Continuing our celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the first James Bond movie, we take a look at the portrayal of the first Bond villain... from eight years earlier than that in Toobworld (and a year before that in BookWorld.......)
AS SEEN IN:
Le Chiffre (The Cypher or The Number) is a fictional character and the main antagonist in Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel, "Casino Royale". On screen Le Chiffre has been portrayed by Peter Lorre in the 1954 television adaptation of the novel for CBS's 'Climax!' television series, by Orson Welles in the 1967 spoof of the novel and Bond film series, and by Mads Mikkelsen in the 2006 film version of Fleming's novel.
Fleming based the character on occultist Aleister Crowley.
Le Chiffre, alias "Die Nummer", "Mr. Number", "Herr Ziffer", "Ochiu Spart" (Romanian for "Smashed Eye") and other translations of "The Number" or "The Cipher" in various languages, is the paymaster of the "Syndicat des Ouvriers d'Alsace" (French for "Alsatian Workmen's Union"), a SMERSH-controlled trade union.
In the novel, he makes a major investment in a string of brothels with money belonging to SMERSH. The investment fails after a bill is signed into law banning prostitution. Le Chiffre then goes to the casino Royale-les-Eaux in an attempt to recover all of his lost funds. There, however, Bond bankrupts him in a series of games in Chemin de Fer. Le Chiffre kidnaps Bond's assistant, Vesper Lynd, to lure him into a trap and get his money back. The trap works, and Le Chiffre tortures Bond to get him to give up the money. He is interrupted by a SMERSH agent, however, who shoots him between the eyes with a silenced TT pistol as punishment for losing the money. The torture Bond suffers at the hands of Le Chiffre briefly upsets 007's confidence in his profession, and he toys with the idea of leaving the service until the novel's conclusion, when a new threat emerges.
Le Chiffre's death is seen by the Soviet government as an embarrassment, which in addition to the death and defeat of Mr. Big in "Live and Let Die", leads to the events of "From Russia With Love".
David Cornelius of Efilmcritic.com described Lorre as "the real main attraction here, the veteran villain working at full weasel mode; a grotesque weasel whose very presence makes you uncomfortable." Peter Debruge of Variety also praised Lorre, considering him the source of "whatever charm this slipshod antecedent to the Bond oeuvre has to offer."
From the source:
“So,” continued Bond, warming to his argument, “Le Chiffre was serving a wonderful purpose, a really vital purpose, perhaps the best and highest purpose of all. By his evil existence, which I foolishly helped to destroy, he was creating a normal of badness by which, and by which alone, an oppostie 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.”