I would have imagined this television oddity from the old Climax anthology series was pretty well known to James Bond fans. However, during recent conversations with some hardcore 007 buffs I was told they never heard of it, so if such Bond devotees were unfamiliar with it, I’m assuming there are plenty of others.
Obviously this one-shot television special for the one hour long Climax program (yes, I just typed the words “one hour long climax”) came out long before the successfull James Bond film series. American Barry Nelson was therefore the first actor to play 007 on the small or big screen. Since this was adapted for an American television show, Bond (then a virtual unknown quantity) was Americanized as “Jimmy” Bond and Bond’s American contact became a British contact, Clarence (not Felix) Leiter. In addition our American Bond is said to work for the “Combined Intelligence” Agency instead of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The legendary Peter Lorre starred as the villain, Le Chiffre, who, at Casino Royale, loses a high-stakes game of baccarat to 007, putting him in a bind since he (Le Chiffre) has been gambling away enormous amounts of cash from his Soviet spymasters. Desperate to recover the funds he lost to “Jimmy”, Le Chiffre and his goons even torture Bond at one point by breaking some of his toes. In the end 007 comes out on top, of course, and guns down Lorre in the finale.
This telefilm is short, clocking in at just 46 minutes without commercials, and is okay but is really only of interest as a James Bond oddity. A laughable touch is when Leiter says that Bond’s nickname is “Card Sense Jimmy”. Talk about a nickname guaranteed to drive the babes WILD! And speaking of babes, this version of Casino Royale changes the name of the story’s femme fatale Vesper Lynd to Valerie Mathis, making her a composite of Vesper and Rene Mathis from the Ian Fleming story.
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