Wild Side (1995) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

I had to watch this movie, of course. It was required to keep my porno board certification.

So much has been written about Anne Heche's personal life in the last six years that it has completely obscured the fact that she is talented and beautiful in a unique way. We all know the tabloid stuff. First she was Steve Martin's girlfriend, the she was Ellen Degeneres' girlfriend. Then she was the subject of Steve Martin's not-so-subtle parody, as the Heather Graham part in Bowfinger, a character willing to be anybody's girlfriend if it helps her career.

Anne Heche: girlfriend to the stars, kind of like the Britt Eckland of the 1990's, except less picky about the gender of the stars.

But Heche is no hanger-on like Eckland. She's a true talent who can be terrific in both comedy and drama, and she's good in this. The role is ludicrous, but she finds a place to fix the character, lives in it, and makes it realistic and sympathetic. In fact, she single-handedly manages to carry this outlandish grade-B straight-to-something movie to respectability.

Well, almost.

Here's the premise. (I know it sounds like I'm making this summary up, like my usual pack of lies and exaggerations, but this is the real plot, I swear).

Heche is a rising banker with a craving for an elegant beachfront lifestyle which is way above her means. In order to make her expensive ends meet, she takes in some tricks as a $1500 per night call girl. Turns out that one of her clients is the world's biggest money launderer (Christopher Walken). He wants much more after a night with her, and so he must find out whether she's a federal agent. To test her, he tells the chauffeur to give her the ol' trouser snake, and report back her reaction. The chauffeur (Steven Bauer) is happy to do so, even though he knows full well she isn't an undercover Fed, because he is an undercover Fed.


Anne Heche and Joan Chen have a very tender love scene which is now a part of cinema legend.

Heche also has another sex scene and changes her clothing backstage at the opera house.

Steven Bauer drops his pants twice, for sex with Heche and later upon Walken's command, providing brief glimpses of his butt.

Bauer does know, however, about her double life, and he threatens to reveal it to her bank unless she:

a. Humps the living daylights out of him

b. Helps him bring Walken in, so he can be the all-time superstud Federal Agent.

Heche doesn't want to do it, even with the blackmail threat, so Bauer simply rapes her. Then, when she calls the Bureau, or Treasury, or whoever he works for, in order to tattletale on him, the top dog agent says "Well, if you care to pursue that, we'll have to pursue prostitution charges against you, and we have these pictures and witnesses, and you don't really want that, do you?"

So Heche is fucked - in more ways than one - and has to go along with the sting.

The next character to show up is Walken's wife (Joan Chen), who gets busy moving money through Heche's bank. But, as luck and a bad script would have it, Chen is a part-time carpet muncher, and Heche falls in love with her. The best part of the resolution stage is when Walken gets upset with Bauer and decides to sodomize him. As he explains, "It's not sex, it's a power thing". Bauer is so intent on making the collar that he goes along with it, puts a condom on Walken's tallywacker, drops his pants and bends over.

Did I mention that Walken is so obsessed with Chen that he wears a wig which is an exact duplicate of her hair?

Is that enough of a summary to show how completely deranged this film is? It might have worked as a comedy with a few tweaks here and there, but they don't play it for laughs. Walken and Bauer go way way over the top, while Chen is just window dressing. But Heche is somehow able to function, perfectly anchored, in the midst of this storm. Damned if I know how, but she made the part believable. She is tremendous in the sex scene with Chen - she had me convinced I was watching real sex.

I have to admit that the combination of the deranged script, bizarre performances from Bauer and Walken, and maniacal directing techniques make this a very fascinating film in many ways. It has an unrestrained, uncontrolled lunacy that has a certain fascinating freshness that you can't find in Hollywood product. When something is little over the top, it has no great impact, but when it's flying way over the top, it can produce jaw-dropping fascination. I was mesmerized by Wild Side in spite of the nagging voice inside me which kept reminding me that I'm not supposed to sit through crap like this with my hand so far from the remote, especially since the director himself hated it!

DVD info from Amazon

  • Full screen 4:3 version only. No features.

  • 90 minute cut

Region 2 DVD info from Amazon UK

  • widescreen

  • additional film by  Donald Cammell

  • interview with Donald Cammell

  • 111 minute PAL cut

Director Donald Cammell (who decades earlier wrote and co-directed Performance, the legendary offbeat Mick Jagger film) was said to be severely depressed by the studio's treatment of this film, despised this version, and asked to have his name removed from the credits. The film was released to video and cable in late '95.

Cammell took a gun to his own head in April of 1996. (I'm not implying a direct causality, merely reciting the chronology).

If you can play a Region 2 DVD, you can now watch a 111 minute widescreen director's cut which was cut together in 1999 by the editor, who was working with the director's notes. The Region 1 DVD is a 90 minute version in a fullscreen TV scale (4:3).  The director's cut is NOT available in North America, but if you can play region 2 DVD's in PAL format, you can order it from amazon.uk.

Here is a page dedicated entirely to this director's cut (written by the editor who created it!) Several reviews praised the longer version, but I don't agree. See below.

Scoop's reflections on the two versions:

I have just watched them both consecutively. The Region 1 DVD cut is 90 minutes long in NTSC format. The director's cut is 111 minutes in PAL format. PAL speeds up all film by 4%, so it would run 115 minutes in NTSC format or in a theater.

Does one miss the 25 minutes which have been cut in the shorter version?

Not at all.

In fact, the shorter version seems fuller in the scenes that count. Those extra 25 minutes are really useless padding. The shorter cut is much better in many ways:

  • It is more economical, to be sure.

  • The short version uses the best takes, and they were fully finished. The director's cut was put together from alternate footage, including different camera angles, different facial reactions, even slightly different dialogue. That alternate footage is simply not as polished as the material in the shorter cut.

  • The scenes are also arranged in a completely different order. The shorter film is easier to follow

(Neither version is fully satisfactory. The shorter cut is available in a 4:3 version only.)


Wild Side (1995) stars Anne Heche as a banking executive with an interest in the emerging Asian market, an asshole of a boss, and a huge mortgage on her house. She decides to become at $1,500.00/trick call girl to pay off her debt, and meets Christopher Walken, strange as hell, but a banker on a grand scale, albeit not in legal banking. He is the world's biggest money launderer. He is working on a $158 Million problem, and decides Heche can help him, and his ex-wife (they divorced for tax reasons) handle the transaction. The fly in the ointment is Walken's driver, Steven Bauer, an undercover Fed who blackmails Heche into working with him. Heche has a lot on her mind when she finally meets Joan Chen as the ex-wife, but her path seems much clearer when the two women fall in love with each other. The film is actually a feminist manafesto, kind of a Boys Club but with girls.

A sex scene between Walken and Heche was much longer in the director's cut, but the shorter version seemed to have a little more material in the Heche/Chen sex scene.

Walken's character was way over the top, and he and Bauer spent way too much time chewing the scenery, but the scenes with Heche and Chen together sizzled. This is a C-, but worth the effort from fans of Heche.

The Critics Vote

  • BBC 3/5 (longer version)

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.2

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C- (both reviewers). Grade B script, but Anne Heche, a great lesbian sex scene, and some lunatic moments provide partial redemption. In many ways, it is a fascinating movie, although in the same sense that people have to slow down to look at an auto wreck.

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