Climax! Mystery Theater “Casino Royale” (part 2 of 2)
Bond also learns that Le Chiffre always carries three razor blades with him: one in his hat band, one in his shoe heel, and one in his cigarette case. He also finds out that Le Chiffre’s Grandpa Gangsters are very dangerous, which I find hard to believe. Plus, they’re all staying in the suite just above Bond’s suite at the hotel. Bond figures out that’s why his room was bugged.
Before Leiter can say more, PETA target Valerie Mathis interrupts. She approaches Bond and refreshes his memory of her. After a lot of pointless dialogue, they’re back in his hotel room. He cranks up the old turntable really loud with some Chopin, and they kiss passionately. She breathlessly says, “Oh, Jimmy!” Definitely does not have the same ring to it.
He says he knows she’s working for Le Chiffre, and that the room is bugged. Le Chiffre, listening in upstairs, can’t hear anything over the blaring Chopin. Valerie denies knowing about the listening devices, so Bond figures it out: Le Chiffre is eavesdropping on her, not him, to find out if she’s loyal to Le Chiffre and not Bond.
Bond turns the music down and forces her to say what she’s come to say. She begs him not to play baccarat with Le Chiffre. That’s all. He walks her back to the elevator (while we get a really obvious boom mike shadow following along) and says she played her part well. For some reason, he’s really ticked off here, and I have no idea why. Nothing she said was really that earth-shattering.
Valerie heads upstairs to Le Chiffre’s suite. Then comes another unfortunate moment in live broadcasting, because one of Le Chiffre’s men starts talking, but either they’ve forgotten to turn his mic on, or the volume is turned way down. So whatever he said is completely missed. It’s only halfway through Lorre’s next speech that the sound returns. He asks Valerie if she still loves Bond, and she tries to assure him it’s over. He says he has to win his 80 million back, and no one will stand in his way. Which is really just a thinly veiled way of saying, watch it, sister.
Next night at the casino, Leiter picks up Bond’s 26 millions francs from the cashier. He makes a phone call to some newsman to have a story ready if Bond wins. I guess the idea is to get a mention of Le Chiffre’s loss into the newspapers, so the Soviets get wind of it, but way too much time will be spent on this particular plot point. Anyway, this allows Grandpa Greasy Lackey to sneak up on the inept Leiter with a gun.
Greasy Lackey demands the money, and gives him ten seconds to hand it over. They stare at each other for five, and then the phone rings. The manager approaches to answer, and Leiter is basically like, it’s probably for me, and by the way, could you take this money and see that Mr. Bond gets it when he arrives. ‘Kay? Thanks. So, if you’re a spy, just be lucky? Is that the point? I’d have preferred a bit more action and suspense there, not blind luck. And why couldn’t Bond just get the money from the cashier himself when he arrived? This whole scene is stupid, and it would be completely pointless if not for one thing: It gives the actors playing Bond and Valerie enough time to change clothes.
Bond arrives, and does indeed pick up the money from the cashier his own damn self. He meets up with Valerie, who introduces him to Le Chiffre. They’re just about set to play, when suddenly Bond gets a mysterious phone call warning him that if he wins, Valerie will die. So Bond tells Leiter to keep an eye on Valerie. And we just saw how good he is at keeping an eye on 26 million francs, so that should work out well.
Act Two begins at the baccarat table. Le Chiffre quickly cleans out a Bill Cosby look-alike with just two games. At one point he pulls out a cigarette, so the camera can zoom in on the razor blade he keeps in his cigarette case. Just to remind us that it exists.
Then Bond buys in at 4 million francs. Bond wins the first game, but immediately loses everything he has in the next four. Man, he is Card-Sense Jimmy Bond! As Le Chiffre’s gang begins to gloat, a messenger gives Bond an envelope with a note saying, “Here’s 35,000,000 francs – you have to win”. Bond counts out 32 million and the game continues.
Le Chiffre turns up a 3 and two face cards, Bond a queen and two deuces. This loss leaves Le Chiffre with only 23 million. He goes all in on the next hand. Bond matches this, and the cards are dealt. Bond gets a natural nine, and Le Chiffre gets two face cards. Baccarat!
Le Chiffre pouts and pushes his way through the stunned crowd. Meanwhile, Grandpa Baldy gets behind Bond and tries to put an awkward hit on him with a walking stick. Baldy says, “My cane is in your back. But it is a gun, and not a cane.” Again he gives a ten second count. This time he’s giving Bond ten seconds to accompany him to the cashier, but around the count of five, Bond flips backward in his chair and scares off Grandpa Baldy, who scampers away. Maybe it was just a cane. The casino officials rush up to Bond and ask if he’s okay. Bond blows it off and asks about Valerie, but finds Le Chiffre has gotten away with her.
