Casino Royale Comparison

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1953 Casino Royale Book Jacket
Casino Royale is Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel that introduces the world to our favorite secret agent. First published in April 13, 1953 by Jonathan Cape, Casino Royale sets the stage for one of the most popular spy-thriller series in literary history. Fleming will go on to write eleven more novels and two short story collections, many of which end up making their way onto the big screen.

Brief Synopsis:

In the 1953 novel, 007 is given the mission to defeat Le Chiffre, a SMERSH agent working for the Russians in a high stakes Baccarat game. This is a situation where the movie has mirrored the novel to the best extent that it possibly can. When the books were written, the whole world was hip deep in the cold war which pitted east against west. All the characters are there, 007, Le Chiffre, Rene Mathis and Vesper Lynd. As the movie depicts Le Chiffre loses ca $100,000,000 of his clients money in a botched terrorist attack against Skyfleet's newest airline. In the book Le Chiffre loses 80,000,000 Francs in a botched real estate deal involving brothels in southern France. Both story lines are fairly similar, his [ Le Chiffre] greed has gotten him into a pickle with his bosses. Hence the high stakes card games to try to win their money back. Baccarat figures into the novel because that was an extremely popular card game at the time, where as Hold'em Poker is today. I assume the differences were so the audience could follow the game.

Key Scenes:
  • Camera Bombers
  • A game of Baccarat
  • The nightstick incident
  • Bond is tortured
  • Vesper's farewell note

Detailed Synopsis:

Differences Between the Film and the Novel:

  • Pan Edition - Casino Royale
    In the film, Rene Mathis is implied to be a traitor. This is never implied in the novel.
  • Bond plays Baccarat in the novel while playing Texas Hold 'Em in the film
  • SMERSH is behind the villainous plot in the novel while an unnamed terrorist organization heads up the bad guys in the film.
  • Bond is a chain smoker in the novel and never touches a cigarette in the film.
  • Bond questions whether or not he's cut out for being a secret agent in both the film and the novel. However his motivation for considering retirement differs. In the film, Bond considers retirement so that he can spend the rest of his life in comfort with Vesper. In the novel as well as considerations of Vesper, the danger of the job and his belief that good and evil are not easily distinguished contribute further to his consideration.
  • Bond's drinking habits differ between the novel and film. In the film, Bond often drinks to deal with stress. Bond's drinking in the novels is generally connected to relaxation.
  • Bond never kills anyone in the novel, while in the film, he's a veritable one-man wrecking machine. Bond kills or maims nearly a dozen evil-doers.
  • The parkour chase scene unique to the film while the Bulgar camera-bomber scene is unique to the novel.
  • Le Chiffre's attempt to sabotage Bond's luck at the gamblingtable differs between the film and the novel. In the novel, one of Le Chiffre's henchman attempts to shoot Bond in the back with a gun concealed inside a walking stick. In the film, Bond is poisoned by one of Le Chiffre's henchmen.
  • The torture scene is significantly different than in the film. In the novel, Fleming focuses on Bond's mind and the toll that the torture is taking on it. This is confirmed in CH 20, where we see Bond deciding to retire from MI6 because of the thinking he's done as a result of the torture. In the film, Bond is defiant to the end, as the focus is on the destruction of his body. This is a crucial difference that highlights the differences between the cinematic and literary Bonds. In the Book, Bond is broken by Le Chiffre.You don't get that sense in the movie. While he's being beaten, Bond is busy making witty comments. We don't see these comments in the novel. Bond is beaten, and then passes out. Rinse and repeat. He's beaten to the point where he's not able to draw enough moisture in his mouth to speak. Fleming tells us that Bond uses a number of mental strategies to survive the torture. In the film, we assume that Bond's survival is based more on his physical endurance.
  • After the torture scene, we follow Bond through his recovery, his developing relationship with Vesper, and a philosophical conversation with Mathis about good and evil. These philosophical tangents that Fleming seems to take us on in each of the books, and it's something I miss in the movies. As Bond struggles with distinguishing between himself and Le Chiffre along a moral continuum, we understand that Bond is not the "blunt instrument" that the cinematic M accuses him to be, but rather he's a conflicted, thoughtful character who struggles with the non-categorical nature of human existence and experience. His philosophical speech does, however make an appearance inQuantum of Solace, only it is said by Mathis not Bond.
  • Bond has a long history of working with Mathis in the novel. In the film, he meets him for the first time.
  • Bond isn't a snob about his image in the book as he is in the films. In the novels, his taste in fine clothes, food, and drink are a product of his attention to detail. In the films, all we know is that Bond knows every vintage and takes pride in telling people how things are "supposed to be" done.
  • The Muntz couple spy on Bond in the novel. They don't appear in the film.
  • Vesper runs the emotional gambit throughout the novel. She was upbeat when we first met her, but then after the game, she's down. She's upbeat when she's planning what they're going to do in Bond's hotel room, and then she's down on the way to the seaside getaway. Vesper remains emotionally stable through the film, except at the end.
  • In order to get a '00' you need to make two kills, one of which has to be using your hands (bare, knife, garotte. etc). In the movie while Bond does fight the guy in the bathroom he ends up shooting him (probably for that cool gun-barrel sequence), an oversight that would cost him his '00' status but is glossed over in the film.

