Wild Orchid

The oddest thing about this limp exercise in erotica – aside from the scary way mumps-cheeked Mickey Rourke is beginning to resemble Murder, She Wrote's Angela Lansbury – is that some people consider the sex scenes hot stuff. The watchdogs of the Motion Picture Association of America initially slapped the film with an X. Rourke has been through this before with 9 1/2 Weeks and Angel Heart, which were both edited to escape the X hex. After a few frames were snipped fromWild Orchid's big-bang finish, involving Rourke and model unnoticeably turned actress Carré Otis, that rating was also changed to an R. Linked offscreen, the costars were rumored to be playing it for real on camera as well. I couldn't tell, even from the X version. Rourke appears comatose, and Otis, though lovely in or out of her skimpy wardrobe, wears the pained expression of a woman who has accidentally stepped into something squishy and rank.

She has. Director Zalman King, who co-wrote the script with Patricia Loui-sianna Knop, has fashioned a sex fantasy of unclouded misogyny. Rourke is Wheeler, as in wheeler-dealer (no kidding). He has more than money; he also appears to own an inexhaustible supply of bad tanning makeup that cakes his face like a layer of orange soot. Impotent, vicious and afraid of being touched, Wheeler enjoys demeaning women, who, nonetheless, find him irresistible. Claudia, an otherwise shrewd executive played by an alarmingly manic Jacqueline Bisset, is wild to get close to this mumbling moper. Otis plays Emily, the shy lawyer Claudia has hired to accompany her on a business trip to Rio. She, too, is soon in thrall to Wheeler: allowing him to dress her like a whore and watch men pick her up.

Cinematographer Gale Tattersall sets Rio aglow with kinky possibilities, but the film has no recognizably human characters to make us care about who is doing what to whom. It's not moving but laughable when Wheeler confesses that he was once a lonely stutterer and that he needs the love of a good woman to restore his virility. Rourke and Otis are so wooden that when they finally do rub their naked bodies together, the occasion seems less likely to produce sparks than splinters.

From The Archives Issue 578: May 17, 1990