Nicolas Cage as wild Sailor Ripley – with a snakeskin-jacket and an Elvis Presley voice – and Laura Dern as the uninhibited Southern sex bunny Lula Pace Fortune – with a weakness for black bras and see-through leggings – create mayhem as they take their own Yellow Brick Road to happiness.
Sailor is introduced while performing impromptu brain surgery on a knife-wielding attacker who has been hired by Lula’s momma (Diane Ladd, Laura Dern’s real momma), a Dynasty-inspired trash queen (platinum hair, orange nails) who doesn’t want Sailor around unless she can have him for herself.
So Sailor and Lula set off to roam the South in a vintage black convertible Thunderbird, driving from the Carolinas to New Orleans and Texas, with momma’s private eye (Harry Dean Stanton) and hired killers on their trail.
Amid references to Marilyn and Elvis, incest and rape, flaming match heads and kerosene killings, this unlikely tribute to The Wizard of Oz created shock waves because of its provocative sexiness and the bizarre and amoral behaviour of the nasty on-the-run lovers.
Lula clicks her red slippers when she’s accosted by the brown-gummed Texas porn king Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe). Her mother cackles like the Wicked Witch. And the Good Witch advises Sailor, “Lula loves you” – to which he responds, “But I’m a manslaughterer, a robber and I haven’t had any parental guidance”.
The Wizard of Oz imagery lightens the subversive elements but writer-director David Lynch’s incorporation of a ritual murder and his addition of such characters as the killer Mr Reindeer (W Morgan Shepherd) and the dying victim of a car accident (Sherilyn Fenn) temper the movie’s dark levity.
The movie is at its seamiest and steamiest when Lula and Sailor make love in seedy motels and when Bobby Peru forces Lula to repeat an obscene request until her loathing for him dissolves to uncertain desire.
Despite the critical backlash at the time of its release, with Wild at Heart, Lynch asserted himself as the most daring director in America.
Lula Pace Fortune
Harry Dean Stanton
J E Freeman
Girl in accident
W Morgan Shepherd
David Patrick Kelly
Pruitt Taylor Vince