The First Casino Royale, Climax Mystery Theater, 1954

Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,747MI6 Agent
edited February 2019 in The James Bond Films
If you've not seen this on You Tube, the whole episode can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JM5Ryhao2PE

Happy viewing. :)

I'd really love to hear your views on this piece of classic television. Sadly Ian Fleming never got a chance to see it, but his American agent told him all about it instead. I think it's said that they had a good laugh together.
"The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).

Comments

  • Nick37Nick37 Posts: 270MI6 Agent
    I bought the dvd from wal-mart for a dollar. It was worth a dollar. It was not worth more than a dollar. Peter Lorre as LeChiffre is the best thing about it. It's a little more faithful to the source material, but Nelson, I loved him in "The Shining" I don't like him here. He just doesn't fit.
    "I've had a few...Optional extras installed."
  • BlackleiterBlackleiter Washington, DCPosts: 5,615MI6 Agent
    At best, I view this as a novelty piece for Bond fans. As a television episode it's not much and I think Barry Nelson is badly cast, even as an Americanized "Jimmy Bond".
    "Felix Leiter, a brother from Langley."
  • davidelliott101davidelliott101 Posts: 165MI6 Agent
    I had it for years on a VHS tape purchased in a bargain bin of a department store... must have been back in the '80's... it is a bonus feature on the 1967 version of Casino Royale.

    Nice curiosity to round out a collection and proof that Connery wasn't the first James Bond on the screen.
  • Donald GrantDonald Grant U.S.A.Posts: 2,241Quartermasters
    Yep, I purchased the VHS tape eons ago from Spyguise. It's not very good I'm afraid. Was also lucky enough to get Barry Nelson's autograph on the front of a Playbill.

    DG
    So, what sharp little eyes you've got...wait till you get to my teeth.
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    "People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Richard Grenier after George Orwell, Washington Times 1993.
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,747MI6 Agent
    That's the thing. I was never able to get this beauty on VHS or DVD at all. This will be my first viewing of it in full on You Tube - I've seen a few excerpts of it on TV over the years, but never the whole thing. I'm looking forward to seeing it in this 60th Annivesary Year of the publication of Ian Flemiing's Casino Royale!
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Charmed & DangerousCharmed & Dangerous Posts: 7,358MI6 Agent
    Have you seen it yet, Silhouette Man? What did you think?

    In my book it's of interest to the aficionado only, or maybe to fans of hokey 50s nostalgia. Clarence Leiter... Priceless!
    "How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."
  • RedlandRedland NYCPosts: 19MI6 Agent
    I watched it as a kid when it was coupled with the '67 spoof. I fondly recall Lorre and the baccarat lesson. I don't fondly recall the writing, changes from the source material, characterizations, etc.

    Though, for some reason, the set of the casino, the area right outside, the bedroom...virtually the whole of the shoddy live TV set...are ingrained in my head and appear there as my mind's representation of the casino when I read the novel (which I first read around the same time).
    The bitch is dead now.
  • LazenbyfanLazenbyfan USAPosts: 53MI6 Agent
    I rather liked it. Not a classic by any means, but pretty good for what it was.

    For those of you looking for it on DVD, it was on a version of David Niven's Casino Royale as a bonus feature.
    "She likes you, I can see it."
    "You must give me the name of your oculist."
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,747MI6 Agent
    Have you seen it yet, Silhouette Man? What did you think?

    In my book it's of interest to the aficionado only, or maybe to fans of hokey 50s nostalgia. Clarence Leiter... Priceless!

    No, I've not seen it all as yet, but I'll get back to you when I do! :)
    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 4,002MI6 Agent
    1. was there any talk of a sequel or series, had it been successful?
    cant imagine they would have tried Live and Let Die, not because the book is racist, so much as early teevee was racist: blacks if seen at all were still servants
    also the subsequent novels just have too much globetrotting and implied location shots, this story was ideal for a pair of simple stagesets ... maybe From Russia With Love could have worked?

    2. what did Fleming think?
    it seems to me he was always trying to sell-out, would he have settled for an Americanised version of his character if the series were to continue? would he have retconned Bond as an American, as he did in fact make Bond Scottish after Connery was cast?
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,363MI6 Agent
    I saw this once over a decade ago, it was when Brosnan was taking over as Bond. Was delighted to get a chance to see this legendary broadcast on video. I quite enjoyed, I was quite impressed really - but have never felt the need to see it again.

