Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Overlooked Films: The Continental Op (sort of) in THE DAIN CURSE (1978)

I remember being pretty psyched when this came to TV back in 1978. I was deep in the throes of hardboiledmania, and though I didn't care much for the novel, a TV portrayal of the Continental Op seemed like a very big deal. And I was a big fan of James Coburn, particularly in Our Man Flint and In Like Flint.

As it turned out, of course, Coburn wasn't really playing the Continental Op. He was playing Dashiell Hammett, and in case anyone failed to note his superficial resemblance to the author, his character was named Hamilton Nash. 

That was fine with me. Despite Hammett's assertion that the Op was inspired by his fellow Pinkerton operative James Wright, the character was based at least in part on Hammett himself, and it was fun seeing Coburn play the role.

I'd like to see this thing again, and it's finally available in a supposedly uncut four hour and forty minute edition on DVD. But I hate to shell out the bucks. I was taping stuff like crazy back then, and I must have taped this too. I have every confidence that within a week of ordering the DVD, my tapes would magically (and perversely) appear in my storage unit. 

Our Lady of the Curse, Gabrielle Leggett, was played by a relative unknown named Nancy Addison. My only memory of her was that she seemed both too old and too sane for the part. And she lacked the animal teeth that were Gabrielle's most telling feature.

My memories are hazy, but I have the feeling the story, in highly condensed form, made a lot more sense that it did sprawled all over a novel. (I'll air more of my complaints about the book in this space later this week.)

For some reason, the mini-series apparently aired in England under the title Private Eye. Why? Maybe they figured the Brits had better memories, and the original title still carried a foul odor. 

The film featured two minor roles of note. The father of Gabrielle's dimwitted and unlucky boyfriend was played by former Charlie Chan Roland Winters, and one of the employees at the Temple of the Holy Grail was portrayed by the future Mr. Data, Brent Spiner. It's due to that Star Trek connection that the following clip appears on YouTube.

Monday, March 30, 2015

MAPPING the Continental Op

Back in the Olden Days (in this case prior to 1979) our best resource for following the footsteps of the Continental Op was this series of maps on the backs of Dell paperbacks. These days, of course, we have Don Herron's far more informative Dashiell Hammett Tour guidebook (details below), but these maps are still mighty cool to look at. The one above, from The Continental Op, even walks us through a couple of the stories.

This one is especially cool in that it locates the apparently fictional island of Couffignal. 

Half Moon Bay ("Halfmoon Bay" in the book), scene of the climactic events in "The Girl with the Silver Eyes," turns out to be a real place.

"The Green Elephant" and "The Hairy One" (originally titled "Ber-Bulu") in the collection Dead Yellow Women are not Op stories.

On the back of The Creeping Siamese, location 3 refers to "The Nails in Mr. Cayterer," one of Hammett's two stories featuring a poet named Robin Thin, and 4 is the site of another non-Op story, "The Joke on Eloise Morey." 

This map, from the second Dell edition of Blood Money, focuses mainly on locations (1 thru 6) in the first story, "The Big Knockover." 4 thru 10 involve the sequel, "$106,000 Blood Money."

The first Dell edition of Blood Money gives us a close up of the climax of "$106,000 Blood Money," in which the Op goes up against the folks behind "The Big Knockover."

Here, however, is the book every Hammett fan should own. Don Herron provides not only maps, but photos, facts, trivia, background and historical perspective on every important location in every Hammett tale taking place in the environs of San Francisco.

It's great if you're visiting the city, and equally great if you're not, because reading it is almost like being there.

You can get yours here:
The Dashiell Hammett Tour: Thirtieth Anniversary Guidebook (The Ace Performer Collection series)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Book Gallery: The Continental Op battles THE DAIN CURSE

Here are a mess of different editions of what seems to be everyone's least favorite Hammett novel. It certainly is mine. Why? I'll be yapping about that later this week, and displaying a few of the older covers.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Book Gallery: The Continental Op's RED HARVEST

Today we present a few of the many covers gracing my favorite book of all time. If you notice a few important editions missing, stick around. I have a feeling they'll turn up here on Friday.