Sins (1986)

Talk about timing!  I was sitting with an old VHS copy of “Sins,” when the DVD was released!  Lucky, huh?

Anyway, “Sins” is wanna-be tawdry.  It’s a only-in-the-80s miniseries that flies from decade to decade, charting the rise of a successful model and publisher, who pushes through the roadblocks in her way (Nazis, rape, dead husbands) to emerge triumphant.  That alone describes many miniseries, but the twist here is that all of the people she’s managed to anger in her life spend those same decades plotting her downfall.  So, “Sins” is an episodic romp through the ups and downs from the 1940s to the 1980s.  There is absolutely nothing new here.

However, there is an ace in the deck, and it’s Joan Collins.  In 1986, Joan Collins was at the height of her second remarkable career, and she took full advantage of it.  She was the siren, the vixen, the sex kitten, all over again, but now just older, but no less powerful.  In fact, the Joan Collins of the 1980s was a lot more fun than Joan Collins of the 1950s because she knew exactly what was going on.  She wasn’t trying to make a career.  In fact, she spent an awful lot of time making fun of her career, and that’s what has made her endure still.  Joan Collins is one of those smart actors who knows all the jokes before anyone else can get to them, so she gets there first and leaves everyone speechless in her wake. 

Well, most would call that intentional camp, but I’m afraid “Sins” isn’t particularly campy.  A three-part miniseries, it’s never really fun enough to be camp.  They do let a younger actress play Joan’s part as a teenager and though the middle of the movie has some unintentional hilarity as her character ages from that actress into Joan, it’s not enough to save the whole project.

What works is Joan Collins.  She vamps around perfect, and she never gives less than 100% to “Sins,” but she’s the only one who does so.  Everyone else is either sleepwalking or trying to out-act her (good luck there, the woman managed to steal “Flintsone” movies), none of which works.  It’s no crime to center a miniseries around one actress, especially when the actress is unflappable, but she needs help!  No one can do a miniseries alone.  The plot is lame, and the writing no better.  There are some surprises in the cast, but only in terms of actual casting, not performance.

On we go.  Let’s see what Joan Collins can make out of the so-so “Sins.” 

We begin with Joan Collins looking exactly the way we want her to look, full of glamour.  From the top of her beret to the matching coat, she’s exquisite.  But, things are a bit rough.  She gets into the car with  brother Timothy Dalton (given some gray at the temples to age him) and they discuss how the first issue of their magazine has been a dud, but Joan insists on putting out a second issue.  “I believe in this magazine!” she says.  Timothy notes that she’s already 20 million in the red personally.  Joan will go on.  “The fight is only just beginning.” 

Over in West Germany, the potential fall of the magazine thrills Steven Berkoff (two years before playing Hitler in “War and Remembrance”).  He receives the news after selling gas pipelines for a very large amount of money.  An obvious villain.

Further south, in Venice, Giancarlo Gianinni is heading to New York with a revenge plan in mind.  “Do be quiet, you are so much better when you say nothing,” he purrs to his girlfriend, leaving her behind.  Another obvious villain.

In the French countryside, Count Neil Dickson gets the news from Steven in the middle of a massage, though I’m not sure why we have to see the massive muscled male masseur shirtless.  “There is justice after all,” he says to himself, yet another person thrilled at Joan’s misfortune.  He’s too silly to be a villain, but let’s count him anyway.

The only person not cackling with villainous glee is Joan’s pal Marisa Berenson who, for reasons I can’t imagine Joan Collins letting slip through, is wearing the same color red.  “You look fantastic, how do we do it?” Marisa asks.  She’s up in Joan’s apartment to warn her that the magazine party for advertisers is full of “angry people.”  So, Joan goes on the attack by donning s divine shimmering dress and giving valiant non-answers to all those who ask what she is planning, though she does say “we’ve got market research working overtime on concepts.  We made a commitment to reach the average woman and we are going to do just that.” 

The bad blood exists in the Western Hemisphere too.  At the party is Lauren Hutton (who did “Monte Carlo” with Joan, barely), who says “I’m not just a pretty face” with such lack of modesty it could only be croaked by an ex-model, but she’s actually an architect and designed the building that houses Joan’s empire.  Actually, she did it with her husband, but “he did not survive the experience.  One smile from [Joan] and the man drops dead.  Et puis, voila!”  Banker Allen Garfield seems nice enough, but his wife Arielle Dombasle (from “Lace” and “Lace II,” so we know what to expect of her), is the outgoing one.  When Joan compliments the emeralds in her necklace,” Arielle oozes, “don’t forget the mention the diamonds, they feel sooooo left out.”  Oh, lordie!  Allen has the bad news that with the tanking of the magazine, he has to call in Joan and Timothy’s loan.  They offer him more stock, but he declines, so Joan has to play the heavy and threatens to pull out all of her accounts from his bank.  It works, he accepts the stock.  Well played, Joan! 

Giancarlo races to the party in his flashy car and parks where an attendant says he can’t.  So, he gives him Monopoly money to placate him, oh, sorry, he gives him Italian lire.  “How much is 2000 lire worth?” the attendant asks his pal.  “About half a slice of pizza.”  Ah, pre-Euro humor!  He arrives right after Timothy’s daughter Judi Bowker.  “This is one of the most wonderful nights of my life.  Do you wish you could say the same?” he asks Joan snidely. 

Joan has to make a speech for the assembled.  She thanks them for their support, but insists that unlike “Couture,” her wildly successful empire, this new “Woman of Today” is supposed to be about average women.  And what would she know from average women?  Certainly none were allowed into this swanky part!  With Timothy, Marissa and William Allen Young there to support her, Joan whips the crowd in a frenzy of applause and support.  “Let’s dance!” she shouts. 

After the party, Senator James Farentino (you read that right) shows up in Joan’s apartment, promising to help her depressing situation, and also to find out what’s going on with her personally.  “Sometimes it takes a long time for love to change to friendship.  Sometimes it never happens.  It hasn’t happened for me,” toupee-wearing James says, about as excited as a nail.  Joan, lit to the hilt, says “it’s never going to happen.  Afterwards, you’ll just go home to your wife…”  Didn’t see that coming from the moment we found out he was a Senator, eh?

A hit is put out on Joan.  “Just say the word and her pretty face will be ripped to shreds.  Just give me the word when.  I got the weapon right here,” the hitman says patting a scary dog. 

Upon finding out that Steven is in Manhattan, Joan says she won’t feel safe “unless he’s dead or I am,” the set-up for the big flashback.  In miniseries time, it’s taken an exceedingly long time (almost half an hour) to get there, and there is, as you could have predicted, World War II.  Yes, I know, Joan did World War II in “Monte Carlo,” (which aired also in 1986) but that was comic cheese.  “Sins” is a straight-faced drama all the way. 

A newspaper headline tells us “Germans Enter Paris.”  “I was a child when the Germans occupied Paris,” Joan narrates.  Don’t laugh at that line.  Remember, she’s telling the story from 1986, when she was only in her 50s, not 2011, when she’s, well, older.  She recalls the horrors of the time, her father going off to fight and being left alone with her mother and siblings. 

