As Sweet As: Peaches and Cream (1981)

Dave delves deeper into the legacy of ‘Robert McCallum’, and unearths an absolute, erm, peach.

Gary Graver frequently adapted his early work for latter-day films, with Roots of Evil (1992) and Angel Eyes (1993) becoming his most well-known recycling endeavours, adapted from Trinity Brown (1984) and There was a Little Girl (1973) respectively. One that isn’t so familiar is his reworking of Sandra: The Making of a Woman (1970), which, a little over a decade later, was repurposed as PEACHES AND CREAM.

Granted, the minutiae of each film differs, but the backbone remains the same: a country girl with an abusive father escapes her dead-end hay bale life and goes in search of new opportunities in the city. Alas, Sunny (played beautifully by Annette Haven) doesn’t quite find the immediate satisfaction that Sandra did, and we’re led to believe her initial time downtown was spent toiling in drugs and prostitution; “I found you four years ago selling hash in Hollywood,” comes the snarky rebuke from her jazz-loving hipster pimp, David (Tony Richards).

It’s a bold decision by Graver to make this narrative leap, but it pays off well thanks to a gorgeous scene transition that supplants Sunny from farm to penthouse shindig, while gazing through the lens of the camera. Now a high-class escort, she’s a regular visitor to prosperous parties, and a frequent client of oil industry magnate, Ted (Paul Thomas). All of which gives her the lifestyle she dreamed of — but she struggles to let go of her formative time in the boondocks.

Screenwriter Johnny Rio had just come off the back of How Sweet It Is! (1978) and the sublime Pink Champagne (1979) for David Worth (Kickboxer (1989)), and in Peaches and Cream he’s able to dovetail the insatiable ambition of Sunny with her misty-eyed yearning for home. It’s something he accomplishes with delicate subtlety. For example, there’s a naïve young stray she takes in called Deborah (the waif-like Tigr), in whom Sunny sees the raw potential of herself when she first came to town (as well as a makeshift lover). But on the flip side, there’s her psychiatrist — who’s also a client — and to who she confides “I don’t want to lose that country girl. I don’t want to see her disappear”.

She’s a complex woman, but Haven captures her with the same finesse as she did Valerie in V’: The Hot One (1979). It’s also a performance that virtually relegates the sex into the background, despite the fact that Peaches and Cream has some stunning hardcore sequences which all profit from an eclectic score that skirts disco, jazz, bluegrass, funk and a sweeping orchestral composition that accompanies the opening titles.  

Sandra: The Making of a Woman was able to boast a female character that was bursting with independence, guile and persistence. Sunny echoes that, but adds flaws and fallibility, which in turn brings an authenticity that elevates (the barely acknowledged) Peaches and Cream to the heights of 3AM (1975), Amanda by Night (1981) and Society Affairs (1982).

USA ● 1981 ● Adult ● 78mins

Annette Haven, Paul Thomas, Jon Martin, Tigr ● Dir. Gary Graver (as Robert McCallum) ● Wri. Johnny Rio

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