DIRECTOR: William H. Brown
No, it was not Dr. No, starring Sean Connery as James Bond, 007 in 1962 where it all began. Ian Fleming’s James Bond began his screen career eight years prior, in an early episode of an anthology drama TV series called Climax! In this U.S. series, the American “Jimmy Bond” was sent to clean out Le Chiffe at the infamous Casino Royale.
This 50 minute TV episode is only available on the Special Edition of the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale DVD as a special feature or as I found it, quite readily on You Tube. Heavy re-written and truncated, you would expect very little from this all but forgotten footnote in the James Bond saga.
But this is without a doubt leagues above the 1967 spoof of the same name and in many ways, bears more in common with the tone of the 2006 Daniel Craig movie as well as the source book. This is short, sweet and to the point. We get a run down of the card game Baccarat, the game itself in which Bond (Barry Nelson) cleans Le Chiffre (Peter Lorre) and the drama after the fact, including a version of the torture scene which makes its point without showing too much.
In fact, it is not clear as to how badly Bond was injured during this scene. But the tone of the episode is that of a Noir spy thriller, with cold villains and calculating spies working to bring down the embezzling soviet agent with guile rather than bullets.
Obviously, there is no flamboyant Bond action as this was a LIVE show, shot on a couple sound stages but like any good play, it only adds to the drama. The performances are indicative of the time in whcih it was made and for those fans of Noir cinema, this should not disappoint. To be honest, this would rate highly as Bond adventure even though in this, “Jimmy” is a U.S. agent and Felix Leiter, normally his C.I.A. counterpart is in fact Clarence Leiter of MI6.
A simple role reversal which in no way harms the script. Bond is also portrayed here as a much more straight forward character, closer to the books I think, in which he is no superhero, just a spy in the espionage game, just as vulnerable as anyone else.
A must see for Bond fans.