Key Passages and Commentary:

  • Great Pan Edition - Casino Royale
    Bond on Casinos:
    The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling - a compost of greed nd fear and nervoud tension - becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it. James Bond suddenly knew that he was tired. He always knew when his body or his mind had had enough and he always acted on the knowledge. This helped him to avoid staleness and the sensual bluntness that breeds mistakes.
    • Commentary: The first sentence of Chapter 1 sets the stage for a different Bond than we're used to in the films. Fleming begins the novel by describing how casinos disgust Bond: "The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning." It could be the casino, or it could be the "seventieth cigarette" that Bond's smokes by the end of Chapter 1. We rarely see cases where the cinematic Bond is effected at all by his environment. Bond never shivers, he never has the sun in his eyes, he generally doesn't sweat, and he certainly doesn't take notice of the stench that emerges from casinos. Bond smokes occasionally in the early films... but 70 cigarettes a day... he's clearly not in control of his smoking habit. In Chapter 6, we see a few more examples of Bond-as-human as opposed to Bond-as-superhero. During the hatted bomber scene, once the bombs go off prematurely, Bond gets back to his feet and vomits. After Mathis has collected him and he's back in his hotel room, Bond stares out the window "enjoying being alive". In these two scenes, we see Bond react physically to being in a stressful situation, and then we see him reflect back on his near-death experience.
  • Bond on Food and Drink: "You must forgive me," he said. "I take ridiculous pleasure in what I eat and drink. It comes partly from being a bachelor, but mostly from a habit of taking a lot of trouble over details. It's very pernickety and old maidish really, but then when I'm working I generally have to eat my meals alone and it makes them more interesting when one takes trouble."
    • Commentary: Here's a core difference between book-Bond and movie-Bond. And it's one of perception. It's just assumed that Bond is a snob about clothes, food, drink..everything. Actually, he's a planner and works things out to the finest detail, in his work and private life—our reading this week starts with him, taking a considerable amount of time working out the details and permutations of his baccarat duel with LeChiffre.
  • Bond on his Double-O distinction: "In the past two years, I've only killed two villains"?
    • Commentary: That means: 1) he doesn't kill that often despite that license to kill, and 2) one of those kills was a "clean" sniper rifle attack (he'll talk about it again in the series). Those two kills got him the "00" status (as per the movie). But his conversation takes on a philosophical tone. He says that (at the time the novel was written) British Conservatism looks a lot like Communism did 50 years previous. This leads into his discussion of good and evil in the passage below.
  • Bond on Good and Evil: "I've decided to resign... When I was being beat up, I suddenly like the idea of being alive... History is moving pretty quickly these days and the heroes and villains keep on changing parts... Le Chiffre was serving a wonderful purpose, a really vital purpose, perhaps the best and highest purpose of all. By his evil existence, which foolishly I have helped to destroy, he was creating a norm of badness by which, and by which alone, an opposite norm of goodness could exist. We were privileged, in our short knowledge of him, to see and estimate his wickedness and we emerge from the acquaintanceship better and more virtuous men..." Mathis opened the door and stopped on the threshold. "Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles." He laughed. "But don't let me down and become human yourself. We would lose such a wonderful machine".
    • Commentary: In this passage, we see Bond in an internal struggle focused on moral relativity, i.e. that there isn't a universal definition of good and evil. Bond argues that evil in the word is necessary to define good. In other words, he believes that good is defined in opposition to evil. Without evil men like Le Chiffre, there cannot be good men. Mathis' advice to Bond hints that he believes that men such as Bond can't be so philosophical. They have to be focused on their duty, on the task at hand, like a machine. It will always be impossible for Bond to distinguish between good and evil. Mathis councils him to focus on people, not ideas. People are concrete while ideas are abstract and dynamic. However, by the end of the novel, we see that people are just as complex as ideologies, as Vesper's torn between love (an abstract concept) and the reality of her betrayal of Bond. In the end, Bond chose to surround himself with people, but was surprised that, like ideologies, people can't be easily compartmentalized into "good" and "evil". We leave Bond at the end of the novel not really knowing whether Vesper is someone that we feel bad for, or whether she's a "*****". Bond clearly decides, but does that mean he's decided to forsake people in favor of ideology? We're left unsure. This is part of the beauty of Fleming's craft. Fleming's Bond is torn and tortured by his own understanding and experiences in the world. Life isn't as simple as "do your job" or "reject authority" as it is in the films.

