The ideal of the double and triple creative threat is one that every artist secretly yearns for. You’ve seen it. A famous actor records a song, while an even more successful musician goes into acting. But an ideal and reality can be two very different things. It’s hard enough mastering one art, much less well executing another. This is exactly why when someone comes along who can successfully juggle assorted art forms and manage not to drop the ball, it’s a special and rare thing.
One artist who came along and did just this is Eric Edwards. Established as not only one of the most prolific, but also one of the most talented actors to have emerged in adult cinema, the man has built up one of the most impressive resumes ever. His work in films ranging from the Amero Brothers musical-comedy Blonde Ambition to the psycho-sexual human drama of Cecil Howard’s Firestorm trilogy is uniformly stellar. However, it was in the mid to late 1980’s when Edwards started lending his talents not only to directing, but also writing and editing his own movies. Two of the big standouts are 1987’s Motel Sweets and Soft Warm Rain, which are very different movies but both feature the same care and attention to detail.
Motel Sweets is a comedy of a different stripe, opening with our narrator and night shift motel clerk Sam (Edwards) riffing on the terrors of working Fridays. It’s not just the loss of having your weekend eaten by a job, but it’s the customers. Sam tells us through a terrific, pseudo-noir style voice over as he drives to his job, about the Friday night cycle. The freedom from the work week coupled with payday makes people crazy and inevitably they end up at the motel that’s your first stop out of town.
We soon get to meet the colorful assortment of characters. There’s the regulars, which includes Daisy/Sunshine (a slightly wan looking Taija Rae), a pretty hooker with a sweet soul and a dress that looks like it fought its way out of a Ratt concert, Al (Robert Bullock) a likable bug exterminator who just wants to knock a few back at the next door bar, The Rusty Pipe, after a long day of insecticide and Juanita (Ona Zee), the sexy maid who is the cause for many a strange but saucy mishap.
Per Sam’s Friday night fears, the customers starts to roll in. There’s the Tirebiters, George (Wayne Stevens) and Martha (the always fab Tantala Ray), a middle aged couple swimming in a sea of marital blasé. Think Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf but with less booze and more black-rimmed glasses and germaphobia. And of course, there is “Mr. Weasel.” Trust me, whatever is going on in your head right now has a 99% chance of not being right. Just know that the reveal is amazing, hilarious and will stay in your brain for a long, long time. The other guests range from a very cute Newlywed couple (Mike Horner and Shanna McCullough) to two good ole boy truckers needing some shut eye. (Billy Dee and Jon Martin.) The latter were so authentic in their redneckery that I almost started having flashbacks to the family reunions of my childhood. There’s also a couple of swingers (Nikki Knights and Jessie Eastern) that bring in Daisy for some devilishly lurid activities. One of the interesting things about that move is how both of them are a bit predatory compared to Daisy. Not in a big ugly kind of way, after all this is a fun comedy at heart, but there is that strange sexual pall that anyone who has encountered a certain strain of swinger will recognize.
Motel Sweets is one very entertaining movie, with lots of hilarious lines and an especially funny and bent sight gag involving coffee so thick you have to literally cut it with a pair of scissors. It’s incredibly tight paced with not one moment of lag and some top notch editing to go along with it. On top of that, the lighting is also wonderfully executed. Video is not a bad format but part of the reason it got such a bad rap was that many people interpreted an ease of format as an excuse to be lazy about things like lighting and composition. Heck, super 8mm can look beautiful if you know how to light it and this is something that Edwards mercifully understood in spades with the transition to video in the adult industry.
For anyone who is just looking for pure id entertainment, look elsewhere. There are some sexy scenes, but being a good film, it doesn’t sacrifice the work as a whole just for the benefit of your spank bank. When a film does that, it means it is made by someone that respects you enough to not play you, the viewer, as a rube.
Soft Warm Rain, while made in the same year as Motel Sweets is a completely different animal. Instead of a colorful comedy, we get a quiet and fascinating tale about Jake Clemens (Randy West turning in a pretty good performance), an old prospector, or in his words, “desert rat.” Clemens, now an old man in a wheelchair, starts to talk about how he almost became “buzzard meat” out in the desert back in 1938. The quest for gold has led to many a man’s demise or to quote one of the best lines in the movie, “…a fever of gold as my dying prayer.” Jake is thankfully saved by Ky-rie (Tracey Adams), a stoic beauty dressed in buckskins who gives him water. She tells Jake how she was saved as a child by a local Indian tribe, after her own parents lost their lives to the elements. Ky-rie’s presence brought rain to the village, which had been plagued with intense drought, earning her a name that means “soft warm rain.”
Jake’s immediately taken with her and is soon introduced to her world of Tuliyani, a small idyllic commune where there is no fighting, only happiness and love. He immediately settles in but is told not to ask too many questions, especially regarding the “waters of life.”
Soft Warm Rain is a film with a refreshingly layered storyline. With Jake, you’re never completely sure how reliable of a narrator he is. The entire Tuliyani commune has shades of the film Lost Horizon, making the proceedings all the more ethereal and intriguing. On top of that, there are not one but two twists in the end that are well worth waiting for.
The cast, especially West and Adams, are good. Tracey Adams has always been a little underrated as an actress and she brings the appropriate amount of quiet beauty as Ky-rie. West is affable as Jake and gets to sport some pretty effective old age make-up in the modern day segments.
My favorite aspect of Soft Warm Rain is actually aural. There is nary a cheesy rock song or the usual sin-synth scores that most would associate with this era of adult film. Instead, the audio is purely the sounds of the nature, the actors and little bits of authentic sounding Native American music. It is hugely effective. Audio, like lighting, is one of those elements that may seem secondary but can practically make or break the impact of a movie. A film like this needs that kind of attention to detail because just one crappy song would murder any dreamlike atmosphere that it has developed. The sex scenes in Soft Warm Rain do drag slightly compared to Motel Sweets, but that said, everything remains tight on the technical end, with neither the editing or composition lagging. So if you’re someone that likes a little length to your love scenes, then you will be happy.
From an era where things were increasingly homogenized, Eric Edwards made two very different and very good films, proving that he is an innately talented artist on many, many levels.