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Literature / Casino Royale

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"The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning."
— Opening line

Ian Fleming's very first James Bond novel, published in 1953.

The plot follows Bond, as he is tasked to bankrupt a man named Le Chiffre in a card game at the eponymous casino. The idea behind it is to cripple the Russian spy organization SMERSH, whom Le Chiffre is working for.

Fleming sold the rights to the novel separately from the rest of the main film series, which is the reason that it took so long for Eon Productions a proper theatrical adaptation of it. The various adaptations are as follows:

  • 1954's Casino Royale was an episode made for the American Climax! TV series produced by CBS. While it has the honor of being the first James Bond production outside a book, it Americanized everything including Bond himself, as well as greatly simplifying the story. It starred Barry Nelson as "Jimmy" Bond and Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre. In turn Leiter was changed from American to British.
  • The 1967 film Casino Royale was an unholy mess of a spoof, with no less than eight Bonds (nine including Sean Connery, who does not appear but receives a Shout-Out) and invokedalmost as many directors. Logic ended up paid little heed in the pursuit of comedy. Notably, it includes David Niven as the one-and-only original Sir James Bond — Niven was Fleming's first choice for the part before Connery made it his own — as well as Ursula Andress's second appearance in a Bond movie, this time as both the Bond girl and James Bond. It also starred Woody Allen as young Jimmy Bond (his "disappointing" nephew), Peter Sellers as Evelyn Tremble a.k.a. James Bond, and Orson Welles as Le Chiffre.
  • The 2006 film Casino Royale is the long-awaited proper adaptation of the novel for the big screen by Eon Productions, the twenty-first film of the long-running film franchise as well as a more grounded Continuity Reboot of it, introducing Daniel Craig as Bond. It updated the story to the 21st century and expanded it, turning it into an Origins Episode of sorts and amping up the action factor.
  • 2023's Casino Royale, a musical by Takarazuka Revue. Makaze Suzuho became the first woman ever to play Bond in an official manner.

Tropino Royale:

