- Carré Otis as Emily Reed
- Mickey Rourke as James Wheeler
- Jacqueline Bisset as Claudia Dennis
- Assumpta Serna as Hanna
- Bruce Greenwood as Jerome
It doesn’t capture the attention in the guilty pleasure way that Two Moon Junction did, but Wild Orchid is still an erotic film from Zalman King, although hamstrung by attempts to give depth to what is frankly a ludicrous story that needed no attempts to be serious.
Emily Reed is a young and impressionable lawyer who gets a job at a prestigious law firm. Her first assignment is to travel to Rio de Janeiro to finalize the purchase of a hotel. She works under the guidance of the quick-witted and decisive Claudia Dennis, who is a lot more experienced than the novice Emily and knows exactly how to do business. Arriving in Rio, the two set about looking over the run down hotel, that could have a promising future if they manage to save a deal that hangs in the balance. A disgruntled Claudia must go to Argentina for a few days to consult the hotel’s manager who was unaware of them coming, so proceedings are put on Emily, including attending a date with a wealthy man by the name of Frank Wheeler. The self-made millionaire is a strange man who asks personal questions to Emily and hints at a depraved mind. He further introduces her to a world of sexual decadence and carnal pleasure, which disturbs the virginal Emily. The other strange thing is that while Wheeler’s surroundings are sexual, he himself is cold and does not like to be touched even as naive Emily makes plans to get closer; instead getting his kicks from manipulating Emily into strange scenarios that get more exotic as time goes on. Emily finds herself becoming ever more bewitched by the cold and mysterious Wheeler, and can’t quite choose whether to be repulsed or aroused by the world he introduces her too, where he pulls the strings. Add to the fact that Claudia has been infatuated with him for a long time and has in many ways pushed Emily onto him to see if he rebukes her as he had done to her, and events are going to get heavy.
Zalman King with all his directing prowess does fashion a sweltering climate of sexual interaction and carnal desire that knows how to catch the eye. It’s a shame that he also attempts to conjure up some seriousness as Wild Orchid is really about the heat and sensual games being played against the backdrop of steamy Brazil. That isn’t to say that his direction is bad( far from it if truth be told) yet some parts could have done with a fixer upper and just a general sense of wild abandon to suit the story. The atmosphere is there and that’s what people want from a film like this, on that score it delivers. So I can’t for the life of me fathom why anyone on the production or writing team tried to give Wild Orchid any complexity( a movie such as Wild Orchid should really be anything but serious). All attempts at it are really lost and drag the film out for longer than needed. Also, the script is littered with corny lines and the whole exploration of Emily’s awakening does feel a bit slow, which is detriment to Wild Orchid. What people expect and want from movies like this is a sensual emanation of overripe sex and in that department Wild Orchid is very adept. Bodies are shown laced in sweat as a couple makes animalistic love under water, masks are adorned for a voyeuristic ball and Emily is initiated into a strange but tantalizing world that she never knew there was. A heady carnival score that dabbles with sexy percussion and brass lifts some languor in Wild Orchid and at least suits the erotic atmosphere of it.
Carré Otis, while being very beautiful and someone the camera loves, is unfortunately very stilted in her performance as the naive novice Emily. With stunning bright eyes, tousled hair and full lips, Otis is gorgeous and it is easy to see why she was cast in the part of the sexually unaware Emily. It must be said that she does nail the fragile innocence of the part, but her line delivery is problematically bland and needed more expression for it to be at least interesting and lift the weakness of the script. I think if another actress played the part it may have had a bit more about it instead of making the character into something of a blank cypher. Mickey Rourke fares a lot better as the manipulative, sleazy and intriguing Wheeler, who casts a spell on both women present. The role isn’t much of a stretch but Rourke plays it well nonetheless. The most fun seems to be had from Jacqueline Bisset as the silver-tongued and wild Claudia. Bisset brings energy and vigor to her and when she isn’t on screen the movie lags quite a bit. Assumpta Serna and Bruce Greenwood have roles that amount to cameos as two people caught in Wheeler’s web of sexual games.
Filled with taut flesh in various erotic positions, sensuous ambiance and the beautiful locations of Rio, Wild Orchid gets by on these three things, yet suffers from corny dialogue and not surrendering to the sheer implausibility of the story that could have made it at least a very guilty pleasure of sex. It’s safe for me to say that Wild Orchid left me with decidedly mixed feelings.