Mama wakes up her kids (no, Joan does not play the character as a young girl–many actresses would, but Joan Collins is way too smart for that) because the Gestapo is on the way, led, of course, by Steven.  The three kids hide in a hatch in the closet just as the Nazis are barging in.  They are there to find out “where the radio transmitter is.”  Mama is accused of sending messages “to England for the underground.”  Steven is so convincing, he gets away with what is actually a very fearful moment: Mama says she’s pregnant, and he promises the baby will be safe as he taps her stomach with his riding crop.  She does not answer, so a Nazi with brass knuckles beats her.  They find the equipment (it’s in a less exciting place than the radio transmitter in the bushes from “Monte Carlo”) and now Steven wants to know to whom she reports.  More beating.  “We’ll find out from the children,” he threatens.  She can’t reply because the brass knuckles have killed her.  “I want those children!” Steven demands, leaving soldiers behind in the apartment.  One of them hears the kids and finds the hatch.  They burst free, there is a scuffle and Young Joan (Catherine Mary Stewart) shoots two soldiers dead.  They end up in a nightclub but have to leave when the horrible house chanteuse goes to get the Nazis to claim the reward.  Don’t ask, it won’t make any more sense if I explain more fully.

Our young heroine separates from her brother and sister, saying they stand a better chance of survival if they “pretend not to know each other” since the Nazis are on the lookout for three kids.  I guess we just have to accept such a ridiculous plot twist, just like we have to accept that the these French kids all sport perfect British accents.  Within ten seconds of separate our heroine is accosted by a soldier and raped in a corn field.  When another soldier hears her screams, he comes over and asks the other, “enjoying yourself?”  “She’s a fighter,” he replies, brushing off some blood.  She kicks one in the crotch and makes a run for it.  She is recognized as the “murderer” of the two soldiers and taken to Gestapo headquarters.  She’s tied to a chair and slapped around, but tells the Nazis nothing.

Her siblings are found and brought in, but Young Timothy sticks to the story of them not knowing each other.  There’s pressure on the little sister, and Steven tries mind tricks, but neither Young Joan nor Young Timothy cracks, not even when Young Timothy is forced to watch a terrible beating.  Young Joan is sent back to Paris, while the younger two are sent elsewhere.  The convoy with our pre-stars is overtaken by the resistance and Young Joan is saved.  In an attempt to be profound, the man rescuing her tells her some harsh facts about what happens to kids in death camps.  “They water their own graves,” he tells her honestly. And then tells her to relax.  After that bit of news?  “No, I can’t rest.  Not until I know they are safe, and not until that Nazi pays for what he’s done,” she scowls. 

Back in the 80s, Joan has stayed up all night working “on a new ad campaign,” when Marisa comes into the office.  Marisa packs Joan off for a hair appointment with mincing Victor Spinetti and wonders why she didn’t rely on their advertising people.  Because Joan doesn’t want a repeat of the last issue!  Marisa Berenson flows through “Sins” so bored that a cattle prod wouldn’t even help.  Of course, she’s flowed through her entire career li…oh, stop, now’s not the time, we have a plot to get back to!

Off goes Joan, in a matching beret-and-coat ensemble, this time in pink.  The hit man with the dog (he’s pretending to be blind) sneaks up behind her and when the dog barks, Joan is frightened enough to drop a glove, good luck for the hit man.  Joan gets a new do and is on her way out when Arielle comes into the salon to show off more jewels.  “A lot of what I buy, I buy for his sake,” Arielle chirps about her husband, “I myself would be happy with a lot less.”  Do you see why it’s hard to take the flashback plot to heart when this nonsense is swirling around it?  Joan and Timothy (in an office that looks borrowed from the “Dynasty” set), wonder exactly where Allen gets all of his money.  “He has a very expensive lifestyle,” says he.  “He has a very expensive wife,” says she.  Arielle bursts into Allen’s office to beg him for “half a million” as she has seen jewels once owned by royalty that she just have to have.

The coven of villains is called, and though they meet in a large brownstone, for some reason, they seem to be using the pantry for their meeting.  Steven, Lauren Hutton, Neil Dickson and Giancarlo Giannini can’t even keep from arguing among themselves.  It’s like something out of “Austin Powers.”  Steven announces that “phase one” of their plan to destroy Joan has been completely successful.  Steven decides the order of going after the wounded gazelles will be thus: Marisa, William Allen Young (referred to as “the black photographer,” thought that’s only half-way offensive since he’s very obviously a gay black photographer), Allen Garfield and then Joan herself.  Joan and Timothy are brought pictures of the coven and Joan is forced to admit, “they have one thing in common, they all hate me.”

Time for another flashback.  This time the present tense wasn’t so bad (except for the way too peppy Arielle), so we return to the past less annoyed. 

“It all started so beautifully,” Joan narrates, picking up her story in 1949 (with no explanation of the years in between).  Young Joan is to be a servant at the great castle where Neil, overdoing the fey aristocrat thing, falls immediately in love and refuses to let Young Joan and her aunt use the servant’s entrance.  They aren’t servants, just there to “sew for my mother.”  “She makes the juices flow, doesn’t she?” Neil asks his pal, rather unbelievably.  “Hands off…she’s mine!” he insists to his friend.  On the big staircase, they meet the Count, Jean-Pierre Aumont.  Her aunt reminds her that “you’re a toy to be played with and then discarded” by the aristocracy, so she better watch out.  She’s worried about hotpants Neil, but also about his father.  “He frightens me,” she says dramatically. 

Young Joan is saucy and confident as a seamstress, scaring her aunt when she dares to tell the Countess which fabrics would be better for her.  She has some sketches that the Countess likes, which the latter assumes are copies.  No, no.  They are originals.  The aunt constantly apologizes and tries to tell the horrors of her niece’s life, but the Countess couldn’t care less.  In fact, the poor girl has been desperate to find her siblings and writes to anyone she can think of to find them.  “As long as she doesn’t do it on my time,” the Countess notes. 

Neil has been paying a lot of attention to Young Joan, but she’s not overly concerned, or at least not until she’s on horseback with him, which does scare her.  Well, after all, “if you weren’t a servant, I would teach you to ride,” he says, forgetting his drivel about not using the servants’ entrance earlier.  She doesn’t take offense, so he says, “whoever you are, I think you are the most beautiful girl in the world…and what do you think about me?”  Wow, maybe he should just date mirrors.  On one of their outings, Neil finally plants a kiss on Young Joan, though it’s hard to call it a kiss because it looks more like porn than passion.  Things progress, he takes pictures of her and even invites her to a ball.

Cinderella time.  The ball is a very swank affair and of course Young Joan catches everyone’s eye, in a gown she made herself for the Countess that is widely admired (unlike Cinderella, she had no help from cute animals).  Only she and her aunt know it’s the dress she was designing for the Countess.  “I never want to be without you, never!” Neil tells her as they waltz and everything is happy…and as the Count and Countess show up!  Neil is so wrapped up in the moment that his friend can’t even get his attention to warn him.  When he sees Jean-Pierre, the father is horrified, referring to Young Joan as a “servant girl.”  “Servant girl?  Isn’t that putting it rather too nicely?  That was to be my dress.  It was made with my fabric on my time, but I can never wear it now, can I?” the Countess says angrily.  Um, Countess, no offense, but there is no way you and this teenager are anywhere near the same size in dresses. 

