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Casino Royale (1954) (Review)

7 Feb, 2012 By: John Latchem

This hour-long episode of "Climax!" starred Barry Nelson as an American Bond and Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre. It originally aired live in black and white and was long thought to be lost. Its historical value makes it worth viewing, if you can track down the complete version, which was released on VHS by SpyGuise. A truncated version without the complete ending has been in wide circulation on TV and as a DVD extra with the 1967 Casino Royale (but not the Blu-ray).

As a Bond adventure, it's a rather straightforward version of Casino Royale, rather limited in scope due to the live nature of the production. The action plays out over just a few standing sets, which doesn't give the characters much room to play. Bond is all business, with nary time for a quip, while saddled with the ridiculous nickname "Card Sense Jimmy Bond." He does get in some good exposition explaining Baccarat for the audience. The highlight is Lorre as the villain, as menacing as the constraints of the format will allow him, and the final standoff is filled with a fair amount of tension.

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