Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Haunted by Her Past (aka Secret Passions, 1987)

Network: NBC
Original Air Date: October 5th, 1987

I’m not really sure what rock I was hiding under in 1987, but by all indications, I should have not only seen Haunted by Her Past but I also should have written about it eons ago, as it combines two of my favorite things – the TV movie and the soap actor. The film unites the incredible raven forces of Susan Lucci and Finola Hughes in a ghost story that is more melodramatic than scary but I can’t complain because I enjoyed the movie so much!

Lucci is prim and proper Karen Beckett. As a surprise, her gorgeous husband Eric (John James from Dynasty, and also my 1980s bedroom wall!) whisks her along with their two best friends Rita and Charles Kamen (Marcia Strassman and Robin Thomas) away to the quaint town of Unionville, a place that seems stuck in a time from long ago. They stumble upon a charming inn where people dress in period costumes (!), and Karen is drawn to the one room that has no electricity or any other modern means, which really sets the tone for the type of nerdy historic romance she is seeking. And boy, does it seem like she has romance on the brain, because this mousey young lady lets down her hair – and her inhibitions – at the inn of love. Unfortunately, the gothically designed mirror in their room is also the ghostly prison of a very angry young barmaid named Megan (Finola Hughes) who murdered her lover, only to be hung for her indiscretions, after she gives birth to the dead man's baby. All these years later, and she still hates men, and makes Eric her next target.

Haunted by Her Past generated a lot of buzz when it originally aired in 1987 (see ads below), mostly because of the hot soap opera cast.

In an interview to promote Haunted, Lucci indicated that the film was not simply a ghost story, and commented, “The movie’s been described as a ‘silky, sensuous, contemporary ghost story.’ I feel that’s an appropriate description. The story is really about a woman coming to terms with her own sexuality, and that ghost story is a metaphor. It’s about how it affects her life and her husband, whom she’s madly in love with.”

The supernatural triangle of man-hating ghost, mousey woman and hunky guy creates a lot of tension, and Megan is determined create a wedge between Karen and Eric. But to do this, she encourages Karen to confront her own unknown past, which Megan plays a big part in, and which maybe should have stayed a secret!

Originally, Lucci was supposed to play both Karen and Megan but she said the short shooting schedule didn’t permit her to take on more work. She felt it was for the best and said, “It was much better for me to be able to play against another actress.” I’m a big Finola Hughes fan anyway, but she is a delight in Haunted. Spunky and somewhat scary, she makes the most of her part as a jilted woman who sees her eternal role as a man-killer as wild and just. Lucci is great at working the sex factor but is also good playing up her nerdy side as well. The gorgeous and wonderful Marcia Strassman is wasted in a nothing role, but John James makes up for any of the film’s lack with pure bronze machismo! Yes, I have a crush on him. Oh yeah, and there's gratuitous Page Fletcher (The Hitchhiker) action as well!

This TVM could easily have been adapted from a Harlequin novel. It’s bodice ripping – TV movie style – and the utilization of some of the most popular actors from the 80s soap genre gave Haunted enough of a push to land it at #20 in the Nielsen’s for the week. I seriously wish I was one of the lucky 14.8 million who got to see this when it originally aired in 1987.


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Shell said...

This seems like my kind of movie. And has John James in it too. He was so gorgeous back in the day.

jennielucas said...

The ghost story I always wanted to write!! Cliffhangers abound. Lucci playing against type was wonderful to see. And how could you NOT be in love with John James? I videotaped it back in 87; now I need a VCR so I can watch it again.
Wasn't that mirror fantastic?