How “Casino Royale” (Climax!) Was Recovered

On Thursday, October 21st, 1954, Climax! presented an hour-long adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale, introducing his suave secret agent, James Bond. Barry Nelson starred as “Jimmy” Bond with Peter Lorre as the villain, Le Chiffre. Thus, Nelson became the very first actor to portray James Bond, eight years before Sean Connery played Bond on the big screen in Dr. No. The episode was soon forgotten and for many decades it was believed lost.

In July 1981, however, it was announced that that film buff Jim Schoenberger had discovered a print of the episode in a collection of films he inherited from his uncle [1]. According to The Los Angeles Times, Schoenberger initially thought the two reels were a portion of the 1967 spoof Casino Royale:

Since I didn’t care for that movie anyway, I prepared to cut it and use it for leader. But what came on but William Lundigan (the host of “Climax”). I was paralyzed by this. It was like coming across the Holy Grail” [2].

Schoenberger took the kinescope to the Playboy Club to be shown during a “Tribute to James Bond Luncheon” and later allowed it to be shown at the Strand Theater in San Diego for a limited engagement in August of 1981 [3]. It was shown on TBS on Sunday, November 29th, 1992 as part of a thirtieth anniversary celebration of the franchise [4].

Climax!‘s “Casino Royale” has been released on VHS and DVD and is included as an extra in a 2002 DVD edition of Casino Royale (1967). However, it seems that the only complete version available is a VHS released by Spy Glass in 1997. All other versions are apparently missing the last minute or so.

1 Boyer, Peter J. “Film Clips.” Los Angeles Times. 22 Jul. 1981: G1.
2 Ibid.
3 Parker, Paula. “James Bond Lives Again in Obscure 1954 TV Version.” Los Angeles Times. 22 Augl. 1981: C3.
4 Dreher, Rod. “Bonding: 007 Fans Get 13 Features on TBS.” Washington Post. 29 Nov. 1992: D3.

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