In the ludicrous soft-core fantasia Wild Orchid, Mickey Rourke is so tan he looks as though he’d spent a week with his head in a microwave. As Wheeler, a mysterioso stud-entrepreneur living in Rio, Rourke sports a gold pirate earring, wears Italian sports coats over his bare chest, and speaks in the sort of impassive, Mr. Cool whisper that says, ”How could mere words express my soul?”

In Wild Orchid, the more passion people feel, the quieter (and slower) they talk. Folding his lips into a cupid’s-bow smirk, Rourke will gaze into the eyes of his latest prospect and murmur something like, ”You. . .are beautiful.” The words come out so haltingly, with such a minimum of energy — it’s all subtext, you see — that it’s as though he were dictating to an engraver. It’s hard to believe people ever complained about not being able to understand Marlon Brando. Rourke is like Brando on sedatives-he can barely be bothered to mumble.

Wild Orchid was packaged by the same writer-producer team that did 9 1/2 Weeks, the previous hymn to Mickey Rourke, Monosyllabic Sex God. Rourke may do this stuff for money (9 1/2 Weeks, a box-office dud in the U.S., was a huge hit in Europe), but it’s also clear that he loves playing these lizard-king gigolos. Although Wild Orchid is supposed to be about Wheeler’s seductive mastery over a voluptuous innocent (Carre Otis), it’s Wheeler who’s the true love object; the camera practically caresses his leathery skin. And Rourke, despite his narcissistic posing, is such a natural actor that he commands the screen even in a fiasco like this one.

Wild Orchid wants to be a kind of Last Samba in Rio, but it’s really just a racy perfume commercial posing as a movie. The filmmakers provide the usual land-of-the-tropics atmospherics — ”wild” Brazilian dances, enigmatic women standing around in costume-ball masks at the Rio Carnival. They serve up Jacqueline Bisset as a middle-aged vamp who’s five energy levels higher than anyone else in the movie (all that sublimation, you know). And, of course, we get such up-to-the-minute erotic cliches as lovers being splashed with water and — my personal favorite — looming, you-are-there close-ups of a man licking drops of sweat off his lover’s navel.

Since the filmmakers are working in the finest tradition of Emmanuelle, they’ve been careful to include a luscious young starlet who can’t act. Newcomer Otis has puffy lips and luxurious eyebrows; she looks like a cross between Kim Basinger and Kelly McGillis. Otis has an uncanny ability to make spoken dialogue sound dubbed, yet that’s hardly a liability, since her zombie delivery is a perfect complement to Rourke’s. The two don’t bed down until the final scene, rendering Wild Orchid — if nothing else — the longest movie ever made about foreplay.

Wild Orchid
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