    A lot of the early Avengers episodes with Honor Blackman turn out to have the same downbeat, stagey vibe. It's all quite airless.
    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 4,002MI6 Agent
    edited January 2019
    at there is no proper Pros and Cons thread for the Climax Mystery Theatre production, I shall post my thoughts here:


    PROS
    -Peter Lorre is the original Bond villain. He is a bigger star than just about any Bond villain ever, and is pretty scary, especially against a not-so-scary Bond.

    -the animated credits actually foreshadow the gun barrel!

    -it's good we got at least one adaptation of Bond during the 1950s. theoretically speaking.
    -fascinating historical glimpse of the very early days of television, when live telecasts were the norm, and broadcasts were not archived in any way. This seems a very strange way to tell a James Bond story now, but in 1954 they were still trying to figure out what kind of medium teevee would be and what could be done with it. I think they were modelling it after radio, but with an image, rather than film. Most of the well known shows we still remember did not begin until closer til the end of the decade, so this is the raw unformed birth of a new medium.
    -its relative failure meant we didn't get any more adaptations of Fleming in this format, leaving everything from Live and Let Die on for EON to adapt in a more appropriate manner.

    -Valerie Mathis is not Vesper, she is a completely different character in approximately the same position. She is so different I think I will devote a second post just to this character.
    -Valerie Mathis is the original Bond girl. Linda Christian is suitably beautiful, and her acting at least is better than Nelson's and the guy playing Leiter.

    -some clever dialog, sort of. It's a play, so the story is told through dialog rather than action. The long meeting between Bond and Leiter, with all its necessary exposition, is an original idea. Not well delivered by either actor though.
    -Charles Bennet, who cowrote the script, was an old Hitchcock collaborator: he wrote the 39 Steps, and most of Hitch's other 1930s spy films! that's a good resume, appropriate to adapting Fleming, too bad this isn't up to his earlier work.

    -the card game is seriously portrayed much better than in the Craig film, with all the rules explained beforehand, and all the suspense of the deals played out in real time, no need for exciting action scenes to interrupt the real story.

    -the first apocryphal contradiction of Fleming. And does it ever! considering how many future contradictions we would get, in the proper films and continuation authors' work, it's always fun to try to reconcile the contradictions, so this production gives us plenty to play with.
    -only le Chiffre is actually a character from Fleming's book. Bond and Leiter are completely different people with familiar names, and Vesper Lynd is not even in this. It is entirely possible le Chiffre went on to meet the real Bond after this encounter with an American Bond:
    since the dvd ends prematurely, the last we see, le Chiffre is still alive, Bond is holding a gun but in great pain, and Valerie walking off-camera to make a phone call. We don't actually see Bond kill le Chiffre, so maybe after the kinescope cut, le Chiffre escaped, killed Jimmy and went back to the gambling table? then maybe MI6 recognised Cardsharp Jimmy Bond's important sacrifice by awarding his name as a codename to one of their own double oh agents who then went on to successfully defeat le Chiffre? see, that'd work.

    -available as a bonus feature on the "funny" Casino Royale dvd.


    CONS
    -I'd say the swapping of Bond and Leiter's roles is a con, but that choice is so fundamental to what this strange relic is, it's hard to make an issue out of it. Still makes this a 100% fakeBond film though, regardless of who produced it.
    -Cardsharp Jimmy Bond is not just American: he is working for something called Combined Intelligence, is not ever referred to as 007, and has no License to Kill. Completely different character with an annoyingly familiar name.

    -Peter Lorre is really slumming here. He mumbles his lines carelessly, and seems to be playing a French character with a poorly enunciated American accent.
    -who the heck is Barry Nelson? I think the only other thing I've ever seen him in is one of the later Thin Man sequels. I could possibly imagine an American Bond, maybe Cary Grant could have done it, but not this footnote to history.
    -the fellow playing Clarence Leiter is really stiff. Even if the roles were swapped, he plays the British agent as far too posh and smug to be any more acceptable as Bond.

    -the two or three action scenes are the polar opposite of thrilling. Bond saving himself from the cane gun by falling over is especially goofy looking, and I know that's the way Fleming wrote it, but still...

    -by selling the rights to Casino Royale so early, somehow they ended up in the hands of Charles Feldman rather than EON, and therefor this was never remade as part of the proper series (sorry, I don't really count the Craig film)

    -the dvd is missing the last two minutes. See here for the real ending.
    -the original broadcast was in colour (at a time when nobody had colour television sets) but what has survived is only a b&w kinescope copy (I don't actually know what that means, but it's an inferior copy)
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 4,002MI6 Agent
    edited January 2019
    Valerie Mathis is the original (cinematic) Bond girl, and is very much not Vesper Lynd.
    So the character deserves more discussion.
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    She is played by Linda Christian who is suitably beautiful.
    In real life she was a protégé of Errol Flynn and the wife of Tyrone Power.