Cinderella time over, though she escapes with both of her shoes.  Young Joan runs all the way home, where Neil greets her since he took the car (wait, he didn’t pass her on the road?) and within seconds, has her prone on the bed, apologizing, taking off her shoes and professing his love for her, and his lust.  “I don’t love you,” she says, frightened.  “But you will, you will learn to,” replies horny Neil, throwing in a proposal and pushing her back down on the bed.  “Some day, all of this will be yours,” he whispers to her.

“Will it now?  How generous of you,” quips Jean-Pierre, who has not only had time to arrive home, but to make himself a drink.  Uh oh.  “You would marry this little seamstress because she makes you feel like a man?” he asks.  “Nobody else ever has, have they?  I know because I’ve had the women you have tried with,” Jean-Pierre reveals.  Now that’s summing it up, isn’t it?  For a topper, Jean-Pierre throws his drink in Neil’s face.  For a second topper, he adds, “I’m afraid to call you my son.”  Young Joan doesn’t kick him, but while he’s down (on the floor), she dashes out of the room.  Sorry, Neil, the night started so wonderfully, but now everything but a falling piano has happened to you. 

Now we can skip ahead to 1955 in Paris (again, with missing time unexplained).  Young Joan is in Paris for the first time with a heavy suitcase and nowhere to stay.  Luck is on her side as she walks straight into a break-up between William and his now ex.  To piss off the ex, William right then and there offers Young Joan a place to stay.  “And you won’t be able to use the bathroom, he’s turned it into a darkroom,” shouts the ex as he walks off and back to 1973 judging by his clothes and facial hair.  William then takes her to the outdoor market so they can steal everything they need to eat.  Even goofier is a photo shoot William does of Young Joan high atop a building.  She’s afraid of heights, but manages to hit every modeling pose he asks of her, including some en pointe, as if she were a trained ballerina.  When no one wants the photographs, Young Joan consoles him by saying, “you have something new to offer.”  Because now she’s up on the history and current trends in photography?

Famous fashion designer Capucine likes his pictures, saying, “this is new,” precisely the word Young Joan had used.  She turns around and sees our nervous duo, telling William he needs an agent.  However, her advice to Young Joan is a hoot, the first real gut-buster of the movie: “You should never wear white, it glares.  You must also never wear dark curls, but wear champagne!  Yes, champagne.”  Can anyone help me with this one?  What the hell does that mean?  No one bothers to ask, so she plows ahead, telling Young Joan she should be a model and offering her a job.  I never thought much of Capucine either way, but looking like Gloria Swanson and sounding like (late career) Bette Davis, she’s injecting some much-needed guffaws into “Sins.”  She goes to leave and turns to shout, “don’t forget, Monday morning” with the Eiffel Tower and gardens behind her.  Boy oh boy, a famous designer picked our heroine out of the crowd.  Let’s hope she remembers her on Monday! 

Indeed Capucine (I assume playing a character based on Chanel because no one seems to know any other female French designers when it comes to trashy imitations) does remember Young Joan when she shows up on Monday.  She tells Young Joan to take off all her clothing and then goes into a series of un-connected maxims, some schtick about sticking Young Joan with a pin and a reminder to wear champagne (the color, we find out), allowing her to borrow whatever she wants until she has the money to buy. 

Remember Young Joan’s siblings?  It’s okay if you don’t, as seemingly she hasn’t either.  But, alas, she does find time to write to Herr Paul Freeman in Cologne to ask for his help in finding them.  In the letter, she writes, “I don’t have much money, but I’m enclosing what I can as a retainer in the hopes that you will help me.” 

When Young Joan does her first modeling job at the atelier, actress Catherine Mary Stewart is done up to look exactly like Joan Collins in the 1950s, the first time there is a noticeable connection between the character at different ages.  She is even modeling a red outfit with matching hat.  And, in fact, there is a reason for this, because time passes and Young Joan becomes Joan, the new Directress of the fashion house.  Not a moment too soon, because only Joan Collins, so far, has given this miniseries any oomph.  Everyone else has looked on the verge of napping (except Capucine, but she may or may not be drunk, it’s hard to tell) and acted thus. 

As Joan is calling out her first runway show (earning a wink and a thumbs up from Capucine), soldier James Farentino can’t keep his eyes off her and she notices, so they play the eye game.  Later on, she talks to him and his mother, all but forcing the woman to buy a dress so James can take just long enough to ask her to dinner.

And dinner is where Joan turns it on.  A few years on “Dynasty” had already shown us that no one could handle a staircase better than Joan Collins.  So, she arrives at dinner, dresses to the nines and looking more fabulous than should be allowed and sashays down the steps with flair (the advice about not wearing white turns out to be bad advice, because Joan works it!).  You can be sure that Jean-Pierre notices her.  But, she goes right over to James’ table.  “You look absolutely beautiful,” he says.  “Well…” she replies, before remembering to tuck in a compliment about him.  As if they have known each other for years, James reveals that he’s been posted to Vietnam and they only have a week together.  “I’m glad I didn’t decide to be fashionably late,” Joan purrs.  Wait, did I miss a few scenes or has this movie once again opted to use a concept of time that none of the rest of us can fathom?  As they toast, Jean-Pierre watches from across the room. 

“Somewhere in my life, I’ve always known there’d be an evening like this,” James coos to Joan as they kiss under one of the gorgeous Seine bridges.  They then truck it on over to someone’s place and indulge in a sex scene.  For a miniseries, this is a pretty race one, but it’s brief.  The next morning, James wakes up to find Joan staring out the window.  “I just wanted to see if the world looked any different,” she says.  Here we go with the schmaltz.  I guess we had it coming after sitting through nothing but gloom so far.  Joan confides in James that she was raped during the war, but now understands love.  His reaction?  He suggests taking time off so they can see each other more.  Since he didn’t care, she doesn’t care, does the 80s woman-lies-on-man’s-chest bit and they continue their conversation and kissing, fluffier than cotton candy.  From there, it’s off to the airport where he makes a joke out of every earnest line she utters, becoming easily the most annoying character in this movie (and he has plenty of competition). 

Jean-Pierre sends Joan a pair of gorgeous earrings and a summons to meet him, but she returns the earrings and rips up the note. 

Six months later, James’ mother calls with the news that he was killed.  Obviously, we know that’s not true since he appeared in the story’s present tense.  So, let’s move along.  Joan finally gets to meet Herr Paul, who might have some news about her siblings.  There are people who might be able to speak, but it will cost a huge amount of money.  “I think I can get you all the money you need,” she says, which means having to cozy up to Jean-Pierre.  She does so in a killer red dress.  She gets to show it off by walking the entire length of the room to greet him.  He wastes no time in suggesting that she be his mistress, live at his Paris home and be available to him every night.  He gives her a massive diamond necklace and earrings to sweeten the bargain.  “These are real, no imitations for you,” he says, pulling off the pair of earrings she’s already wearing. 

