I’m in the mood for pilots today so I’ll give you another one. It’s the original James Bond film, Casino Royal from 1954. What a lot of folks don’t know is that the recent movie version was actually the third version of the story. Here’s the details from Wikipedia since I’m too lazy and busy to write it up on my own:
Casino Royale is a 1954 television adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. It was the first film adaptation of a James Bond novel.
In 1954, producer and director Gregory Ratoff of CBS paid Ian Fleming $1,000 to adapt Casino Royale into a one-hour television adventure as part of their Climax! series.
The episode, Casino Royale, aired on October 21, 1954 and starred Barry Nelson as secret agent “Card Sense” James ‘Jimmy’ Bond and Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre. For this Americanised version of the story, Bond is described as an agent for “Combined Intelligence”, while the American character Felix Leiter from the original novel became “Clarence Leiter,” a British agent for Station S, and a combination of Leiter and Rene Mathis. The name “Mathis” was given to the leading lady, who is named Valerie Mathis (instead of Vesper Lynd).
The hour long showing itself is split into three acts:
- Act I: Opening — Opening of Baccarat scene
- Act II: Opening of Baccarat Scene — Hotel Room finale Opening
- Act III: Hotel Room finale Opening — Ending
- Barry Nelson – James Bond
- Peter Lorre – Le Chiffre
- Linda Christian – Valerie Mathis
- Michael Pate – Clarence Leiter (given as “Letter” in the credits)
- Eugene Borden – Chef DeParte
- Jean DeVal – Croupier
- Gene Roth – Henchman
- Kurt Katch – Henchman
After the production of Casino Royale, CBS invited Fleming to write 32 episodes over a two-year period for a television show based on the James Bond character. Fleming agreed and began to write outlines for this series. When nothing ever came of this, however, Fleming grouped and adapted three of the outlines into short stories and released the 1960 anthology For Your Eyes Only along with an additional two new short stories.
This was the first screen adaptation of a James Bond novel, and was made before the formation of EON Productions. When MGM eventually obtained the rights to the 1967 film version of Casino Royale, it also received the rights to this television episode.
According to Lee Pfeiffer, a well known James Bond expert, the Casino Royale episode was lost for decades after its first broadcast on 21st October 1954. It was not until early 1980s that the show was finally found and released on VHS. It also aired on TBS as part of a Bond film marathon. However, the VHS release and TBS presentation did not include the full finale of the adaptation, which was at that point still lost. Eventually, the missing footage (minus the last few seconds of the credits) was found and included on a Spy Guise & Cara Entertainment VHS release. Spy Guise offered pre-orders for a DVD release, but rights issues with MGM forced them to scuttle the plans. MGM subsequently included the truncated version on its DVD of the 1967 Casino Royale.
In 2007, a discount DVD from Digiview Entertainment was released that featured the truncated version, possibly sourced off the 1967 MGM Casino Royale DVD. It is generally found in stores such as Dollar General and Wal-Mart, usually for the price of one dollar. It is a single disc with the only special feature being previews of other Digiview DVDs. The DVD does feature some high production values including motion chapter selection and an attractive menu system that also plays an isolated version of the films main theme.
Not sure how long this will be online so download it if you’re interested. If the player doesn’t work for you, you’ll need the DivX Driver.