  • Author Appeal: Ian Fleming loves baccarat, and the novel features an interlude explaining the rules to beginners (which is cut in some editions).
  • Badass Bookworm: In addition to his strong mathematical background, it's mentioned that Le Chiffre carries three razor-blades on his person and is skilled at fighting with them. Pity we never see these skills.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Felix's "Marshall Aid" package bails out Bond when he runs out of cash.
  • Blood Knight: When it comes to gambling. Bond is very excited to play Baccarat with Le Chiffre.
  • Broken Bird: Vesper. She is pretty fragile from the get-go, and outright depressed towards the end of the story. Realizing that the fear that she would talk after deciding not to work for the Soviets anymore has led to the KGB sending an assassin after her causes her to suffer an outright mental breakdown while vacationing with Bond, ending in her suicide.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Matthis brings this up when describing Vesper to Bond:
    Matthis: She is very beautiful. Very beautiful indeed. She has black hair, blue eyes, and splendid... er... protuberances. Back and front.
  • Car Chase: A relatively low-key one as Bond pursues Vesper's kidnappers, though it does come to quite a spectacular finish when the bad guys make Bond's car flip over with a bunch of caltrops.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Bond is described by one character to another as looking similar to Hoagy Carmichael. Bond himself is aware of the comparison (even though he wasn't involved in that conversation — he's probably heard it a million times). In another scene he looks at himself in the mirror and thinks that Carmichael is much better looking than he.
  • The Commies Made Me Do It: Vesper's reason for her betrayal. She had a Polish boyfriend who was in the RAF and was captured by the Soviets. He revealed information about her under torture and the Soviets told her that her boyfriend would live only if she worked for them.
  • Costume Porn: Every outfit Vesper wears gets a gorgeous description.
  • Cyanide Pill: Mentioned in passing; it's how the only SMERSH operative (so far) captured by the West does himself in.
  • Description in the Mirror: Bond does this in one chapter.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Le Chiffre snorts from a benzedrine inhaler while playing against Bond, partly to offend him. Other players also find it disgusting.
  • Don't Create a Martyr: Discussed in the opening dossier for M. MI6 cannot simply assassinate Le Chiffre because that would only martyr him to the communists in France.
  • The Dreaded: SMERSH. Le Chiffre, who generally keeps his cool whether he has the upper hand against Bond & his allies or not, is utterly terrified when a SMERSH gunman shows up in the basement of his villa, and doesn't even try to fight back or talk his way out. Vesper's reaction to them is, if anything, even bleaker.
  • Driven to Suicide: Vesper, out of guilt for being an unwilling Double Agent, betraying Bond several times, and knowing SMERSH will come after her to get to Bond.
  • Dueling Scar: Of the non-literal type: Bond is described as having a small scar on his right cheek.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Bond is selected for the mission not because of how badass he is - though he is clearly a skilled agent - but because he is the Service's best gambler. The objective is to bankrupt Le Chiffre in order to dissolve his communist trade union (and potential Soviet war asset in France).
  • Failure Hero: Bond is really bad at his job in this book. He loses at baccarat against Le Chiffre and needs an outside infusion of money to survive, he doesn't kill the Big Bad himself (needing a SMERSH agent to do the job and get him out of torture) and never catches on until too late that Vesper is playing with him.
  • Fake Faint: One of Le Chiffre's men threatens to shoot Bond with a silenced gun hidden in his cane unless he withdraws from the game, saying he'll be gone from the casino before anyone realises Bond hasn't just passed out. Instead Bond pretends to faint from the tension of the high-stakes game, falling backward in his chair and knocking the weapon from the man's hands.
  • Fan Disservice: Le Chiffre is obese, unattractive and gets many unflattering descriptions in the narrative. Fleming based his appearance on Aleister Crowley.
  • Food Porn: Not as bad as it would get in later Bond novels, but present. After all, Bond admits in taking ridiculous pleasure in what he eats and drinks. His most notable food is, surprisingly, an avocado; while common today, the fruit was not available in British grocery stores until years after publication and was unknown to many contemporary readers. Consuming it in France in the early 1950s was a sign of luxury.
  • Foreshadowing: Early in the novel, Vesper remarks (while speaking of her velvet dress, which shows marks when sat on): "If you hear me scream tonight, I shall have sat on a cane chair." Later, Bond is tortured on what was originally a cane chair — though the seat was cut out.
  • Gratuitous French: M is reading a report by Head of S in which the latter states that Le Chiffre is in the mess he's in because the chain of legal brothels he was running using embezzled party funds were closed by a 1946 French law usually referred to as "la loi Marthe Richard", which criminalised them. Head of S gives the full French title of the law note . M rings him up, asks what (it is implied) "proxénétisme" means — pimping (literally, "procuring"). M then responds:
    "This is not the Berlitz School of Languages, Head of S. The next time you want to show off your knowledge of foreign jaw-breakers, be so good as to use a crib. Better still, write in English."
    • The inclusion of the above incident borders on Hypocritical Humor, as the rest of the novel is full of dialogue in untranslated (and uncommented-upon) French, and Fleming would often utilize his fluency in writing future books.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: SMERSH, and by extension the Soviet Union as a whole, is this to Le Chiffre.
  • Groin Attack: Bond is interrogated by Le Chiffre with a carpet beater, which is used for this purpose. Le Chiffre notes in his typically detached way that the true beauty of such torture is not just the pain (which the brain blocks out after a while), but the psychological element at the thought of spending the rest of his life as less of a man brings to the victim.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: James Bond actually uses this term when discussing his would-be assassins. They were given two bombs (disguised as cameras) by Le Chiffre's men, being told that one was a smoke bomb and one was a real bomb; they were to activate and throw the real bomb before detonating the smoke to cover their escape. Unbeknownst to them, the "smoke bomb" was a second explosive to kill them. Trying to be clever, they attempted to activate the "smoke bomb" first, simply blowing themselves to pieces outside the restaurant.