Question 1:
Question 2:
Question 3:
<a href="../thread/2225834/Book+Club%3A+Ch+1-7" target="_self">Chapters 1-7</a> What are your first impressions of Le Chiffre? How is he described? What three adjectives do you think best reflect Le Chiffre's personality/history? Since we all have an image of Bond in our mind, were you surprised about the way that Fleming describes him in the first few chapters of the novel? Why or why not? Can you identify any passages that describe Bond in a way that was surprising for you? What kind of relationship does Bond have with M, Felix, and Mathis? Can you point to specific passages that demonstrate these relationships? How are the relationships similar to or different from the film?
<a href="../thread/2271200/Book+Club%3A+Casino+Royale+Ch.8-15" target="_self" title="Chapter 8-15">Chapters 8-15</a> The conspiracy with "the Bulgars" has never made it into the films. Why do you suppose that is? Can you think of a scenario that might work just as well with the same element of surprise and double-cross? We have two dinners with Vesper Lynd: Compare and contrast. Pick out sections of description and dialog to support your view. Compare them with their similar scenes in the 2006 film. The game: think about the battles interior and exterior--within the game and without.
Why do you think Fleming provides so much dialog with the peripheral characters? The "night-stick" incident: How do you feel about that, and why do you suppose it's not in the film?
<a href="../thread/2304508/Book+Club%3A+Ch.+16-22" target="_self">Chapters 16-22</a> How is the torture scene different in the novel than in the film? How are they similar? How does Bond handle himself? How is he able to deal with the pain? Compare his capture in the novel with your favorite capture scene from any of the films. What do we learn about SMERSH during this scene? Bond doubts whether he's cut out for the secret agent profession during his conversation with Mathis at the beginning of his recovery. What does Bond struggle with? How does Bond understand the relationship between "good" and "evil"? What's Mathis' perspective? Do their perspectives match your own? Why or why not. Bond and Vesper have their third substantive conversation together in CH 21-22. How does it differ from the previous conversations? What do we learn about both Bond and Vesper? How do they react differently to the "hastening saloon"? Is this significant? Why or why not.
<a href="../thread/2338454/Book+Club%3A+Ch.+23-27" target="_self">Chapters 23-27</a> What do you think of Vesper's decision? Despite its obvious effect on Bond (which she knew), do you think it was enough to save his life? Was there a better alternative? What might it have been? Do you think of James Bond differently now that you've read this book? I'm thinking of the key phrase: "The business of espionage could be left to the white collar boys. They could spy, and catch the spies. He would go after the threat behind the spies, the threat that made them spy." What does that say about his job? What does that say James Bond thinks his job is? The book's final, famous line. Do you think that's what he really thinks? Why, do you suppose? What does that say about James Bond?

Finally, that line is so controversial--do you think the recent film got away with including it without making the audience mad?
What can you point to that made it work?

The End of "Casino Royale"

James Bond will return in:
"Live and Let Die" (1954)

Book Jackets:

Ian Fleming-designed dust jacket for Casino Royale" The first U.S. hard-back edition of Casino Royale c. 1954 Casino Royale Pan paperback image Casino Royale Pan paperback image 1962 "You Asked For It"--the retitled first U.S. paperback of "Casino Royale" "Casino Royale" U.S. Signet edition cover, 1963 1960's PAN edition of Casino Royale Casino Royale movie tie-in edition 1967

Jove edition of Casino Royale from the 70's "Montage cover" for Casino Royale Pan edition, 1976 New hardback edition of Casino Royale issued 1980 by Jonathan Cape Casino Royale U.S. Bantam Edition 1971 MJF Books hardback edition of Casino Royale 1989 Casino Royale "Modern Classics" Edition Penguin Edition of Casino Royale, published in 2006 Casino Royale Ian Fleming Centenary Edition from Penguin (2008)