In the bedroom, he unzips Joan’s dress and says, “I’ve been waiting so long for this.”  “Whore!  Slut!” he rages and smacks her across the face.  But, the agreement is on because she needs the money.  I guess there are no other rich men in Paris with whom she can have such an arrangement.  She has to stick with this sadistic bastard.  She’s smart enough to sell jewels, making the jeweler promise to break up the pieces before selling them.  “I’ll put it to good use, I promise you,” Herr Paul tells Joan when she comes up with half of the money from the sale of the diamonds. 

Get out the ham-o-meter, it’s time to meet our slummer.  Capucine and Marisa Berenson were never big stars, but Gene Kelly sure as hell was.  Gene had a pathological inability to appear in anything decent once his dancing days were over.  That certainly explains “Xanadu,” but the American miniseries always had use for a bit of nostalgia, so here is Gene Kelly, playing a world famous American composer, whose music is being performed at the opera house where Jean-Pierre takes Joan.  He spots her in her box, and Jean-Pierre seems a little jealous.  “I told you, I loooove his music,” Joan assures him. 

Into the box comes not Gene, but Neil!  Ah, yes, still full of temper after all these years.  “When they told me the family box was occupied, I assumed it was by you and mother, not what is obviously your current whore,” he spits out (question: if he knew the family box was occupied, what’s he doing there?).  “Why him and not me?” Neil asks.  “She prefers men,” his father answers.  “I’ll get you for this.  I swear I will!” he threatens before leaving.  FYI, this explains the half-naked masseur in Neil’s first scene, just in case you remembered that I wondered aloud what he was doing there. 

Anyway, that’s Neil’s big (and getting bigger) reason for hating Joan all these years, though if you actually think about it, it should be his father he wants destroyed.  After all, it’s his father who has played the heavy.  Joan was up front with him as a teenager: she never loved him.  But, after the first of three installments of “Sins,” it’s nice to know why someone hates her, faulty reasoning or not. 

After a photo shoot with William that is the essence of 80s high gloss, Joan gets a call from Herr Paul telling her he has news about her brother.  Off to Vienna we go (and somehow, it’s 1969 now).  Herr Paul has found a man with the same tattoo number as her brother.  It may not be him, Herr Paul warns as he takes her to a mental hospital.  Looking at the faces of every man in the room, she finally finds Timothy, slumped up against a wall, apparently in a catatonic state since 1945.  “I want that Nazi,” Joan hisses. 

I will pause and say that both Timothy and Joan are sensational in the scene.  Timothy perhaps puts a little too much look-at-me-I-did-Shakespeare in it, but it’s still better than any other male hanging around the plot.

To make sure we haven’t forgotten how awful Steven is, we watch him shoot his lame dog. 

Back in Paris, Joan has to confront an angry Jean-Pierre, who has found out she’s been selling the jewels.  He throws them at her feet and then yells at her to “pick them up.”  “You worked hard for them,” he says scornfully, stepping on her hand and calling her a whore once more.  He exits and his son walks in, telling Joan, “we’ve only just begun.”

Joan finds a doctor who has the drugs to pull Timothy out of his catatonic state for just a few minutes.  Timothy, confused and afraid, says he doesn’t know Joan, refusing to remember his real name and crying because their little sister is dead.  But, there’s a bit of creepiness to the scene because nurse Elisabeth Bourgine seems to have the hots for Timothy.  Catatonic patients with memory loss are such a turn on! 

It’s William’s birthday and Joan goes to meet him in a restaurant in yet another festive and glittering ensemble, not noticing Neil at the end of the bar.  “Any one, any color, except [me],” he drunkenly slurs.  William tosses back the barbs, reminding Neil he’s “no use to the ladies,” with no sense of the pot calling the kettle, oh, wait, let’s not finish that sentence.  Capucine happens to be dining in the same restaurant, so she invites them to join her.  Gene Kelly is in her party and after saying something inane about Americans not knowing how to kiss a lady’s hand, he reminds Joan that he’s seen her before, at the opera a few months back.  “You’re very beautiful,” he says, and she doesn’t disagree.  He invites her to one of his concerts as a special guest and then proceeds to play a swooping theme just for her.  About 10 seconds of montage later, Gene proposes to Joan.  Wearing what already looks like a puffy wedding dress, she eagerly accepts. 

In an actual wedding dress, Joan and Gene (he’s not in the dress, just her) get married in a grand French church, with Neil skulking in the back near the candles.  You may laugh when the priest wishes the couple many children, and I think that’s understandable.  William, “on my way to Monte Carlo” (the destination not the miniseries), pops by Gene and Joan’s plush villa where Joan sketches in short shorts that bare her sexy legs.  Because of her magazine shoot, William tells her, “you are the most popular model in the world,” but she’s “not interested.”  “That was a long time ago,” she says (no it wasn’t), and she’s just a simple married woman, hitched to the goofy guy with the great big glasses.  Then kids come up again.  “That’s for a young man,” Gene says ruefully.  Right, like that’s the issue.  “Family life just won’t be enough for you,” Gene says.  Right, like that’s the issue.  But, Joan flies with it and decides to start a magainze.  Gene offers her all the money for it and she says no.  He wants to make “all your dreams come true,” but there’s an odd warning, said with a smile, “you must never abandon me.”  With thoughts of magazines dancing in her head, Joan picks flowers and tends to the garden.

Now, fans of the miniseries know exactly what I’m about to say: when things seem this smiley and happy, something bad is about to happen.  And, right on cue, there is Neil to come up behind Joan and push her to the bed while Gene plunks away at the piano.  “How could you give yourself to this old man?” he demands to know, and she pushes him away, finally able to shout for her husband.  Gene comes rush…well Gene comes up the stairs to fight off Neil.  He clocks him good, but the younger man punches Gene’s double in the stomach and throws him off the stairs, in slow motion, natch, as Joan shouts, “nooooooooooooooooo!”

I think Neil has made his point, don’t you?  As for Gene, it was nice of everyone to give him something to do, briefly, but that really is one hell of a way to die.  I know it’s not right to keep bringing up “Dynasty,” but fans of the show won’t be able to forget the series finale when Alexis herself went tumbling over a staircase with Dex and Sable (guess who survived for the reunion movie?).  But, this was years before that, so we won’t go there.  “You’ve killed him,” Joan shrieks up to Neil, who rather calmly goes over to the phone and calls the police.  “There’s been a tragic accident,” he tells them and hangs up before Joan can deliver the truth.  Oh, and according to Neil, he wasn’t trying to rape Joan, merely to “take what is mine.”  His version of what happened is awfully maniacal.  If Joan calls the police, he’ll say he happened by and spill the beans, making Joan look guilty for killing her doddering old husband, but if she keeps her mouth shut, he won’t say a word.  Ah, but he doesn’t notice Gene’s tape recorder still going.  “Which will it be?  Freedom or the guillotine?” Neil asks.  The guillotine?  Only an American miniseries would reference the guillotine.

