The House of Squeam

A review of Exit to Eden

Welcome to Delos, where not-so-scantily clad women will
act vaguely subservient toward you, in lieu of actual slavegirls.

copyright 2007 by Pat Powers

(Note: throughout this review I will be referring to slavegirls on the island resort of Delos. Be aware that in the movie Exit to Eden there are slaveboys as well as slavegirls. I'm OK with that. Most of my comments about slavegirls may reasonably be construed to extend to slaveboys as well as slavegirls, but rather than saying "slaveboys and slavegirls" I just say "slavegirls" for the sake of brevity, and also because although I'm perfectly fine with other people thinking of slaveboys, I'd rather be thinking of the slavegirls, thankyewverymuch.)

I've read the Anne Rice novel Exit to Eden, upon which the movie Exit to Eden is based, and I didn't like either the movie or the book very much, for different reasons. But I sorta had to read the book and watch the movie because they're both mainstream works that deal with bondage, and when you've seen films like Domination Alley and Jane Bondage everyone just figures you've seen films like Exit to Eden as a matter of course, so whatchagonnado?

Dana frickin Delaney, lead hottie in the film. Can I get a homina-frickin-homina here?

However, I find the movie Exit to Eden interesting because it is, shall we say, revelatory, without any intention of being revelatory, or awareness that it's revelatory. It's revelatory because the movie literally crawls with a sense of squeamishness about its subject matter. Exit to Eden is like a mental patient who, when shown an ink blot that clearly shows and bound and gagged woman, identifies it as everything BUT a bound and gagged woman.

You get a feel for the squeamishness from the way in which the plot has been rewritten. The novel Exit to Eden was a romance of the femdom/malesub variety. The entire focus of the story was the relationship between the two lead characters.

Is that Tori Spelling? How the heck did she get in the movie?

In the movie, the leads are a pair of detectives, played by Dan Ackroyd and Rosie O'Donell, who are on the trail of a pair of international jewel thieves. The two leads from the novel are relegated to supporting characters who are in the story only because the male lead happens to have photographed one of the jewel thieves (played by Imam) which is a major problem for her since there are no other photos of her and such a photo would make it a lot easier for the cops to catch her, which she disapproves of on professional grounds. So Imam and her partner are after the male romantic lead, with an eye to killing him and destroying the film, and the cops are after the thieves for the usual reasons.

The movie's storyline is basically a romantic comedy with the bondage couple providing the romance and Ackroyd and O'Donnell providing the laughs. Going with a comedy approach struck me as a sound idea: there is much to be made light of in most forms of sex, and I'd argue that bondage is a particularly rich vein. The movie does indeed take advantage of some of the humor offered by bondage and dominance themes, but not a lot, and it's done halfheartedly at best.

Here we have one of the few halfway funny moments in Exit to Eden -- Dan Akroyd stands behind a large gong and ogles a hottie slavegirl, but is betrayed when a large "bong!" announces his woodie. It's not much, but it's all there is, almost.

The story is located (for the most part) at Delos, a resort for people who like BDSM with their R and R. (Actually, there's not a lot of SM in the movie and very little bondage, it's mostly just generalized dominance and submission behavior -- probably a fairly cogent descriptor of what the mainstream was ready for in 1995.)

Here's a revelatory bit from one of the movie's few bondage scenes. A hottie slavegirl stands with arms cuffed overhead to a pole while a senior citizen gives her a fierce tickling with a feather duster. She's paged on the resort PA system, and easily slips her hands out of the cuffs and apologizes to the guests. The filmmakers REALLY want you to know it's all a game and it's just a movie and you shouldn't get upset by anything you see.

Paul, the submale, goes to Delos for a little vacation as a slave, recommended to him by his shrink, who's also the owner of the resort (nice marketing gimmick). A VERY luscious Dana Delaney is already there, as she's quite a Big Deal person there, probably because she's a gorgeous femdom. The crooks follow Paul to Delos, and the cops follow the crooks there. At Delos, Paul goes all "Yes, mistress" over Dana Delaney, who clearly is attracted to him, though reluctant to show that she is, I guess because it would be unfemdomly.

Dana Delaney -- oh, she's a big deal hottie, alrighty.

The movie makes an uneasy attempt to weave between leering at the slavegirls (and slaveboys) and riffing on bondage and dominance. Mostly, it leers. That's good because the bondage and dominance riffs are superficial and not all that funny. I think this is primarily because whoever wrote the script (or whoever ripped the original script up and substituted their own ideas) didn't have much understanding of the novel or the subject matter of the novel, which is why they left most of it out and changed what little was left in.

Slavegirl leering at its finest. What a hottie, and almost naked, too.

