Motel Blue (1997 DTV)

US / 95 minutes / color / DeMartini–Anderson, Bedford Dir: Sam Firstenberg Pr: Frank DeMartini, Steven J. Anderson Scr: Marianne & Cormac Wibberley Cine: Moshe Levin Cast: Sean Young, Soleil Moon Frye, Rob Stewart, Spencer Rochfort, Barry Sattels, James Michael Tyler, Robert Vaughn, Seymour Cassel, Lou Rawls, Malcolm Yates, Sonya Eddy.

Motel Blue - 0 scene-setter

Kyle A. Rivers (Frye), a proud product of Ashland, Nebraska, is brought into her division of the DoD by its head, MacIntyre (Vaughn), as its first female agent, and is teamed with Agent Daniel Larimer (Stewart) to investigate scientist Lana Hawking (Young), who has applied for promotion and thus must be given—assuming she checks out—a higher security clearance. Almost immediately Kyle discovers that Lana’s a swinger; she first sees Lana pick up an apparent priest, Steven Butler (Rochfort), in a bar and take him to room 13 of the nearby Motel Blue for wild S&M sex, including erotic asphyxiation. Lana’s much older ex-preacher husband Wayne (Sattels) has a similarly liberated sex life.

Lana also tries to draw Kyle into her circle of swingers, which includes not only the sleazy Butler but also sexologist Dr. Jeremy Marks (Yates), whose method of dealing with the sexual dysfunctions of his experimental subjects appears to be bedding them—at least, that’s how he eventually “treats” Kyle, and we know he’s been performing regular “therapy” with Lana.

Motel Blue - 3 Kyle discovers more of Lana's secrets

Kyle discovers more of Lana’s secrets.

Kyle and Larimer now know that Lana Hawking is not their subject’s real name. MacIntyre professes to be appalled that whoever investigated Lana for her current security rating missed this, and obviously did a shoddy, unprofessional job. He encourages Kyle to take a menial job at the company where Lana works, Dynacor, so as to continue observing her. Despite MacIntyre’s description of Kyle as his brightest agent, she’s soon—and unsurprisingly—spotted as a snoop by Lana who, feigning that she knows nothing of Kyle’s true nature, pretends to take the girl under her wing. In particular, she tries to do something about Kyle’s nonexistent love life.

Motel Blue - 5 Kyle (Frye) develops what seems a girlish crush on Lana (Young)

Kyle (Soleil Moon Frye) develops what seems a girlish crush on Lana (Sean Young).

For the most part Kyle evades Lana’s lures into swingerdom (eventually we learn that Kyle’s repugnance for sex is because she was a victim of sexual abuse in childhood), using her self-defense training effectively on Butler when he takes her to room 13. When Lana tries to hook her up with Wayne, however, Kyle really loses it and doesn’t so much just resist him as break his nose for him. After she’s stormed off, Lana appears from room 13’s bathroom and promises Wayne that she’ll make it up to him with a night to remember. In fact, under the guise of erotic asphyxiation, she strangles him.

Motel Blue - 6 Wayne (Sattels) becomes an ex-pervert

Wayne (Barry Sattels) becomes an ex-pervert.

It then becomes rapidly apparent to Kyle and to us that Lana has for a long time been setting up Kyle to take the fall for this far-from-unpremeditated murder; she has planted evidence everywhere that Kyle became an ardent swinger with a special craving for Wayne. MacIntyre, rather than stand by Kyle, washes his hands of his supposed rogue agent.

Motel Blue - 7 Kyle (Frye) rots in jail

Kyle (Soleil Moon Frye) rots in jail.

However, Larimer secretly raises bail for her and gives her photocopies of all the documents relating to the case so that she might go after Lana and prove her innocence.

Motel Blue - 4 a preacher (Rawls) recalls Wayne's church days

The preacher (Lou Rawls) recalls Wayne’s church-going days.

Freed from the constraints of the department, it doesn’t take Kyle long to discover that Lana is really Sofia Caulfield, and that Wayne was actually not just her husband but her father, who took her as a lover when she was only 11, after he’d murdered her mother. The house of cards Sofia/Lana has built begins briskly to collapse . . .

There are plot holes you could drive a truck through, but the tale is (just) well enough told—and with some often really quite natty (frequently noirish) cinematography to distract one’s critical faculties—that it gets away with these, at least until the moment the final credits roll. Young takes off her clothes a couple of times; par for the Sean Young Movie course. Some of the acting—including from all of the lead players—is very mediocre, although Rochfort and Yates shine as Lana’s two sleazebag lovers, each obviously trying to be more skincrawling than the other.

The real odd piece of casting, though, is Frye as the supposedly tough-as-nails, hardbitten investigating agent. She looks and acts as if she’s about 15, an impression reinforced by the fact that she’s so tiny; the other actors tower over her. Of course, this adds to our glee whenever she socks one of the predatory males, but it doesn’t much help the suspension of our disbelief.

Motel Blue - 1 Lana (Young) prepares to 'pick up' the 'priest'

Lana (SeanYoung) prepares to pick up the ‘priest’.

The dialogue has its moments. Here’s the noirish exchange when Lana is picking up the “priest” in the smoky bar:

Lana: Are you a man of God?
Priest: I’m off duty.
Lana: You look too young to be a priest.
Priest: I’m old enough to drink, I’m old enough to be a priest.
Lana: Tough day at the confessional, huh?
Priest: Something like that.


Motel Blue - 8 Vegas, here I come

Vegas, here I come.



On Motel Blue

2 thoughts on “Motel Blue (1997 DTV)

  1. Have never seen this one John. Neither have I read anything on it before. Sounds like you are mixed on it, but might recommend a viewing. Interesting what you say about Frye’s casting in this fine review.

    • To be honest, Sam, I think you’d find Motel Blue a waste of your 90 minutes; I enjoy watching garbage like this one in small doses, especially as it relates (distantly) to film noir, but one really has to be in the mood for it.

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