    The character is in a similar position to Vesper but otherwise completely different. Whereas Vesper is a good girl who turns out to be bad, Valerie is a bad girl who turns out to be good.
    From the very beginning she is seen in le Chiffre's company, the first we see le Chiffre is giving her orders to seduce Bond and sabotage his mission. (presumably Vesper conspired with le Chiffre offscreen too but we never actually see it happen in any version). She interrupts Bond and Leiter's conversation, and it turns out they have a history, they met when Bond was gambling before: she was his "lucky charm".
    Her placement in the story is actually quite similar to Paris Carver!

    She returns with Bond to his room (the dialog where she insists on seeing him to his room would have been racy for 1954 television), because his room is bugged and her job is to get him to talk. Bond knows his room is bugged, so he plays a record loudly to obscure selective parts of the conversation, turning down the volume when he wants le Chiffre to hear certain parts but not others. She then tells him she still loves him, but when Bond walks her to the elevator, beyond the range of the mikes, he asks her if any of what she said was true and she responds "only that le Chiffre will kill you".

    It is Valerie who sends the envelope full of cash to the table just as Bond loses all his own money, though we don't find out it was her until the final act. This is our first clue she is not who she seems.

    At the end of the play she is also part of the torture scene, and we and le Chiffre and Bond learn that she has been working for Deuxieme Bureaue the whole time.
    Then le Chiffre leaves the two of them tied up in the bathroom, unguarded while he and his posse search the room for the cheque. Bond tells her to knock the lighter off the table into his hands, and he clumsily uses it to burn through the knots binding his wrists. This is familiar: this is how the real Bond and Gala escaped in Moonraker, except they used a gas-torch which was more dangerous. Moonraker was not published until the next year, so this must be a coincidence.

    The dvd ends with Valerie walking offscreen to telephone for help, but the missing two minutes I have linked to above show le Chiffre then grabbed her and held her as a human shield, but she wriggled away, allowing the injured Bond to get a clear shot, killing le Chiffre himself (which he did not do in any other version of the story). Bond and Valerie embrace as the credits of the first ever Bond film roll.
  • Matt SMatt S Oh Cult Voodoo ShopPosts: 6,597MI6 Agent
    Interesting take on this teleplay. It’s not the ideal take on Fleming’s novel, but none made have been. I feel that for the only Fleming Bond story to have been adapted 3 times, this one is the closest and best. I really like it for what it is, even if the characters were changed too much.
    Visit my blog, Bond Suits
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,890Chief of Staff
    @caractacus-

    1) Kinescope was a primitive method of preserving TV shows in which a film camera was pointed at a TV screen. Not a very satisfactory way to do things, but choices were limited back then. This is how Elvis' early TV appearances are viewable today, and many 50s TV series.

    2) Cary Grant was British, English to be exact.

    3) Nelson was in "The Shining" by Stanley Kubrick, you might have seen that one.

    4) Vesper's name is Lynd, not Lynn. Perhaps another reason for changing the character to Valerie Mathis may have been the casting of an actress with a similar name? Unlikely, but you never know.
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 4,002MI6 Agent
    Lynn edited to Lynd, thanks Barbel.

    I know Cary Grant was born in Britain, I should have thought of a better genuinely American example.
    Cary Grant had been in Hollywood at least 15 years by this point, and I think every role I've seen him in is supposed to be an American character. He could have played Cardsharp Jimmy Bond as American if cast, it'd probably be more confusing to audiences if he suddenly started playing a British character after all those years.

    I shall have to watch The Shining again. Is Barry Nelson the guy at the very beginning who offers Jack Nicholson the job?

    and thank you for the explanation of kinescope. We are lucky this has been preserved in any form at all.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,890Chief of Staff
    Yes, Nelson is that guy. :)
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 4,002MI6 Agent

    I'm bumping this thread on the obscurest of all BondFilms, because @Napoleon Plural scanned and posted an article from a 1983 issue of the American film magazine Starlog, and it includes an interview with Barry Nelson discussing his long forgotten moment as the first ever Bond! its here in the Man from UNCLE thread, because the main article relates to Lazenby's cameo in the Return of the man from UNCLE.

    Nelson gives us some behind the scenes info about this tv special, which I think is great because we know so little about it.

  • sirsosirso Posts: 210MI6 Agent
    edited March 2022

    The 1954 version is interesting in a period sense, as it is the contemporary period the Bond novel was set, and so gives us an idea of the sort of world Bond lived in. Not as cool as the 1960s world the films portray.

