Blu-ray review: Wild Orchid

Starring: Carre Otis, Mickey Rourke, Jacqueline Bisset
Director: Zalman King

Zalman King’s follow-up to Two Moon Junction was the film that finally did for Mickey Rourke’s career, and it was pretty much hello and goodbye for its debutante leading lady Carre Otis as well. But in retrospect the critics’ treatment of this erotic psychodrama seems rather harsh.

Otis plays a lawyer with a gift for tongues who accompanies high flying real estate developer Jacqueline Bisset to Rio, where she falls under the sway of Rourke’s mystery man entrepreneur. Rourke essentially reprises his control freak character from 9 ½ Weeks, only this time with a deep-frozen libido which causes him to play twisted mind games and a mahogany tan that would raise eyebrows even in TOWIE.

The chemistry isn’t quite there between the two leads, mainly down to Rourke, who’s a bit too blue collar macho in the sort of chilly, reptilian role that would be eaten up by any number of British actors. As for Otis, she has a slightly reedy voice but otherwise gives a perfectly decent performance, believably tremulous and inhibited. Meanwhile, Bisset puts in solid work as the comic relief, and there’s a gutsy turn from Assumpta Serna (one of Sean Bean’s girlfriends in Sharpe) as a frustrated housewife who gets drawn into their erotic play.

Compared to the really rather good Two Moon Junction, Wild Orchid feels a little compromised – there are some rough edges, especially towards the end, which suggest some heavy-handed interventions in the cutting room, while King (or someone) seems to have sharply dialled down the nudity (the heavy petting is much tamer than the film’s reputation would suggest) and dialled up the travelogue. Despite this, though, the director’s flair for sultry atmospherics, exotic locations and striking compositions shines through. Flawed though it can be, King’s work has dated much less than that of many 80’s directors, and on Blu-ray releases such as this, it’s appeal can be pretty irresistible. 7/10

A little soft and grainy in a few of the early New York scenes, but on the whole well up to the standard of 88 Films’ release of Two Moon Junction. Skin tones are delicate, close-ups are vividly detailed, the various interior and exterior shots of the dilapidated hotel which serves as a central location are sharply textured, and there are some lovely pops of colour, as with the parrots in the foyer of the restaurant where Otis and Rourke schmooze. 8/10