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American (!) secret agent and master gambler James Bond (Barry Nelson)
gets a new assignment: To clean out Russian secret agent and passionate
gambler Le Chiffre (Peter Lorre). The story behind it all: Le Chiffre has
lost a large lump of money belonging to the Soviet Union at the gambling
tables, but tomorrow night he plans to win it all back. Which he won't if
he gambles James Bond of course ...
Le Chiffre has a secret weapon
though, Valerie (Linda Christian), a former girlfriend of Bond now working
for the Russians, and Le Chiffre threatens to shoot her should Bond try to
defeat him. The next night at the gambling table, Bond deliberately loses
all his money - until he receives funds to continue gambling from noone
else but Valerie hereself, and now he cleans out Le Chiffre as he was
meant to. Bond later learns that Valerie is actually a double agent
working for the French, so she was on his side all the time, but he also
learns that Le Chiffre is a sore loser, so he takes both Bond and Valerie
captive and tries to get the location of the money Bond has won but Le
Chiffre considers his out of Bond, primarily via torture. But Bond is not
one to give up and after a big fistfight it all ends happily ...
very first time James Bond was brought to the screen was via (then
standard) live television - and James Bond-enthusiasts are
quick to label this one as blasphemy, mainly because Bond is an American
in the show and doesn't really have too many of the now famous
Bond-mannerisms down. The blasphemy-claim is of course a bit of an
exaggeration because the character James Bond was hardly as iconic in 1954
as it is today (Casino Royale the book, Bond's introduction to the
world, was only published in 1953).
All of this of course says little
about the show's own merits ... and in all, Casino Royale is ok
television, it's fast-moving, features plenty of suspense, and Peter Lorre
as a villain is great as was to be expected. Sure, there is little in
terms of over-the-top action we are now used to from the James Bond
of the movies, and the sets are very limited due to the very nature of
live television, but this is still a well-made little TV-thriller. Sure,
Barry Nelson doesn't ring true as James Bond, but that might also be due
to hindsight ...