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.


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I agree that it's the least of the Hammett novels - even at the time when I first saw this, in the early 80s, I found it rather dull and plodding sad to say, thogh I am now really tempted to watch this and then the Wim Wenders version of HAMMETT, which got thoroughly screwed around in production but which I preferred, at least then.

Rick Robinson said...

I'll mention again that DAIN CURSE was the first Hammett I read. Perhaps that accounts for my preference for Chandler, the first of whom I read was the short story collection PICKUP ON NOON STREET.

Charles Gramlich said...

I really liked Coburn as an actor. Loved him in "My man Flynt," I believe.

michael said...

Maybe my old review at Mystery*File will help your memories. I hope so.