Sidney Sheldon’s back in the syndie mart with a four-hour adaptation by Richard Hack and Michael Viner of his “The Sands of Time,” which should do OK with its undemanding plotting and cardboard characters. Story of two Catholic nuns, a novitiate and a clutch of rebels in contemporary Spain fleeing a military dictator drones relentlessly on, but the undemanding will buy it, if only as counter programming.
Sister Megan (Deborah Raffin), moved from an orphanage to the convent without knowing she’s an American-born heiress, also doesn’t know her American Aunt Ellen (Nina Foch) ditched her as a babe in Spain and stole her fortune. Ailing, Aunt Ellen has sent an ambassador (Roddy McDowall) to locate the young woman.
Sister Graciela (Amanda Plummer), who seems dim and isn’t improved by a whack on the head, seems to have little history, while Sister Lucia (Elizabeth Gracen) , a saucy novitiate, is the oversexed, murdering daughter of a Mafia chief and is using the convent to hide from the law.
When the convent’s ransacked by the troops of despicable Col. Acoca (James Brolin), the three women slip away, carrying a jewelry-laden cross to safety in northern Spain. Acoca’s troops have burst into the convent seeking that dashing rebel Miro (Michael Nouri) and his associates who are defying the Spanish regime.
Miro and g.f. Amparo (Kim Weeks) take on Megan, and it goes on like that, with Lucia falling for one of the rebels and Megan, finding herself the head of a conglomerate and smitten with Miro, walking out on her nun’s vows.
The two-parter looks lovely, with production designer Bebe Rosado’s location sites entirely appropriate. Thesping could best be described as anxious. Brolin’s Spanish accent is amusing, while some of the characters’ Spanish speech pattern is vague or non-existent (it’s not clear why Raffin uses no accent).
Dialogue is direct, if not commanding, looping is generally acceptable (Croatian actors are in evidence), and some of the action– Megan wearing only her skivvies as she schleps around with Miro, an unnecessarily crude drunken gesture in a tavern, a glimpse of a bare-breasted nun about to be raped–is questionable.
Director Gary Nelson is the victor, if there is any, in the marathon. He’s kept the action going at a brisk pace, which helps in the more absurd areas, spelled the plotting with good pastoral or small Spanish town scenes; more, he elicits resourceful perfs from Foch, McDowall and Rene Auberjonois, who’s cast as Acoca’s civilian boss.