Wild Orchid (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Wild Orchid is the title of a 1989 erotic film starring Mickey Rourke, Carré Otis, Jacqueline Bisset, Bruce Greenwood, and Assumpta Serna. It was directed by Zalman King, from the screenplay by King and Patricia Louisiana Knopp.

Plot summary

Emily Reed (Otis), a young woman, travels to New York City for an interview with an international law firm. The firm is impressed with her credentials and immediately offers her a job, on the condition that she be ready to fly to Rio de Janeiro the following morning. Emily readily agrees and is introduced to Claudia Dennis (Bisset), one of the firm's top executives, who is overseeing the purchase and renovation of dilapidated beach hotel in Rio.

Emily and Claudia arrive in Rio to put the finishing touches on the deal, but an angry Claudia is forced to fly to Argentina when she discovers that the man they are buying the hotel from has flown to Buenos Aires, ostensibly to attend a niece's wedding, although she believes he is secretly trying to make a deal with the Argentinians for the property. Claudia instructs Emily to take her date for the night, advising her that she will leave her one of her own dresses. While looking over the hotel by herself Emily sees two locals having animalistic sex, which unnerves her and she returns to her own hotel. She finds the dress that Claudia left for her, and upon going back downstairs is introduced to Claudia's friend and business associate, a wealthy man named James Wheeler (Rourke). The two, accompanied by his bodyguards, go to dinner, and it is revealed that Wheeler actually bought the dress for Claudia some time ago. She also discovers that Wheeler has taken the time to find out information about her by calling her mother, and as such discovered that she has always wanted children and likes roast beef, mashed potatoes, and creamed carrots. Emily finds herself intrigued by him, as he is quiet and asks seemingly personal questions without being pushy or rude. Following dinner they attend a street carnival, but Emily leaves after a masked man who looks like Wheeler tries to seduce her.

The next morning Emily awakens in her room to find Wheeler silently watching her, and has brought of bouquet of orchids to her. Wheeler tells her that he is not the man who made advances to her, and as a way of apologizing for any offense he might have caused he asks her to allow him to show her the city's sights. She is initially reluctant but ultimately consents, and that afternoon they attend a beach club with a married couple that they noticed in the restaurant the night before. Some military personnel at the party try to make advances on the wife; Wheeler fights them off and he, Emily, and the couple are all forced to flee in his limousine. It is revealed that the couple are having marital problems brought about by the wife's infidelity. She obviously wants to patch things up with her recalcitrant husband, and Wheeler encourages the two to make love, which they ultimately do. Emily is disturbed by their actions, and Wheeler asks her if she has never felt as carnal as the couple, to which she doesn't respond. Emily and Wheeler then visit the hotel that her firm wants to buy, and while there Emily tells Wheeler that she fears he would disappear if she touched him. He tells her to try it and see what happens, but when Emily hugs him he gently pulls away from her, telling her that he doesn't like to be touched. The married couple gave Wheeler a necklace as a token of gratitude for bringing them back together; he gives it to Emily as a gift, possibly because he knows that he hurt her feelings by pulling away from her.

That night Emily dresses up for the Carnival festivities and is propositioned by a man in a mask, who offers her the key to his room. She initially refuses the offer but is encouraged by Wheeler to accept. It is then that she realizes Wheeler is incapable of acting upon his own emotions, and because of this he tries to experience passion through other people. Emily ultimately agrees to the stranger's proposal and sleeps with him, but both she and Wheeler seem saddened by the act.

The next day Claudia arrives back in Rio with the hotel owner (whose niece really did get married) and a meeting is set up at the airport. Emily is humiliated to discover that the man's attorney, named Jerome, is none other than the stranger she slept with the night before; he uses this to intimidate Emily to get a better deal for his client. Emily pulls Claudia aside, but her boss is thrilled when she discovers the truth, as she uses the information to drop thinly veiled threats to Jerome that if he doesn't stop playing hardball she will tell his wife about the affair. As such Claudia and Emily get a very good deal. The meeting over, Claudia goes to a costume shop to get ready for the celebration that will mark the sale of the hotel to a group of Chinese investors. Claudia begins to question Emily regarding her impressions of Wheeler. She tells Emily that Wheeler was an only child born in Philadelphia, stuttered as a child, and was a completely self-made man. She confesses that she became obsessed with him, but that Wheeler would never touch her. She asks Emily if anything happened between her and Wheeler, but Emily says no. Just as they are leaving the store Claudia's assistants reveal that a man bought the deed to the old hotel prior to the finalization of the deal, and both women know who it was. When they confront Wheeler he admits that he was the one who purchased, infuriating Claudia. Claudia decides to go ahead with the sale even though she doesn't own the hotel, hoping that she will be able to circumvent what Wheeler has done. Emily strongly advises her against this course of action, but Claudia will not be deterred. After the paperwork has been signed Claudia arranges a huge party to commemorate the event. Emily spots Wheeler in the crowd and asks him why he bought the hotel, but before he can answer she is swept away in the crowd.

The next morning Claudia invites a young surfer up to her room, but asks Emily to stay since she is able to speak Portuguese and wants her to help translate what the surfer says. Emily is clearly uncomfortable with the idea but agrees. Things get very heated and the three nearly end up sleeping together, but the moment is broken by an angry Wheeler, who interrupts the proceedings. Emily, at an emotional breaking point because of his actions, accuses Wheeler of intentionally setting people up to disappoint him and then throwing them aside when they do. He responds that he never sets anybody up, that they disappoint him of their own accord. As he walks away from her she screams at him that he will always be alone. Later on that day a package is delivered to Emily's room, and upon opening it she discovers that Wheeler has signed over the old hotel's deed to her, meaning that the deal with the Chinese can be salvaged. Emily goes to the hotel and finds Wheeler looking out at the ocean. She confesses to him that she loves him, but leaves when he doesn't respond.

Later that night Emily returns to her room to find Wheeler waiting for her. He reveals that as a child he hardly spoke for years after his father abandoned him, and that his teachers thought he was retarded because he never said anything in class. He tells her that he dropped out of school at a young age and worked himself to the bone, and while still a teenager entered the real estate business by purchasing a run-down house in a terrible neighborhood and fixing it up. After he began to accumulate wealth women began to be drawn to him, and he started playing games to keep things interesting. He tells her that the games became a way of life, and he doubts he would be able to quit even if he wanted to. Emily pushes Wheeler to reach out to her, offering him her heart and body if he makes an effort to simply touch her. Though he at first resists, he reaches out and desperately holds her when he thinks she is going to walk out on him. The two embrace and passionately make love. The final scene of the film shows Wheeler and Emily driving away on his motorcycle, happy together.


King's original version of the film was deemed too sexually graphic for an R-rating and the MPAA threatened to release it with an X-rating (the NC-17 rating having not yet been introduced), which would have severely limited its commercial potential. King reluctantly edited out part of a love scene between Otis and Rourke in order to bring the film into line with the R-rating. The scene in question was widely rumored in the media to have shown the two actors — who had become romantically involved during production of the film — actually having intercourse; both actors denied this, but the director was ambiguous. The uncut version of the film was released to video and features the original version of the scene; both cuts of the film are available on MGM's DVD release.


The film was mostly panned by critics around the time of its release, currently maintaining a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 15 reviews. It was nominated for two Razzie Awards including Worst Actor (Mickey Rourke) and Worst New Star (Carre Otis).

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Wild Orchid (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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