The detective isn’t at all convinced, and why would he be?  Let’s review the facts.  There’s Joan, puffing on a ciggie, looking every bit as not-innocent as Lana Turner back in “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” (and in Lana’s same white, with a gingham pattern, no less), ancient Gene is not only dead, but fell over the railing of the staircase and into a glass table, just by accident.  Then, there’s Neil, who has rented the villa next door and just happened to be there with his old friend Joan.  And, the fact that the servants all happened to be gone.  The brainy detective smells a rat.  Unfortunately, it’s the wrong rat.  Throwing around his family name, Neil threatens the detective’s job, but the detective rallies back that it will be over his head when the American ambassador finds out.  “You stay away from me, you bastard.  I swear, I’ll find a way to make you suffer.  I swear!” Joan whispers in a meaningful tone and dashes out.  PLEASE, let us be done with Neil. 

But not with Gene, alas.  Joan calls up Capucine, who is about as full of emotion as her wig, and when Joan announces she’s pregnant, Capucine actually says with a straight face (though I wonder how many takes it took), “that should give you some consolation, my dear.”  Yeah, and the front page of the National Enquirer.  Capucine’s models are giggling, so she snatches the newspaper out of their hands that shows Joan, in her costume for the photo shoot, brandishing a gun.  Oh, this doesn’t look good.  “She loved him!  She loved him!” Capucine insists, sooooo over being in this movie. 

Nostalgic for Gene’s music, Joan plays the tape recorder and hears Neil’s full confession, so she suits up in full Joan Collins red and takes a copy over to Jean-Pierre and Neil.  “Idiot!” Jean-Pierre hisses.  She wants money, since Gene’s money is tied up in whatever, and Neil refuses.  Jean-Pierre is smarter.  “How much?” he asks.  “Enough to start my own fashion magazine, 70 million francs,” she replies.  That’s one hell of a magazine!  She bristles at his further insults and ups it to 100 million, whooshing out of the room with a “good day gentlemen” that freezes their blood (perhaps only Joan Crawford and Loretta Young ever knew how to make as much of an exit as Joan Collins).  Jean-Pierre kicks Neil out of the mansion.  Can we PLEASE be done with Neil, I ask yet again?

Driving away, Joan starts to feel pain (or pleasure, it’s really not clear, and it’s clear she’s having a miscarriage, but since she’s driving, also a car accident.  The not-so-friendly doctor tells Joan in the hospital, “it was bound to happen,” and Joan realizes it’s because of the rape so many years ago.  Unfortunately, she will never be able to carry a child. 

Out of the hospital and back into red, Joan goes to visit Timothy, of whom we’ve seen nothing since his few minutes out of the catatonic state.  Nurse Elisabeth, shooting daggers for some reason, chirps that “he gets a little bit better every day” in an accent that is just too easy to make fun of.  Rather than gently easing him back into conversation, Joan goes right for full tilt emotion.  He still can’t remember her, but she claims she needs him.  Mama’s wedding ring is the key to unlocking his memory and they dissolve into each other’s arms with tears.  Nurse Elisabeth watches with the weirdest smile.  Quicker than you can say “one flew over the cuckoo plot’s nest,” Timothy is healthy, sane and walking along the river with fetching Nurse Elisabeth saying, “I don’t want to lose you.” 

Joan puts her money into “Couture” magazine, hiring Marisa, the world’s best editor, and William, the world’s best photographer, though she reminds the latter, “no moonlighting, you work just for me.”  Joan, in a saucy plump beret, toasts with the other two.  Alternating the frivolous and profound, Joan and Timothy also work on finding Nazi Steven.  In fact, amid the feverish pace of starting a magazine, she agrees to take Timothy and dash over to Vienna, where they lunch with Herr Paul at a restaurant where Nazi Steven is known to frequent. 

In he comes with the loudest suit in the place.  Both Timothy and Joan recognize him.  “We’ve got our man,” he says, with Joan adding, “the world must not be allowed to forget what he’s done.”  Well, that won’t be so easy, Herr Paul says, since he can only be tried in Austria and “more than a few Austrians want to promote the fiction that there were only unwilling Nazis here,” and not too many have actually been tried for war crimes there.  On her way out, Joan says hello to Nazi Steven, who gives her a polite bow and then a quizzical look.  Don’t you dare try to ruin a Joan Collins exist, you’ve done enough already!

Luckily, Nazi Steven is taken to trial for war crimes.  Dialogue-wise, the trial is pretty much rigged against him, with booing from the gallery during his lawyer’s opening statement (which is only a few hurried sentences).  Peter Vaughn, who played the Riviera’s scariest (and only) Nazi in “Monte Carlo,” is on hand as the defense attorney.  After the first day of testimony, Steven stops Joan in the hallway and admits to remembering her and Timothy (who is there with Elisabeth on his arm).  “I regret all the tragedy of the war.  We can’t change the past, we can only be afraid of torturing ourselves with it,” he says in the stupidest Nazi apologia ever, and offers her money to drop the case.  “These are my countrymen, I don’t think they will convict me,” he boasts.  “I think they will,” Joan tartly replies.  “I should have disposed of you,” he murmurs.  “How fortunate for you that you didn’t.” 

Timothy gets to testify, and of course he knows enough to make the most of a courtroom scene.  It may be the only one, so he turns in every actorly trick.  There’s soft speaking, stammering, intense truth, all of it, but again, Timothy Dalton stays on the right side of cloying.  He describes the camps and the horrors he saw and lived through.  As good as his scene is, it’s junked up by the next one, where he tells Nurse Elisabeth he couldn’t have done it without her and admits his love for her with awfully an awfully flowery proclamation.  She does admit she “put off taking vows” because she loves him and he proposes.  Even a nun can’t refuse a brave man who testified against a Nazi!  Then it’s back to the trial, where Timothy is cross-examined and on the defensive.  “A strange and convenient disease you have,” the defense lawyer says, referring to Timothy’s catatonic state and suggests his testimony is the result of what others told him, not having been there. 

When Joan takes the stand, in a crisp business suit, the defense suggests that not only was Joan never raped, but that her mother died of a simple hemorrhage, and not a beating, that she also started believing incorrect facts as the truth.  He paints her as having a revenge complex and warping Timothy’s mind to effect it.  Joan isn’t letting anyone steal her trial scene, brief though it is, and dresses down the lawyer.  Steven is up after Joan, admitting he was “administrative head” of the death camp, but denies all of the accusations against him.  He’s so evil and snake-like that it’s impossible to even take him seriously, but the jury seems to believe it.  His expected slam dunk moment arrives when he says all “detainees” were given a tattoo, and Timothy has to admit he doesn’t have one, but only because “an explosion in the quarry” burned his arms so badly they couldn’t tattoo his arm.  “Instead, they branded me with a hot iron,” he explains, pulling open his shirt to reveal the chest tattoo.  Take that!  Thankfully, Steven is found guilty and sentenced to the United Nations.  Oh, wait, that was another Austrian Nazi.  Sorry, Steven is sentenced to “life in prison” as he yells “I only did my duty as a good soldier!” 

