American Combined Intelligence Agency spy James Bond aka Jimmy Bond arrives at the Casino Royale in Monte Carlo, Monaco but is shot at whilst entering. He meets up with British Secret Service secret agent Clarence Leiter (this character was called Felix Leiter in the original Ian Fleming novel). He briefs Bond about his mission then Bond runs into old flame Valerie Mathis (she is an amalgam of the Vesper Lynd and Rene Mathis characters from the novel). She introduces him to Le Chiffre who is the Chief Soviet Agent in the area and is nearly always accompanied by three henchman called Basil, Zoltan and Zuroff. Le Chiffre has been gambling with the Soviet funds of his employers and he's down several million francs. Bond's mission is to beat him at a high-stakes card game of Baccarat so Le Chiffre will be ruined. Written by
Le Chiffre is a French word which translates into English as "The Cypher" or "The Number". Other translations in different languages include "Die Nummer", "Herr Ziffer", and "Mr. Number." The first reference to Le Chiffre is by Leiter, when Leiter refers to him first as Herr Ziffer, when he tells Bond "You know you're here to deal with Herr Ziffer....Le Chiffre, he's the same fellow." See more »
Shadow of the boom mic is visible on the wall behind James Bond as he's explaining the rules of Baccarat to Leiter. See more »
A lot has to be forgiven here. First, this is a recording of a live performance - when something went wrong, they were stuck with it; and since this is cheaply made, they had little rehearsal time, so a quite a number of things go wrong. Secondly, the surviving recording is incomplete and not very good. Third, the producers of the show were trying to make the British Ian Fleming's break-out novel accessible to American audiences only familiar with American espionage B-movies, a '50s genre that has not gotten preserved, so most people now will not be familiar with the drab back-alley feel of this show drawn from that genre. And that the producers felt the need to go this route shows that they themselves really had little understanding of where Fleming was coming from - which was really Somerset Maugham's "Ashenden, or the British Agent," filmed in the early '30s by Alfred Hitchcock. And really, prime Hitchcock is the director Fleming would have had in mind while writing this book. But despite his popularity, Hitchcock himself remained an anomaly in Hollywood throughout the '50s. His ability to shock audiences was well known, but his capacity for sophisticated wit and subtle irony were not easy for most Americans to grasp at the time.
So too Fleming's subversive sense of what at last became known as the "anti-hero" - a man as ruthless as his enemies, able to seduce and destroy women with a glance, then quietly order breakfast in a luxury hotel as if nothing happened. For Fleming, this was a means of preserving the "hard-boiled" detective tradition while at the same time raising uncomfortable questions about what it meant to live comfortably middle-class in cold-war England. Never pointed enough to threaten middle-class readers, but enough to raise their anxiety level to the point of continued interest in the James Bond series.
There's none of that here - the romance is played straight, and the only sophistication comes in the gambling scene. The rest bulls through or stumbles along as one might expect from an American genre thriller of the time.
The major plus factors here are the performances. Most of the cast is miscast, but performs energetically despite that; Peter Lorre performs very weakly, but he happens to be perfectly cast - he is the definitive Le Chiffre! That surprising discovery is reason enough to find this show and give it a view, at least for Bond aficionados.
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