I tried to explain his machine or Premiere would probably crash before it could finish, and that even if the import did finish he would not like or want the results. Another friend who works in video/tech was present and surprisingly agreed that although it may take a while, dragging and dropping the whole shebang into the project pane should be just fine. I did my best to resit the urge to facepalm.
He's a shooter rather than editor by trade, and the problem here is a weird one, so I don't fault him for not knowing any better. We've known each other since film school though, and he should know better than to ignore my advice on such matters!
Some 30 hours later I got a text message:
My system has run out of application memory!!!
"quit any applications you are not using"
I'm not using any others!