  • Hollywood Silencer: The SMERSH agent's weapon is improbably quiet. However the unusual calibre (Mathis says .35) and skill of the user imply that the weapon is a specialised tool for an assassin, so the quietness makes sense.
  • Honour Before Reason: This is the probably best description that can be applied to the SMERSH agent who kills Le Chiffre but spares the helpless Bond. It's not out of any personal code of ethics, but rather just because his superiors hadn't ordered him to do anything besides punish Le Chiffre, throwing a bit of Bothering by the Book into the mix. Bond even notes that the man will probably be raked over the coals by his superiors when he gets back to Russia.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: The narrative uses the word parabola twice, once to describe the victim's responses to Cold-Blooded Torture and once to outline the progression and dissolution of a typical love affair.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Bond falls hard enough for Vesper to want to propose to her.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: What happens to the two Bulgarian would-be assassins who try to kill Bond with a briefcase bomb.
  • Manly Tears: Bond's response after finding Vesper Lynd's body and a note confessing what she did.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond:
    "My name's Felix Leiter," said the American. "Glad to meet you."
    "Mine's Bond—James Bond."
  • Narrative Profanity Filter:
    • Though the book renders most of the the French-language dialogue in full, at one point one of Le Chiffre's henchman lets loose with an unspecified "torrent of lewd French."
    • Bond replies to Le Chiffre's demand to know where the prize money is hidden with "... you".
    • This trope actually manages to overlap with Precision F-Strike in the final scene, in which Bond speaks "one harsh obscenity."
  • Near-Villain Victory: Le Chiffre cleans Bond out at the end of Chapter 11 and is just 8 million francs short of the 50 million he needs to pay back SMERSH. Bond has a minor Heroic BSoD, but is rescued by the timely intervention of Felix Leiter('s bosses' pocketbook).
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Le Chiffre was modeled on Aleister Crowley, especially the sadomasochism.
  • Pillow Pistol: Bond sleeps with a short-barreled .38 revolver under the pillow of his hotel bed.
  • Professional Gambler: Bond is very proficient at gambling, making extra money from baccarat. So is Le Chiffre.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Bond notes that actual Soviet spies are just that, spies, essentially white-collar workers and bureaucrats just doing a job. He reserves his hatred for SMERSH, the Soviets' loyalty enforcement and assassination division.
  • Punny Name: Vesper Lynd = West Berlin.
  • Ransacked Room: Bond's hotel room is ransacked by Mooks looking for a cheque. They don't find it because he's hidden it behind the room number — on the outside of the door.
  • Ridiculous Exchange Rates: The pound to franc exchange rate, at about a thousand to one. The French government would later introduce the New Franc in 1958 (responding to inflation by replacing 100 Old Francs with 1 New Franc).
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Le Chiffre speaks in a fatherly tone while he tortures Bond and lovingly describes the effects of said torture. He drops the act after Bond still refuses to give up his winnings and tries to castrate him.
  • The Stateless: The villain flaunts his statelessness, claiming to have lost his memory during World War II and calling himself Le Chiffre ("the number", as "I am just a number on a passport") or any other equivalents in other languages.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Bond's response when realising Vesper has been kidnapped is anger that women can't just stay in the kitchen and leave men's work to the men.
  • Stealing from the Till: Why Le Chiffre wound up at the Casino Royale in the first place. It's even discussed in Bond's mission briefing, which notes that till-robbers commonly resort to gambling to cover their asses.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Discussed. Bond has spoken to enough torture survivors to know that becoming attached to his captors is a risk.
  • Stress Vomit: What Bond does after his would-be assassins blow themselves up. This is perhaps the most jarring bit in the novel for those primarily familiar with the cinematic Bond; no snarky quips here, folks.
  • Suspicious Spending: Inverted. MI6 learns of Le Chiffre's predicament after he starts selling his luxury items and trying to control his previously loose spending.
  • Sword Cane: One of the Bulgar assassins threatens James Bond in the casino by pressing a gun concealed in a walking stick against the base of his spine while he is seated at the baccarat table.
  • The Syndicate: Le Chiffre is the Treasurer and paymaster of the Syndicat des Ouvriers d'Alsace English (or S.O.D.A), a communist-controlled trade union 50,000 strong, capable of taking over France's northern frontier in the event of a Soviet invasion.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Or perhaps de-emphasis — the final words of the novel are a deliberately callous report to London. "The bitch is dead now."
  • This Is Reality: During the torture scene, Le Chiffre explains to Bond that there is no hope:
    "This is not a romantic adventure story in which the villain is finally routed and the hero is given a medal and marries the girl. Unfortunately these things don't happen in real life."
  • Villainous Rescue: A SMERSH operative arrives and kills Le Chiffre while the latter is torturing Bond, with the unintended effect of cutting the torture short and sparing Bond from permanent injury.
  • What Is Evil?: The trauma of his torture makes Bond grapple with this question as he recuperates in the hospital, and he even briefly considers quitting his job. Of course, Vesper's suicide note and the revelation of her betrayal immediately snaps him out of it.
  • Zorro Mark: The SMERSH agent who takes down Le Chiffre cuts a Cyrillic letter (Ш) into Bond's hand, as a demonstration of his superiority. Bond later explains that it's the first character of the Russian word for "spy," used to mark agents that SMERSH regards as enemies.