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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Casino Royale (1954)



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So you thought Dr. No was James Bond's first screen incarnation? Not so. This television special, released a year after the book (the first Bond novel), predates Dr. No by eight years. Curious liberties are taken with the character -- here, Bond is American while Leiter (Clarence, not Felix) is British. Aside from that, however, this is about as faithful to the novel as a one-hour television show can be. Barry Nelson is "card sharp Jimmy Bond" and Peter Lorre is excellent as the menacing Le Chiffre. It contains some great baccarat scenes, even if they do play it in English instead of French. By today's standards, and especially in light of the big-budget series, this special is pretty cheesy, but taken for what it is, it's quite good. The special was broadcast live, too, making for some interesting quirks, such as Leiter missing a cue by several seconds.

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