Hard-boiled private dick Hamilton Nash is hired to investigate a case of stolen diamonds, which leads him to a lovely and odd young woman named Gabrielle, who believes she has been stricken with the ancient curse of the Dain family. The curse has historically caused its victims to die prematurely.Written by
Marty McKee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Just awful. It's almost unbelievable that, with characters and situations provided by Dashiell Hammett, such a plodding, passionless mishmash could result. But that's television for you -- filler between commercials. The first warning signal sounds from the fussiness of the period re-creation, which screams "1928" in banner type. Flivvers and touring cars, fedoras and waistcoats, cloches and speakeasy jazz (jarringly played) -- with all the attention paid to pointless, arty detail, the important matters get ignored.
Like narrative clarity, or plausibility, or competent writing and acting. The plot sets one of Hammett's operatives ("Hamilton Nash" so whether he's called "Ham" or "Nash" we think of "Hammett" or "Dash") investigating a bogus diamond theft. Thus is introduced the young woman who supposedly carries the Dain Curse (the charmless and talentless Nancy Addison, who went back to soaps where she belonged); she belongs to a crackpot religious cult led by Jean Simmons and seems addicted to "drugs" as well; there's also a Mysterious Gaseous Drug which seeps into rooms....
But enough. The writing is never more pedestrian than when it reaches for the poetic or high-flown, and the cast parrots it the only way they know how: by grotesquely overacting. Simmons gets treated like minor royalty from Old Hollywood, but the grande-dame treatment doesn't wash. Hector Elizondo for some reason enjoys second billing (after Coburn) for a dispensable part. Other familiar faces drift through, doing little good for their resumes.
The actors aren't even photographed to look good; Jason Miller is an especial fright, but extreme close-ups of Coburn are pitiless, too. Coburn probably copped this role because, with mustache, he bears a strong resemblance to Hammett. He needed more guidance than that; nobody has given him the vaguest hint as to how to play his character, or of the story's tone, or of how the different strands of the plot mesh together (they don't, at least not in this telling). So he flashes his big Chesire-cat grin whether called for or not.
The Dain Curse is available on videotape, in a variety of lengths. For those foolhardy enough to "see for themselves," the shortest abridgement is the kindest cut of all.
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