Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hell Hath No Fury (1991)

Network: NBC
Original Airdate: March 4th, 1991

like Loretta Swit scorned! 

OK, OK, so, like, two of my favorite TV ladies teamed up for a domestic version of Single White Female and no one called me? I mean, I had call waiting, guys. You could have gotten through to me. Yes, I am late to the party, but so happy I made it here.

Lifetime did not invent television for women. In fact, many of the later entry small screen network films found success with women-centric programming. Yes, a lot of it walked into the damsel in distress territory, and it wasn’t always great, but it was, more often than not, good. And when you’re hanging out on a rainy Sunday afternoon, good can be really, really good.

Such is the case with the slick but flawed Hell Hath Not Fury, which brilliantly pits two of my favorite actress, Barbara Eden and Loretta Swit in a battle to the (almost) death. These two ladies bring something interesting to any project they are involved in, and the film is raised a notch just by giving them the majority of the celluloid.

Eden is Terri Ferguson. You know the type, Little Miss Upper Middle Class Perfect. She’s married to a well-known and respected businessman named Stanley (David Ackroyd), and is living the dream as a very well-dressed housewife. But Terri isn’t completely enthralled with her white picket fence life. She has a bit of an estranged relationship with her college aged daughter (Amanda Peterson), and she’s still feeling the empty nest syndrome big time. When Terri suggests that she could go to work for a good friend, her husband shuts her down almost instantly. Although they are quite in love, Stanley prefers a smoke and mirrors kind of life, and the way a devoted non-working wife looks to his friends and associates. So, life continues in a bit of a humdrum fabulous for the couple.

On the other side of the tracks is Connie (Swit). Already two bricks short of a full load, and in an abusive marriage, she becomes fixated on Stanley whenever she sees his local ads on television. He must seem like salvation to Connie because she shoots her husband dead and heads for Stanley’s house. As it turns out, Stanley and Connie had a very brief love affair in college, but he went off to find money and local fame, and she didn’t. Surprisingly, it also turns out that Stanley is not the man of her dreams either, because she shoots him dead too! Although it’s never fully made clear why the resentment runs so deep, Connie plots a kind of hazy, psychotic revenge against Terri, and cleverly makes her look like the guilty party behind Stanley’s untimely demise.

While Terri struggles to prove her innocence, the thinly veiled deceit that Stanley left behind begins to expose itself. He was up to his neck in hock, and Terri suddenly finds herself pushed out of her beautiful home, and desperate for money. Going to work for above referenced friend (who, by the way, is played by Kim Zimmer, y'all! And her husband is played by Richard Kline!!! OMG!), Terri clings to that silver lining. Until Connie slithers into Terri’s life, acting as a friend, but in truth, slowly begins picking off Terri’s very short list of buddies (when I say slowly, I mean only one person, but still… she’s devious and stuff).

Based on the novel Smithereens by B.W. Battin, Hell Hath No Fury is well paced, and certainly well acted. Both actresses are great and dedicated to making the most of the material. Not that the screenplay is bad, but it’s hard to understand the motivations that push Connie to that very edge at that moment. It’s perhaps a bit too haphazard in its desire to get the ball rolling, and the TVM could have used a little more backstory.

Overall, it’s a treat to see Eden and Swit in their respective roles. Swit is especially sinister as the remorseless Connie. Still, this movie is about Terri working her way back from what seems like a hopeless situation, and I can’t think of a better person to take on that task then Eden. Hell Hath No Fury ran against Earth Angel, which featured a little more star power and is also more fondly remembered. That’s too bad because while domestic terror TVMs seem like a dime a dozen, there is a reason we keep coming back to them.


Dar said...

I guess the title tells us that Connie is angry at Stanley for "scorning" her and leaving her.

But why wait all those years?

Unknown said...

I effin' love this movie and finally found it after 26 years on YouTube! It seems even Babs didn't know why Connie was so angry / asking her at least twice "What did I ever do to YOU?"