I no longer remember when it was ... it was when VHS still ruled the roost, and Pierce Brosnan was 007 ... my wife and I decided to watch all the James Bond movies up to that point, timing it so we finished just as the new one came out in theaters. This wasn't the easiest task. On Demand barely existed in those days, so we had to work hard to gain access to the movies, and it didn't help that we watched them in order of their release. We had seen most of them already, but not in a binge, not together. It took awhile, but we pulled it off, even working in the non-canonical 1967 version of Casino Royale and the Sean Connery return of Never Say Never Again. Of course, once we accomplished this feat, we had to keep it up, so we've seen every Bond movie since, when they came out. No Time to Die came out when we were in Europe, so we had to wait a few weeks, but we saw it Tuesday and we're caught up again.
Except ... there has always been a hole in our project, for in 1954, in an episode of a TV series called Climax!, James Bond made his first appearance on the screen, in a presentation of Casino Royale. It was a stripped-down version ... Climax! was an hour-long show with commercials ... in many ways, it's barely recognizable, given what 007 has become as a pop culture artifact. But we finally decided to watch it, so we could really catch up with our monumental binge. You can find the entire thing on YouTube:
It doesn't stink, and it's fun to see James Bond before the routine set in. But it's not really much good. It was filmed live, the budget was small, and while everyone does their best, it wouldn't be worth watching if it wasn't for its historical status. Barry Nelson plays Bond ... yes, Nelson is American, so is Bond in this production, sometimes they call him "Jimmy". Peter Lorre plays Le Chiffre, and Peter Lorre is always good. Felix Leiter becomes Clarence Leiter, and to balance out the Americanness of Bond, here he is British. Given the norms of the time, the famous torture scene makes it past the censors, although it all happens off-screen and all Le Chiffre does is take a pair of pliers to Bond's feet. An interesting curio, and no more. But hey, it's better than A View to a Kill ... it's even better than the 1967 Casino Royale.