Joan wants to know where they are celebrating, but Elisabeth tries to trump the trial news with her acceptance of Timothy’s engagement.  However, Nazi Steven ruins even that happy moment, being dragged away braying, “this isn’t over between us!” with guards pulling him away.  “What you suffered as a child will seem like PARADISE!”  We certainly have the second villain’s reason for revenge, though I have to say, it makes both more and less sense than Neil’s.  More because he’s a nasty awful man, but less because convicted Nazis, decades after the war, tended to keep quiet and bide their time until death or senility took them.  The world wasn’t exactly on their side.

“Couture” becomes a massive hit.  Joan has a concert put on of Gene’s final work, named for her.  William and Marisa are there and even Capucine shows up, telling Marisa, “you’re getting a little bit pushy,” when she insists on front row press seats at the next collection.  Timothy and Elisabeth are not there because they are at the hospital with “acute toxemia” during a pregnancy.  “I’m afraid she’s going to die,” Timothy tells Joan after she rushes over from the concert.  The doctor wants to get the baby out, but Elisabeth refuses because she thinks it’s too premature, not fully understanding her condition.  After an impassioned speech from Timothy, Elisabeth turns to Joan and makes her promise to bring the baby up as if it were hers.  “Pray for the baby and me,” she says crying before we lose her.  However, she managed to give birth before dying.  Timothy’s sounds of angst echo throughout the church. 

There’s another death watch, but this one is just plain comical.  Jean-Pierre is about to bite it.  That brings smarmy Neil back home (I know, I thought we were done with him for a least a few decades, but noooo) to taunt his father.  Just a few choice sentences flatline the old man and Neil toasts with a flask.  Neil does love to kill off elderly guest stars, doesn’t he?

Trouble is brewing at “Couture,” because William is misbehaving.  “He’s been doing everything but shoot pictures the last few days,” Marisa sniffs when Joan arrives to save a photo shoot in Venice.  He says the problem is Russian-born Marisa.  “The Tsarina, she pushes everybody…when she pushes, I go in the opposite direction,” he says, with lots of hand gestures that he no doubt picked up in Italy.  Joan is angry because William has violated her edict not to work for others, which he admits, because he is tired of feeling like her “personal property.”  Joan can’t fathom what he’s talking about, but lays it out for her, saying, “you’ve become some arrogant autocrat who has to call all the shots.”  Just when this happened might be clear in the book, but we’ve seen no evidence in the movie so far.  We’ll just have to take his word for it.  She takes the constructive criticism, and exacts a promise from him not to freelance anymore.  “Will you please take these pictures?” she begs.  “I was just waiting for the right light,” he says as everyone tears off in a speedboat to shoot the models. 

Here’s where Giancarlo enters the action, brazenly approaching Joan-in-bright-yellow at a cafe.  “I come here from Milan often to refresh my soul,” he says, immediately captivating her, quoting Byron because he can tell she is a fan (I don’t think she is, though it’s understandable he thinks she’s English instead of French since she keeps to her native accent).  It’s obvious he’s poor from the minute he offers to pay the check and winces looking at it.  Can we all say gold digger?  He shows up for a date with Joan and the flowers he gives her have nothing on the black and silver outfit she’s wearing, one I hope she’s kept for some future use.  Joan and Marisa have investigated Giancarlo and know he’s “struggling not to go bankrupt,” and chides him for pretending he hasn’t had her investigated.  He tries to slink out of it, but she’s onto him, especially with Marisa present, wearing enough ruffles to host an 80s Bar Mitzvah.

Putting all of this aside, Joan and Marisa inform him that “we have been looking for an Italian outlet” and offer to buy his struggling magazine and “assume artistic control.”  “What happens to me?” he wants to know, complaining that his position would only be that of a “figure head.”  “A rich one,” Marisa chimes in.  “I have my pride,” he says, yanking out that goofy comic nonsense of his that has never been amusing.  He doesn’t seem to have been told that there is no levity in “Sins.”  He bargains, wins and then announces, “if I’m going to be a slut, I’m going to be a happy one” and invites the gals to dinner. 

Barely a half an hour after being sentenced to prison, Steven is buying up property and told by his lawyer that “your friends in high places” are making sure he will be released “very soon.”  “The only thing that sustains me in this place is settling the score” with his arch-nemesis Joan, who is still enjoying the excesses of Venice.  It’s there Joan sees the one-time love of her life, none other than James Farentino.  But he’s supposed to be dead!

“What happened?” Joan wants to know.  He was a Vietcong prisoner and managed to escape after many years.  He sent her letters, but she never got them.  “Well, I thought you had,” he replies, back to that snoozy wooden style of his, and assumed, “it was just too late.”  Being a French fashion maven, there’s no reason for her to have known he’s just a two-time Representative in the US Congress, “though there is some talk of the Senate,” which shouldn’t be of any interest to her either.  The fact that he’s unmarried is of interest.  He’s kept up with her life, especially liking the concert Gene wrote for her (let it go, people, let it go).  In the middle of a Greek folk dance on a yacht, Joan, in sequins, and James, in a white tux, decide to get married. 

After suffering through a horrendous press conference with double-dealing sleazy Giancarlo, Marisa is whisked off for some romance with Timothy.  “You don’t have to be the Tsarina,” he tells her, but she’s afraid of romance.  “We’ve both wanted each other for a long time,” yet another opportunity for “Sins” to play fast and loose with the concept of time.  They haven’t even shared a line of dialogue before this scene!  “I can’t live in the past any longer,” he tells her, referring to his dead wife and they kiss. 

James and Joan get their romance going with a montage that is just too inane to be believed!  He teaches her to fish, she screws it up.  He teaches her to barbecue.  She screws it up.  They play on a swing set.  That she does just fine.  And yes, they mack in a field of flowers.  Joan is re-introduced to James’ mother, Faith Brook, who obviously can’t stand Joan, going white at the news of their impending nuptials.  “We’ve never had a President in the family,” she complains, as if more than roughly only a mere 40 US families have had one (the Adamses, the Harrison and the Bushes cut the minuscule number down even more).  Telling Joan she’s no First Lady, she adds, “consider who you are.”  Mama Faith means business.  She reminds Joan of the “questionable” death of her first husband and “your days as a model in Paris when you were a kept woman.”  James sticks by Joan, but with such wan lack of strength we know he’ll crumble, but he’s called to an urgent meeting, leaving mom and fiancee alone. 

“Should we have our coffee in the library?” Faith drawls, going all I’m-gonna-nail-you Tallulah Bankhead on us.  This scene we can all recite together, line for line, having been through enough romance miniseries together.  Faith is worried about the family’s next generations since Joan is unable to have children (Stop snickering!  I know it’s become utterly ridiculous that by this point in the movie we’re still relying on scar tissue as the reason Joan won’t be getting preggers any time soon, but we don’t have much of a choice, do we?).  Joan says they plan to adopt, but Faith snaps, “that’s not the same as blood, is it?”  Joan can play the game too, accusing Faith of hiding the letters James thinks he sent her.  “Guilty,” she says, finally asking Joan point blank to give up James so he can have children and a career.  She even turns on the water works.  Joan knows when it’s time to cry uncle, and closes her heavily made up eyes in defeat. 

