It’s kind of sad when the best thing about a movie is its soundtrack. I owned it when it was new, being a fan of both Burt Bacharach and the Tijuana Brass. It is still very, very good. The rest of the movie … well, I liked it a lot when it was new, but that was in the Swingin’ Sixties. I had recently taken my first acid trip, and many images in this film reproduced those visuals with uncanny accuracy, particularly (I’m not kidding) the opening and closing credits. Also, the disjointed nature of the film appealed to me, as if they were making it up as it went along, and today this is precisely what makes the film such a godawful mess. They were making it up as they went along, due to some complicated deal about the use of the book and the character which it is too boring to really spell out here.
The film has its moments. You can feel Woody Allen’s touch in his dialogue as Little Jimmy Bond (“They called Einstein crazy.” “Nobody ever called Einstein crazy!” “Well, they would have if he had carried on like this.”) and a few other places, but mostly this was five directors without a clue about how to make a movie like this, so they turned it over to the set designers—who, it must be said, did a bang-up job. One set sort of combined the German Expressionism of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with the works of M.C. Escher. The costume people were great, too. They must have employed every big-haired blonde bimbo in London to provide backgrounds. But it’s amazingly slow and boring at first, and then becomes so disjointed that they stop paying any attention at all to any semblance of a plot. People show up, then they vanish. About the time the flying saucer landed in Trafalgar Square the desperation was showing, and it just got worse, culminating in a jaw-droppingly unfunny—well, maybe you’ll giggle with embarrassment at the filmmakers—free-for-all in the Casino complete with cowboys and Indians.