Saturday, February 25, 2006

Casino Royale, by Ian Fleming


(pb; 1953: first book in the original 007/James Bond series)


Review:

The first James Bond novel finds British Secret Service agent James Bond matching wits with Le Chiffre, a SMERSH* financial associate/agent in Royale-les-Eaux. Bond’s mission is to break Le Chiffre, who’s in financial – and possibly fatal – trouble. Bond has helpers: Felix Leiter, a CIA agent (later a recurring character in the series); Mathis (a French agent); and Vesper Lynd, a fellow Secret Service agent.

However, things go awry when Lynd gets kidnapped by Le Chiffre -- and that's just the start of Bond and his fellow agents' problems.

The tone of this novel is abrasive, occasionally violent and taciturn, much like Bond himself. This is not the suave Bond seen in the films: he’s a lady killer, but his view of women (particularly fellow agents) is much darker and misogynistic.

Since Casino is the first novel of a series, there is a lot of set-up. The action sequences are sparse, but when they happen -- later in the book -- it is especially nasty. The ending, especially the last line, is a brutal and effective set-up for the Bond novels that follow.

Casino is an initially awkward, but ultimately raw and worthwhile read.

(*SMERSH is Fleming’s fictional Russian equivalent of the British Secret Service. The acronym SMERSH is “a conjunction of two Russian words: ‘Smyert Shpionam,’ meaning roughly: ‘Death to Spies.’”).

Followed by Live And Let Die.

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The first version of Casino Royale was filmed for television – a disappointing effort, from what I’ve read.

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The comedic second version, "suggested" by the source novel, was released stateside in movie theaters on April 28, 1967.

David Niven played Sir James Bond. Charles Boyer played Le Grand. William Holden played Ransome. Kurt Kasznar played Smernov. John Huston played "McTarry aka M". Deborah Kerr played "Agent Mimi aka Lady Fiona". (John Huston also directed the "scenes at James Bond's house" and the "castle at Scotland scenes.")

Woody Allen played "Jimmy Bond - Dr. Noah". Barbara Bouchet played Moneypenny. Terence Cooper played "Cooper, James Bond - 007". Daliah Lavi played "The Detainer - 007".

Peter Sellers played "Evelyn Tremble, James Bond - 007". Ursula Andress played "Vesper Lynd - 007". Jacqueline Bisset played Miss Goodthighs. Orson Welles played Le Chiffre.

Joanna Pettet played Mata Bond. George Raft played himself. Jean-Paul Belmondo played "French Legionnaire". Geoffrey Bayldon played Q.

An uncredited Peter O'Toole played Piper. An uncredited Burt Kwouk played "Chinese General". An uncredited Caroline Munro played "Guard Girl". An uncredited David Prowse played Frankenstein's Creature.

Val Guest directed "scenes with Woody Allen and additional scenes with David Niven." Ken Hughes directed the "Berlin scenes." Joseph McGrath directed "scenes with Peter Sellers, Orson Welles and Ursula Andress." Robert Parrish directed "scenes with Peter Sellers and Orson Welles." An uncredited Richard Talmadge directed the "Casino Royale finale."

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A third version is scheduled for stateside release on November 17, 2006.

Daniel Craig played James Bond. Judi Dench reprised her role of M. Eva Green played Vesper Lynd. Mads Mikkelsen played Le Chiffre. Jeffrey Wright played Felix Leiter. Giancarlo Giannini played René Mathis. Vlastina Svátková played a "Waitress".
 


Martin Campbell, who directed GoldenEye, is set to direct.

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