The last of our villains turns up at the Joan’s office: Lauren Hutton and the hubby she mentioned up front had died working for Joan, Joseph Bologna (if ever there was an unlikely pair…).  They are not a happily married couple, bickering from the onset, though he does suggest that they “get this meeting over with” so they can hurry “to the country and get to know each other again.”  Joe and Lauren have designed a building for Joan in New York City that she adores, but Timothy is worried about the cost.  Not a very good businesswoman, Lauren turns to him and snaps, “that can hardly be helped!  We are talking about a skyscraper in the middle of Manhattan.”  Joe is better at this, offering to name the building after Joan, “the most striking building in New York named after the most striking woman in New York.” 

Nazi Steven’s imminent release from prison is halted when a magazine publishes the full dirt on his wartime career. 

In New York, Joan meets Joe at a bar, where he notes she can “walk into a room and make time stop.”  Indeed she can, but unfortunately not long enough to cut him out of the movie.  Poor Joan says she’s had a bad day, so he gives the piano player a “play it Sam” and orders them some drinks.  He tells Joan that he and Lauren are really just partners, that “the marriage part went sour years ago.”  It’s a really pathetic conversation where he admits to being “madly in love with you,” which sounds as idiotically insincere as it plays.  What is surprising is that Joan falls for it. 

Venice, 1982 (we’re getting closer folks, slowly).  The Golden Ball is bringing everyone in gondolas in fanciful gold costumes to celebrate the 50th issues of “Couture Italiana.”  Most are dressed like Casanova (or one of his women), though pounding rock music reminds of us the real time period.  Giancarlo is in a mean mood, scowling, “the caviar is black.  I asked for gold.  Spray it!”  Lauren is no happier, complaining about the 3000 mile trek she made to be with the woman her husband is screwing (which he denies).  Joe gets in his only good line, telling her that “you got a great talent for ruining a good time.”  Also in a mood is Marisa, dancing with Timothy, bitching about the magazine money Giancarlo spends and the credit he personally takes.  Grown up Judi makes an appearance with her live-in boyfriend, which is somehow shocking to this crowd.  Even Senator James Farentino is dragged to this party, though without his wife who is “out buying Venice.” 

When the whole cast is assembled for a shindig like this, you know there will be all kinds of fun.  Lauren is the early winner, with some catty digs at Joan, but the latter deflects most of them wonderfully, managing a less stoic front when James tries to re-woo her or when one of Giancarlo’s associates spills the beans to her (and William, in goldface) about how Giancarlo is taking “kickbacks from the advertisers.”  Giancarlo tries to have everyone thrown out, but Joan reminds the guard “who is paying your salary.”  So, Giancarlo is forced to “make a vow” of revenge.  Of all the villains so far, he has the least reason for revenge.  Neil is all bonkers in the head, Steven has misplaced his guilt onto Joan, but Giancarlo has actually been stealing from her since the beginning and she’s been nothing but good to him. 

As Joan is delivering the news that Giancarlo has “resigned,” the masked stranger who has taken Venice’s slowest speedboat to the party, finally arrives.  He pulls off his cloak to reveal a full Nazi outfit, though with a gold shirt.  Who else would wear that get up?  Neil, of course!  Yup, he’s back.  Actually, he comes with news, Nazi Steven “has been pardoned.”  And that, folks, is a party climax to end all party climaxes.

Now that “Couture” has moved to New York, for reasons that are never explained, niece Judi is given a spot on the editorial board (also for reasons never explained).  Marisa isn’t happy because Judi wants to take in a whole new direction.  After the meeting, Joan lays into Judi about her living arrangements and choice of boyfriend, but Judi fires back, “does he have to be a composer or Senator?”  Joan replies sterny, “he has to be at least your equal.”  Joan tried another route, offering to raise her salary so she can get a place of her own, but Judi doesn’t bite for that either. 

Actually, Michael Morris, who plays the saxophone at home while Judi works tirelessly, doesn’t seem like such a bad guy.  When she breaks the news to Dad and Aunt Joan that she wants to marry Michael, Joan, in red again (which signifies she means business), goes wild.  Timothy is more rational and suggests a compromise delay.  Joan takes the opportunity to force Judi to go to Paris, but Judi throws a fit and quits, braying that, “I don’t want to be a carbon copy of you.” 

In this state, Joan figures it’s time to take Joe up on all of his offers and finally sleeps with him.  For a night of bliss, Joe declares that he’s going to build her “the biggest skyscraper in all the world” and she decides to make breakfast (another hidden talent of hers).  He leaves his pool and finds Lauren waiting for him.  Lauren threatens to make both of them miserable.  “Let him go gracefully,” Joan begs, calm as always while Lauren runs from anger to tears, all of it way overdone.  Cue Joe’s heart attack and he dies in Lauren’s arms while Joan regards the situation with more discomfort than shock.  There is no call for revenge, strangely, but I guess it’s understood.

That takes us right up to the present (finally).  The last time we visited that tense, Joan was reminding Herr Paul and Timothy that the gang of four had hatred for her in common, but now she adds that they have “something else in common than their hatred for me.  They all own a considerable amount of Junot Publications stock.”  The hitman gives his clients a preview of how much Joan will suffer by unleashing his dog on a poor harmless woman who happens to be standing nearby (albeit one in a red dress). 

Now remember, the villains had a method to their revenge plan, and it only ends with Joan.  Giancarlo and Neil summon Marisa, making her an offer to help run their new magazine.  They paint Joan as an ogre to Marisa, who has recently been unhappy anyway, not to mention a gigantic salary.  “I can’t leave her now, she needs me,” when they tell her she has 48 hours to join them.  Giancarlo then places a call to William with an offer.

Joan, in signature red, is ready for war when she finds out Marisa is leaving, having her office locked and confronting her in front of Timothy with the news.  “I can’t work for you anymore.  You’re stifling me in everything I have to offer.  You’ve made this magazine a substitute for a husband and children and I’ve led your life too long.  I’m sorry, but I’ve got to live my own now,” Marisa says, barely above her usual level of ennui.  Joan mops the floor with her in this scene and all the sympathy goes to her.  Timothy tries to get them to compromise, but neither woman will hear of it, so he goes after Marisa.  He begs her to stay until after the crisis is over, and she can’t even stay for love of him.  The worst part is when she asks him, “don’t let this come between us, please?”  She’s going to work for Joan’s enemies and he’s supposed to stay with her?  It’s not a man’s story, so of course he gives her a big hug.  Men in “Sins” are idiots.  Joan turns to William for comfort and he says he’s staying with her. 

