RAW TALENT, and to a lesser extent its two equally recommended sequels, is a searing indictment of the adult industry circa the mid-1980s by people who knew it well like cinematographer turned director Larry Revene and writer Rick Marx – both frequent collaborators of the late great Chuck Vincent – and producer Joyce Snyder, who had just had a hit with Ron Sullivan’s sarcastic PUBLIC AFFAIRS, as the dog eat dog microcosm they clearly considered it. Not unlike every other professional environment then where people are sucked dry of imagination and creativity in order to generate more cash-flow. The film’s feral tone tended to alienate a lot of established contemporary carnal critics, which may stand as the best possible evidence that its makers had succeeded in their set-up.
Eddie, indelibly portrayed by the brilliant Jerry Butler who felt so strongly about the material, he chose the film’s title for his gossipy autobiography, is a struggling actor making ends meet as a waiter until his friend and co-worker (an engaging performance from stalwart Joey Silvera) fills him in on a sweet, little sideline in the porno field. Coming along more out of curiosity rather than seriously considering a career in this line of work, Eddie has to step in for his malfunctioning buddy at a moment’s notice with a busty blonde starlet (Rhonda Jo Petty leaning towards matronly), impressing the female director Carolyn (magnificent Lisa DeLeeuw, who tragically passed away from AIDS in 1993, once again proving her mettle as a sophisticated comedienne) who will become equal parts help and hindrance throughout his subsequent professional life. Landing a part on a popular daytime soap, Eddie soon learns that porn is a dirty secret that never goes away as Carolyn reveals the intimate footage she holds of him to the hypocritical, scandal-hungry masses. The love of a good woman, prostitute Nancy (Cassandra Leigh’s career performance), might prove some sort of salvation but the movie’s careful not to over-sentimentalize this aspect of the story, preferring to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground. Time and again, our “hero” finds himself drawn back into the sex for sale business, excelling at it against his own volition. This conclusion ranges RAW TALENT amongst other non-starry-eyed adult features like Chuck Vincent’s ROOMMATES and Thomas Paine’s CORPORATE ASSETS that have the guts to view the sex industry unromantically from the inside out, warts and all, yet thankfully without recourse to chest-beating Mea Culpa or the sickly sanctimonious approach the mainstream frequently adopts in covering same.
And that’s not all. It looks and sounds like a “real” film, so… In addition to the vitriolic writing, the acting proves way better than anyone in his right mind will expect from what is after all “just” porno. Those already mentioned aside, plump Taija Rae (unforgettable Lisa Chinaski from Ron Sullivan’s TABOO American STYLE) brings warmth to the part of the homely little office worker Eddie plays house with, a good thing he can’t help but screw up by inviting Vietnam buddy Ron Jeremy into the house and bedroom. Rather unfortunately,both guys ultimately settle their differences in one of the more ludicrous martial arts displays ever to take place in front of a camera ! Underrated Tish Ambrose, a woman I always felt should have been the next Veronica Hart but whose initial promise – in Revene’s own WANDA WHIPS WALL STREET among several prestigious projects – remained unfulfilled (perhaps due to well-publicized drinking problems), also scores highly as the soap actress who rallies to Eddie’s defense in one of the film’s funniest scenes topped by their freaky coupling, stylistically influenced by the Kelly Nichols/Ron Hudd psychedelic porker from ROOMMATES. Like the story, the sex is filled with hate and nastiness, people preying on each other with just the occasional – and frequently dashed – glimmer of hope through potential romance to set it off. Understandably, this is going to turn some viewers off, but the movie’s makers should at least be congratulated for taking such an unpopular stance and following through on their convictions.