Friday, April 20, 2012

Ten Statements About....WILD SIDE (1995)

Anne Heche and Christopher Walken have a competition to see
who's unsexier....
"You're gonna fuck your chauffer to prove you love me?"
"See, the woman is smart."

1) I am going to refrain from making a connection between the disaster that is this film and Don Cammell's suicide...but I can certainly see why he had his name taken off of it, and why so little of his fingerprints is on this film. Nu Image took a typically quirky, sexually perverse Cammell script and turned it into a Skinemax cookie cutter 'erotic thriller.'

2) I have to wonder whether Christopher Walken signed on to do a Don Cammell film, only to revert into Chris Walken Parody Mode when he realized how little control Cammel had of the film. In the first scene, Walken's Bruno feels like an actual character--but when he is reintroduced into the story about halfway through, he's all tics and pronounced halting speech and bizarre behavior.

3) Remember when we all considered Anne Heche to be a potential big star? She's such a weird choice for the female lead (Cammell apparently fought for her). Yeah, she's got a certain sexual coldness--but it's not the 'Ice Queen' coldness of Grace Kelly, but the coldness of the banker she's supposedly portraying. There's no hint in her performance as to why Heche's Alex/Johanna makes all the other main characters go all lusty for her.

4) Steven Bauer's awful performance stands out as the worst of a lot of bad performances...but then, how can you even begin to sell a scene where Christopher Walken, playing your boss, is preparing to anally rape you as proof that he loves the woman you blackmailed into cooperating him as part of your undercover sting operation?  It's a strange, strange thing to process.
"So will turning lesbian do the same for my career as it
did for yours?"

5) Also strange is watching the relationship between Alex and Joan Chen's Virginia....well, maybe blossom is too weak a word--explode is more like it. The whole character arc between the two seems to be firmly in 'Say Not Show' territory, two scenes of heavy kissing besides the point. Of course...

6) know your efforts to engage us in your main character has failed when, when Virginia heads off to do something rather mundane, you realize you want to go see what she's doing instead of Alex.

7) If, as I suspect, the Nu Image people were envisioning an erotic thriller, I can imagine why they were horrified by the lack of actual 'erotic' in the erotic thriller. There's a real chasteness to the few and far between sex scenes, and it looks like the only nudity is confined to Heche showing her tits twice.
"Get away from me before you do for my career what you did
for Wiseguy!"

8) I dunno....when you call a computer virus 'The Hiroshima,' you expect it to be a) a little more impressive when it's used (off-screen), and b) play a much, much bigger role in the plot. But then, that would require an actual plot.

9) Yep, rape is an excellent way to recruit a banker/prostitute to be the 'shark bait' in your federal operation to capture a major crime boss....

10) I'll be the first to admit that Cammell, like his friend Nicholas Roeg, wasn't much when it came to dialogue--but Ye Gods, are some of the lines in the ninety minutes goes beyond bad into pure befuddlement. People simply do not talk this way unless they're drunk or joking.

Overall...A truly dreadful thing that has a patina of sadness given that it was the last film of a very sparse filmography from a potentially great director.


  1. Hey, Tom -- a couple questions / asides. First, about Steven Bauer. He's still alive, not sure what unsavory issues you're alluding to -- I'm not familiar with any, but now I'm curious.

    I recall this film was shown frequently on Cinemax during the height of the "erotic thriller" craze and sometimes, not always, these airings included the loooooong sex scene between Heche and Chen. It wasn't "chaste" by any measure and was very erotic. I don't personally subscribe to that Howard Stern, post adolescent fascination with lipstick lesbians, but I have to confess that scene left me in a hot and bothered puddle. I wonder if we're talking about the same version.

    Have you ever read (or tried to read) Crammell's novel Fan-Tan written with Brando? I can't recall much of it myself, but I'd love your take.

  2. Okay...why was I convinced that Bauer, like Ray Sharkey, died of complications from Hiv in the late 90's? I am getting even more sieve-brained in my old age.

    The version I watched contained no long sex scene...there was some topless necking (from Heche) in a theater, and some passionate making out in a men's room, but nothing I'd consider a sex scene.

    I have not read said novel, although I'm willing to bet it was based on JERICHO, the movie Brando had wanted to make with Cammell about a CIA hitman which was purportedly horrificaly violent (Brando claimed no one was left alive at the end). Incidentally, it was JERICHO that brought Cammell to the attention of the producers who made this film...