    Has anyone seen the 1954 film Forbidden Cargo, with Nigel Patrick as the British customs and excise agent, sent to the south of France to investigate a smuggling ring?

    It reminded me of the 1950s Bond world of the novels. There were even scuba diving scenes in it, and men in white tuxedos and black bow ties.

    If the 1960s Bond films had been made in the early 1950s, this is what they would have looked like. In the late 1950s they would have looked like Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 4,002MI6 Agent

    I just checked wikipedia, and  North by Northwest had a budget of $4.3 million whereas Dr No's budget was a mere $1.1 million. So I don't think a 1950s Dr No would have looked so good as a Hitchcock film even if EON were the ones making it.That said, they did make their film look pretty damn good for a quarter of the money, I'm now wondering what Hitchcock spent an extra 3 million on, Cary Grant's salary?

    something I compare the Climax Mystery Theatre production to is the early episodes of the Avengers and Doctor Who. Those two shows were both recorded on videotape, which was so inconvenient to edit in those days the shows were basically recorded live with minimal edits, and you can see the actors blow their lines, microphones in the shot, cameras bumping scenery, extras caught lurking in the background before theyre meant to enter... Anyway, I think both those shows look better, perhaps because teevee people had a decade to learn how to do things, perhaps because the creators took them more seriously. One big problem with Casino Royale is that nobody in the States had really heard of Fleming in 1954 and doing a quality job may not have been a priority, they just needed to get something ready to broadcast that week.

    in fact the best comparison would be to other surviving episodes of Climax Mystery Theatre. wikipedia has a list of titles, I think theyre mostly adaptations. Look, the very first, two episodes before Casino Royale, was an adaptation of the Long GoodBye, a Raymond Chandler book that would also have been very recent at the time. I wonder if that survived and if anybody's seen it? Unlike Fleming, chandler would have been a very big name in 1954, and the actor playing Marlowe was Dick Powell, who'd already played the part in Murder my Sweet!.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,890Chief of Staff

    I haven't seen it, but apparently this version of "The Long Goodbye" is the one in which a supposedly dead actor, thinking he's off-camera, gets up and walks away. This has mistakenly been thought to have been Peter Lorre in CR54 in several books, etc, until the kinescope eventually surfaced.

  • sirsosirso Posts: 210MI6 Agent

    True, but I was referring to the late 1950s period look (dress, manner, acting, period details etc) rather than the budget of the film.

  • PPK 7.65mmPPK 7.65mm Saratoga Springs NY USAPosts: 1,239MI6 Agent

    Got a copy of this on VHS tape from SpyGuise back in 1997 as a birthday present. For what it is was I enjoyed it, especially seeing the henchman with the cane gun brought to life and the big gambling scene from the novel. I had had not read Casino Royale yet, but I was familiar enough with the story to understand what was going on. I also found it interesting when Bond would turn up the record in his hotel room, to keep Le Chiffre and his men from knowing what his plans are. This really reminds me of how Bond would escape danger in a few of the novels, often using whatever he happened to have around him.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 4,002MI6 Agent

    @PPK 7.65mm you may be the first person in nearly 70 years to have seen the teleplay before reading Fleming's novel!

    hope you werent disappointed to find out Bond was really British


    theres an episode of The Saint with a very similar cane weapon used in a casino, in a similar way (even the blocking and camera angle). I posted screencaps of the sequence here

  • John from CorkJohn from Cork Posts: 111MI6 Agent

    I still don't understand why it's never had a DVD release in the UK/Ireland Europe.

  • sinlumsinlum Posts: 166MI6 Agent

    I would like to follow up on some points in this thread and would very thankful if anyone knows any concrete info about these things:

    • Was there really a colour version of this broadcast on TV? I could only find snippets of info about this online. If so, why has there never been a coloured version released? It's possible now to use AI to colourise old films so I don't get why this was never done with this version since I am pretty sure a number of collectors would be interested in it
    • As the previous user commented, why was there never a full DVD version? Again I would imagine a number of collectors would be interested in owning a copy. 
  • sinlumsinlum Posts: 166MI6 Agent

    I have to bump this old thread again because just by chance this version came up in my Youtube feed today:



    This is first version I have ever seen where the ENTIRE show is included in NORMAL quality.

    I know that the original version released on VHS was missing the ending until Spyguise released their version which included the ending but with poorer picture and sound quality.

    This version on Youtube however seems to be the entire thing including the credits all in standard quality.

    I guess this is from a newer print that has been found. Does anyone have any info on this?

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