Bond gets Leiter to run around looking for Valerie, but considering how well he kept an eye on her in the first place, I think we all know how that ends up. Meanwhile, Bond runs to the cashier to pick up his winnings, now in the form of a check.
Next, there’s an interminable sequence where Leiter tries to make a phone call, while Bond searches the hotel. Back to Leiter, back to Bond. To Leiter, to Bond. Ahhhh! Enough with the TV Pong!
Finally, Leiter gets Bond on the phone in his room, and tells him to hide the check. That’s what he was so desperate to communicate to him? Bond hides it behind the number plate on his door, which actually is clever. Not so clever is how someone in the crew abruptly shines a light on him while he’s in the middle of doing this.
After he’s done, Le Chiffre shows up with Valerie and two of his goons. It turns out Valerie is working for the French, who also want Le Chiffre out of the way. As it so happens, the last 35 million Bond played came from the French. Le Chiffre demands the check, or he’ll kill Valerie, or Bond, or both of them. He doesn’t really seem certain.
Act Three begins with Bond sprawled on the floor with a gash to his head. Which is not how Act Two ended, so I think we’re supposed to mentally fill in the blanks. Also, Valerie is suddenly tied up. Boy, did we miss a lot!
Bond tries to get up, but the Grandpa Gang roughs him up some more. Lorre blows his line. Leiter calls again to talk about the news article. Just become a reporter, alright? It’s obviously where your heart is!
And now the torture part begins, though thankfully, it bears no resemblance to the torture scene in the book. The gang ties up Bond, sticks him in the bathtub, and they bring in Valerie to watch.
They demand the check yet again. Bond refuses, so Le Chiffre starts breaking his toes with a pair of pliers. This is only implied, of course. And it goes on way too long, scene-wise I mean, and Valerie finally says she can’t stand it any longer. She tells Le Chiffre she saw Bond with a screwdriver when she came in. Bond screams at her to shut up. Seriously, that’s exactly what he says, and his voice even cracks as he yells it. Le Chiffre starts a new search of the room with this piece of information, and tries to threaten them again, but it’s Peter Lorre. He’s hard to take seriously. I mean, come on, he’s head of the Grandpa Gang!
Once he’s out of the room, Bond notices Le Chiffre has left his cigarette case on the edge of the tub and tries to reach it. Valerie comes over to help. The actress, I think, totally messes this up. She’s prattling on so as not to draw attention, and picks up the case with her hands behind her back. But then she tries to open it or something, and it ends up popping out of her hand down into the bathtub by Bond’s legs, making it even more difficult for him to reach.
Somehow, he reaches it, and supposedly cuts himself free with the razor blade inside (aren’t you glad they reminded us about it?). Meanwhile, Valerie drones on, talking complete nonsense about love and hayfields. Then he cuts her free, too. Off camera, Le Chiffre gets the idea to check behind the number plate (stepping all over the end of Valerie’s line) because the door was open when they came in. He finds the check.
Bond, in a last ditch effort, calls out for water and Le Chiffre sends in Grandpa Basil, the last Grandpa Goon still in the room. Bond jumps him and knocks him out cold, then waits with Basil’s gun for Le Chiffre to get curious.
Le Chiffre soon does, entering the bathroom to see what’s holding up Basil. Bond shoots him. Basil staggers to his feet and Bond shoots him, too. Le Chiffre comes out and muffled stage directions can be heard yet again, even some laughter, as Lorre kind of casually walks over to a chair. Valerie helps Bond into the chair across from him, and the show ends with the following lines:
Le Chiffre: [trying to reach the blade in his hat band] Huh?
Bond: [to Valerie] Go on. Call the police.
Ah! Another crap ending! Roll credits, where we see that not only has Leiter been turned into a British agent, but they couldn’t even get the new name right. It reads, “Michael Pate as Letter”. Contrary to myth, Peter Lorre doesn’t die and then get up and walk off the set. That did happen on Climax!, just not on this episode.
[But it appears that at least a minute or so was lost in this video release. The original broadcast ended with Le Chiffre holding Valerie hostage with a razor blade to her throat, followed by Bond shooting and killing him. There actually is a VHS tape out there that includes this lost scene, but you won’t see me spending money on an extra minute of footage. —Albert]
A James Bond TV series could have been pretty cool. But not in 1954. And not done as cheaply as this. What’s really sad is this lackluster teleplay, in some small way, made it impossible for a real Casino Royale movie actually based on the book to be made for over 50 years. But hopefully, this article has given you a better context in which to experience the Mega Recap of the 1967 version of Casino Royale, coming soon to the Agony Booth!