – short, but unexpectedly illuminating, examinations of integral production members, including composer David Arnold.
Sure, there were some repetitions of information and images, but I was very happy when I finally finished all this. So happy, in fact, that it was tinged with disappointment there wasn’t even more – especially audition footage of the eight main contenders for the role, which they repeatedly mention, but never name.
My fanboy fever was especially enflamed at the mention that they tested Craig with a
[[[From Russia with Love]]]
scene … then didn’t even show a clip of it. But if the bad behavior of the repeatedly repackaging Bond DVD producers is any evidence, there’s always next time…