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The Passion Within

The Passion Within

Released Dec 01st, 1986
Running Time 90
Director Will Kelly
Company Masterpiece Home video
Cast Annette Haven, Nina Hartley, John Leslie, Shanna McCullough
Critical Rating AAAA
Genre Feature



Giving us a tug at the old heart stringeroos, The Passion Within stops about two strides short of diving over the edge into liquid soap opera. But spare the hankies and put away those boxes of bathroom tissues. The restraint exercised by writer/director Will Kelly and cast turns this into a fine human drama and spares us an avalanche of mush. No small feat when you consider the classic paperback romance premise of a beautiful but dispirited heroine willing to give true love one more shot, only to have some slime come into her life to give her a one-way all-expense-paid trip to Heartache Haven. Oh, she gets her ticket punched all right, sad to say, but we don't have to wade through six hours of mutant glop and boring acting, TV mini-series style.

The Passion Within is a finely turned story, visually and verbally. A writer played by Nina Hartley, in her best performance to date," is looking for something special in her love life, but is afraid she's asking for too much. The character of Joan Wilder from Romancing the Stone comes immediately to mind. Whereas Wilder gets to act out her fantasies in her romance novels, Hartley writes boring technical tomes on subjects like agrichemicals. Her only recourse is to lock her romantic soul inside her diary. In Nina's real world she settles for retreads. Unfortunately, the man of her dreams— John Leslie—is a certifiable crud (isn't that always the case) and gigolo who comes across her diary and uses the "passions within" to take unfair emotional advantage of her.

My only quibble is the fact that precisely the same story was told in Thief of Hearts. Only in Thief, the woman was married; Hartley is divorced. The "thief" lives high on the hog. Leslie, is getting by on stipends as a struggling sculptor and paid-for stud to a castrating rich bitch (Shanna McCullough), who doesn't mind rubbing his nose into the fact her husband (Richard Pacheco) is paying the bills. Leslie has made a career out of playing this sort, but each time succeeds in adding a different cutting edge to his portrayals. He has enough saving grace in him that allows for a second chance even after Hartley discovers his ruse. She shuts the door but leaves enough left open to suggest a sequel.

The film is advertising two versions. But even the more sexually explicit one I viewed is toned down and more sensitive in its lovemaking sequences. The Teddy/Abby trysts are visual poetry making this a must watch for romantic diehards and couples.

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