Allen is accosted in his car by Neil, holding a knife to his face.  Neil offers him $1 million to call in Joan’s loans immediately.  Remember, he has spendthrift Arielle to worry about.  Shouldn’t they have sent Steven to do this job?  Neil is hardly menacing, but Allen is scared of his own shadow, so I guess it doesn’t matter.  Allen makes his decision while watching Arielle brush her hair.  He tells her to buy the diamonds she wants and then her butt takes up the entire camera shot as she wriggles over to him singing about diamonds. 

Joan, wearing an outfit at work that is both monogrammed and complete with a hood (another one I hope she kept), faces more bad news when she and Timothy find out the villains are driving the stock price down to ruin the company based on sagging magazine sales and Marisa’s defection.  James knows of the conspiracy and offers to help them.  The scene where Allen calls in the loan is particularly uncomfortable, because there are three acting styles: Joan’s pizazz, Timothy’s charm and Allen’s inability to keep up with either of them. 

No one, not even Joan, notices Nazi Steven sitting outside Joan’s office (which snazzy electric doors).  “I came to pay my respects,” he tells her, discussing her arrogance while displaying nothing but, especially taking a seat in her chair.  “This is the beginning of your destruction.  First step, public humiliation.  Then, who knows?”  Joan stands firm, and he slides out with a few choice words, allowing Joan to breathe finally.  She stood her guard, as always. 

The only weapon Timothy and Joan have in their arsenal is proof of Allen’s embezzlement from his bank, so he they use it.  The bank auditors show up with the proof and Allen takes a header out of the window.  Joan feels guilty, but Timothy tells her, “we’ve succeeded, but only for a short time.”  The loan call is postponed until after the next issue of the magazine, which is what they wanted.  Timothy takes Joan to the country for some “air” (in the middle of a working day, no less) and they invite James for the weekend.  The hitman follows them with his dog, arriving just as the siblings go out for a walk.  The phone rings and Joan goes ahead while Timothy answers it.  Joan, in fetching upscale casual togs, is lost in though as the dog rushes toward her.  Luckily, there is a pile of axes nearby when the dog arrives, salivating and barking fiendishly.  The dog attacks just as James drives up, so he grabs an ax to ward it off, but the hitman calls for the dog.  James follows it, only seeing the hitman’s car drive away.  “If you hadn’t come along, I would have been dead,” Joan proclaims, with nary a scratch and only a tad of grime.  James announces he’s getting a divorce because “life is too damn precious” and he wants to be with her. 

While she’s feeling good, Joan decides she wants to see Judi, so she bops down to Judi’s Soho loft, where Judi and Michael are now proud parents.  Joan tells her niece she’s “looked back over her life and realizes the mistakes I’ve made.  They say the greatest sin in life is the sin of pride,” she tells her, finally getting to the title of the movie. 

I’ve actually been waiting for the opportunity to wonder whether the title refers to her sins or the sins of others.  In the hobbled-together script, Joan has been an absolute angel the whole time, never actually wronging the villains (Steven is a Nazi, Neil caused his own problems and she never lied to him, Giancarlo was stealing from her and she only went after Joe when he assured her his life with Lauren was over).  She’s been fair and generous to everyone, so her character hasn’t really committed any sins.  Pride?  Well, she’s made herself an empire, but not at anyone’s expense.  We’ve never seen her so much as step on a little person on the way up.  She worked hard for Capucine and got a wonderful position, leaving not to rival her mentor, but to work in another area.  Joan has supported her family and even given up the man she loved to his career.  I wouldn’t call that overly prideful.  Let’s revisit the sins:

Gluttony?  Perish the thought, Joan hasn’t had so much as a lettuce leaf since the movie started.
Wrath?  She’s gotten angry, but at Nazis and people who abused her.
Envy? There’s hasn’t been anyone to envy as she’s the most successful person in the movie.
Lust?  She slept with James as a young woman, but has kept herself awfully chaste since.
Greed?  Well, you could argue this one, but she’s been so caring of others, it hardly seems blind.
Sloth?  That’s as ridiculous as gluttony.

And that leaves pride, which we’ve already discussed, and the only one for which Joan holds herself accountable.  So, by my reckoning, the only sins in the movie are those of the villains.  Am I watching this wrong?  Just wondering.

Rambling over.

Back in her conversation with Judi, Joan continues on her quest for forgiveness by claiming it was her pride that caused the new magazine to fail because she wasn’t “capable” of handling it all alone and invites Judi to “help save” the magazine by running it, as she’s the target audience, a regular old working mother.  Joan gives her a comfortable two weeks, and Judi agrees to “give it a try.” 

The hitman’s client is not happy that the job was bungled, giving him only 24 hours to kill her.  James and Timothy beef up security while Joan, wearing a flashy scarf type thing on her head, plays with beads on a photo shoot.  The hitman’s car has been found…with the dead dog inside!  The villains meet, upset over the whole attempted murder thing.  Each accuses the other of hiring the hitman.  Steven thinks it’s Giancarlo, who refuses to “be interrogated this way.  This is not the Third Reich.”  So, he moves on to Lauren, but she denies it, leaving Neil to defend himself against Steven’s yelling.  Their plans are falling apart, as Lauren sees it, with a bank extension and a second issue coming out.  “She’s winning,” she whines loudly.  “She’s only winning if we let her,” Steven barks before Lauren accidentally lets it slip that “we” were tired of waiting.  He slaps her and Giancarlo pulls a gun on Steven.  Steven wrestles the gun from Giancarlo, but it flies down the table to Lauren, who shoots Steven and then cries as he falls dead. 

Now that’s a man who has paid for his sins!

Herr Paul calls Joan and Timothy with the good news and how it happened, just as the hitman arrives in the studio with a big gun.  James is able to warn Joan, but the gun has already gone off and Joan is hit.  The hitman has to shoot his way out of the offices with bad shot security guards missing him, though he’s finally tackled by James so the two can have a furious fight.  The Senator is awfully handy with his fists.  The hitman has another gun and the two fight over it.  It goes off and in time-honored TV tradition, we don’t know who was shot for a few seconds until the hitman falls to the ground. 

Joan survives and is hospitalized, for the second time in the movie, in full make-up.  Thank goodness she grew up in a generation where glamour trumped all.  James gives her good news when she wakes up, his wife has agreed to a divorce.  The doctor tells Timothy and Judi that Joan will be “as good as new,” but not for a few weeks.  That means Judi has to run the magazine and make the second issue a success.

And a success it is!  Timothy brings his daughter the rollicking news and Joan can leave the hospital in another monogrammed outfit.  She tells the assembled reporters that she is not going back to work immediately.  Judi will run the magazine and she is going to “live” and vacations with James, where else, in Venice. 

That’s where it ends.  We saw a drunken Neil before the end scene, but not much else is solved.  I guess that’s the point.  Joan’s life will go on and so will everything else.  Everything is so hurried at the end, after so much wasted time.  Once again, “Sins” has no concept of time management, by minutes or decades.

I wouldn’t have made it through “Sins” if the lead were played by anyone but Joan Collins.  Only she has the flair for something as long and centered as this.  She’s in nearly every scene after she takes over from the younger actress.  “Sins” is actually very boring for such a twisting plot, one that probably read a whole lot better than it filmed.

Categories: Romance Miniseries

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