Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wanda Whips Wall Street (1982)

Directed by Larry Revene
Starring Veronica Hart and Jamie Gillis
Synopsis: Using her feminine wiles, Wanda Brandt (Veronica Hart) worms her way into Tyler Securities and attempts to take over the prestigious firm...and almost takes down Wall Street in the process! Enter private investigator Lou Perrini (Jamie Gillis) who is hired to sniff out the rat, and it isn't long before he's onto Wanda, in more ways than one!

(Video clips from Distribpix's channel follow the review.)

Review: Larry Revene's revered Wanda Whips Wall Street fits so cozily into the "Golden Age" of adult cinema that one can't help feeling all warm and fuzzy while watching it. The cast is a who's who of the era: Veronica Hart, Jamie Gillis, Ron Jeremy and the talented but underrated Tish Ambrose. The film was obviously made on quite a large budget (relative to its ilk, that is) and every penny seems to have been spent making Wanda look, feel and play out like a mainstream film.

The delicious Veronica Hart as Wanda.
Not that the erotic aspects are neglected, mind you. Oh no, the cast acquits itself quite well in that respect. The sexual scenes are integral to the plot, but don't suffer at all because of it. The sex is frequent, erotic and even pleasantly nasty at times! These are real people having real sex. The sex scenes are shot with flair and taste, full of heat and passion and with great gusto. These folks aren't today's Beverly Hills Bombshells, shot in such stark HD that you begin to feel like an armchair gynecologist. No worries on that point. Despite (or perhaps because of) being shot on film with actors who look like people rather than sun-bronzed robots, the sexual scenes feel absolutely real and draw you in. They are so organic that you don't really realize they are happening - you're never pulled out of the narrative they way you often can be in today's adult features.


Wanda seduces a nebbish-y broker in one
of the film's best comedic scenes.
Sex aside, how does the film hold up? Very well, I'm happy to report! The film is brimming with location footage, from the early shots of Wanda's arrival in New York City, to the hustle and bustle of the Stock Exchange floor! While the scenes of the actors on the floor were shot on a studio set, they are so seamlessly integrated into the location footage that the viewer never gives it a second thought. By the time Wanda hit theaters in 1982, the claustrophobic hotel rooms and dingy apartments of the Deep Throat era were long gone, and adult filmmaking had hit its stride. Productions like Wanda seemed to be harbingers that the adult film would soon take its place as it's own genre in the mainstream milieu. The arrival of video derailed that notion, but it's fun to speculate about what might have been!

Jamie Gillis and Veronica Hart.
All the clever camera work and location footage in the world would be little use without an outstanding cast to carry the film, and fortunately Wanda is not short on talent! Of course, you know you're in for a good time when Veronica Hart takes the lead. Despite Wanda's shady machinations (including duping a dying man out of his shares) you really can't help but like her. Hart gives Wanda a warmth and a charm that just jumps off of the screen. Equally comfortable in both dramatic and comedic roles, Hart's comic timing is perfection here. Wanda is at heart a comedic farce, and Hart pitches her delivery to that level making her scenes vastly enjoyable.

Insider trading.
Hart is ably propped up by her daffy sidekick Janie, played by the wonderful Tish Ambrose. Ambrose appeared in dozens and dozens of films, but rarely was given much to work with to show her talents. Fortunately, Larry Revene knows what he is doing and Ambrose plays to role with a wide-eyed sincerity and kooky charm, getting the film's biggest laughs. Aside from our heroine, she is perhaps the most memorable character here. Ambrose gets the best of the comedic lines and she knows how to deliver them. It's a pity the actress would rarely be given the chance to show her talent in subsequent films. When she is onscreen, the film is electric.

Jamie Gillis and Ron Jeremy.
Jamie Gillis, as the private investigator, plays his role in a rather subdued manner but manages to retain the screen presence that makes him so hard to turn away from. He has such intensity that he knows that he doesn't need to overplay in order to make an impression. His sidekick Ron Jeremy is nicely restrained here. Directors tended to cast Jeremy in over-the-top roles, but he actually shines much more brightly here in his role as second banana. He knows what is required of him and plays the role as such - no mugging or angling for face time. Wanda gives him one of his best roles, in my opinion.

On the prowl.
The supporting cast is full of familiar faces. Samantha Fox has a small role as an embittered stock trader, Ron Hudd and George Payne turn up as sexual conquests, and the glorious Sharon Mitchell appears by literally rising up behind a copulating couple and joining in. She has no dialogue, but her appearance is memorable. The non-sex cast is fun as well. Kurt Mann plays a hilariously swishy board member with an arched-eyebrow and knowing glint in his eye. A veteran of many-a sex film for The Amero Brothers, Mann is always terrific comic relief. He would wrap up his onscreen career a few years later with a bit role in Passage Thru Pamela, and he is in his prime in Wanda. Another non-sex stalwart is on hand, Patricia Dale, as the wonderfully acerbic office shrew. Another noteworthy performance is the actress who plays the burgled executive's wife. She is a delight, an absolutely highlight of the film. Her identity, sadly, seems to have been lost to the mists of time.

Picnic lunch.
The space behind the camera boasts two people of a very impressive pedigree. The script was written by frequent Chuck Vincent collaborator Rick Marx who would go on to pen Vincent's undisputed masterpiece In Love two years later. Keeping all these pieces of the cinema puzzle together is prolific and talented cinematographer-turned-director Larry Revene. Also an alumnus of the Chuck Vincent stable, he lensed dozens of films - both hard and legit - over the years, and proves with Wanda that he has what it takes to helm a feature film on his own. With Larry Revene Wanda reaches heights it might not have with anyone else calling the shots. Revene is a genius who is finally getting his due in recent years.

The mystery actress who gives one of the film's
best performances!
While I dislike the term "couples film" (because what one couple likes and what another enjoys can be worlds apart) Wanda is often labelled as such. I believe it gets that designation because it's distinctly non-gonzo. The script is a delight, the cast and crew are talented and the sex is hot without being sterile or misogynistic. It is this mainstream appeal that no doubt led to the quasi-sequel Stocks and Blondes, which re-uses footage from Wanda to create a new storyline while simultaneously tying up Wanda's loose ends. But that's another story for another time.

Until then, I whole-heartily recommend Wanda Whips Wall Street for your collection. It's got the sexual goods, but it's unbridled hilarity is what sets it apart from so many other adult comedies of the day and hence. Wanda Whips Wall Street is a laugh riot from start to finish.


Samantha Fox and Veronica Hart.
DVD Release: Wanda has long been available on home media, first on videocassette and later on DVD. However, we can now rejoice further as the film gets a fabulous re-release from Distribpix. The new DVD features a newly-struck master (in 2k!) from the original elements. The results are stunning. While the original elements do have some damage, most of this has been successfully scrubbed away and the vast majority of the film is as pristine as any film of its era could hope to look. The colors, the black levels, the flesh tones are uniformly gorgeous. The restoration is simply astounding! Distribpix is the absolute master when it comes to the presentation of classic adult films on home media these days!

Director Larry Revene and star Veronica Hart
reminisce about the making of Wanda.
The DVD is also bustling with wonderful extras to explore. At the top of the list is a hilarious and informative commentary from star Veronica Hart and director Larry Revene. The two obviously have great affection for each other and for the film, and it's nice to know their recollections of the time, the film and the cast are preserved for posterity in this way!

Other extras include a featurette on the restoration of the elements and a fun ephemera slide show. Distribpix has done it again with another fantastic release! An essential purchase! Available directly from Distribpix.

-Johnny Stanwyck




Clips of Wanda Whips Wall Street from Distribpix.

1 comment:

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