I'm not complaining about the changes and omission from the book because I think all that highly of the novel Exit to Eden. I thought it pretty damned dull, considering it was a novel that had bondage and dominance as a major theme. I didn't care for the whole femdom/malesub theme of the novel, but that's just personal preference. Even when you adjust for personal preference, there wasn't much to like. It was a dull story and not much of a romance. Although it didn't have the deadening predictability that makes many genre romances so hard to read, it could have used some of the romance genre's lively sense of adventure and place. If author Anne Rice had copied that, it would have been a much better novel.

Frankly, Rice could also have used some of the, um, obsessive vigor of amateur bondage porn. And Rice is definitely capable of writing such stuff. Her "Beauty" series of novels reads a LOT like Internet BDSM porn, in fact, it's way too BDSM-y for me, but after reading any of the Beauty series, it's really hard to argue that Rice doesn't have the stuff to write hardcore BDSM action. She's a woman who's not afraid to venture into her subconscious and bring her fantasies back alive and plunk them on the printed page.

She really didn't do much of that when she wrote Exit to Eden. And the book, weak though it is, has a lot more kink in it than the movie does.

The running of the slaves in coffle. This is about as kinky as it gets, and frankly, you see much wilder stuff at any Daytona Beach spring break wet T-shirt contest.

I understand why Exit to Eden is the way it is, though. There are an awful lot of people who are not interested in BDSM, not even for a second, and even more whose interest is only intermittently present, and when that interest is present, it's mostly curiousity -- prurient curiousity as it were.

These are the people who made Exit to Eden, I think. People who are into bondage are too small a demographic to consider, and besides, the thinking would go, bondage is such a rare topic in mainstream movies, that they would have the bondage folks no matter what they did to the film.

And they were right. Where they erred was in thinking that there would be sizable mainstream audience for a film created with such a squeamish interest in its topic matter. Mirroring the attitudes of people whose interest in a film is entirely prurient curiousity will at best produce a film that's entirely prurient in nature, and puerile as well, because prurience is only skin deep. What you need is a deeper, better analysis of the film than your audience has, so you can produce rabbits out of the large hat your deeper understanding provides.

To truly get a handle on how far off course Exit to Eden was, let's think about how it should have been done.

And so, gentle reader, you and I are now Hollywood movie producers who have gotten the rights to make a movie based on the novel Exit to Eden.

Like any good Hollywood producer, we don't give a flying fuck about the source material, we are willing to discard it entirely on our least whim.

This is a good thing in this instance, because I never liked the book. Most of the time, it's a bad thing, because it's often good books that get sold for film rights. Still, there are elements to Exit to Eden I DID like. I liked the bondage resort, I liked it a LOT. I'll definitely keep that. It's fun, it's scenic, it's kinky, there's nothing wrong with any of it, just how it was treated in the movie.

I also liked the central bondage/dominance romance element. But I didn't like its polarity. I personally like maledom/femsub romances better. And besides, I think most mainstream moviegoers prefer maledom/femsub romances. I don't have any hard stats on that, but given that practically any romance up to the 1970s could reasonably be described as a maledom/femsub romance, I'd say I'm on solid ground with that one.

As I said earlier, I like the comedy approach of the movie. We'll do that, too. And I liked the idea of bringing non-BDSM folks into the story to ramp up the comedy, too. I just don't think we need a contrived cops-and-robbers plot to make it happen. I'm thinking something a lot more like the old Hope-Crosby road movies, where Hope and Crosby had endless comedic mixups in a strange country/culture. Except that this might work better as a male-female couple rather than two guys, since the topic is sexual.

Now, getting into that deeper analysis we were talking about, the thing that could add a lot of humor and a lot of sexiness to an Exit to Eden-based film would be something that plays on the similarities/differences between bondage and dominance as a sexual fantasy, and bondage and dominance as damsel in distress imagery.

There was just a tiny wee bit of that in the Exit to Eden movie, as Dan Ackroyd stumbles on Rosie O'Donnell and Imam, and assumes they're having rough lesbian bondage sex play at first. It was one of the few genuinely funny moments in the film, and it was just a bare wee sampling of the humor that COULD have been derived from the comic possibilities of such a story.

The OTHER funny moment in Exit To Eden -- Dan Akroyd temporarily mistakes this for a little lesbian rough sex between Rosie O'Donnell and Imam. Understandable, I guess. I wonder how many takes Rosie had to do before she was satisfied ... with her performance. Yeah, performance.

For example, one of the obvious things to do here is have someone who wants to kidnap the female half of our comedy duo and tie her up and gag her for nefarious purposes at large on the resort. The lead female in our story is an Inspector Clouseau type, convinced of her brilliance and legendary fighting prowess, yet constantly getting overpowered and tied up and left in all sorts of embarrassing positions by the villain, to be rescued by her deeply embarrassed boyfriend, who buys into her mythos because he loves her and would believe anything she says, no matter how impressive the evidence that she is wrong.

Getting these two to the BDSM resort is a simple matter. The hard part is handling the villain. You need a comedic villain ... someone who would never seriously hurt his victims, or whose plans to seriously hurt his victims have any prospect of working, is all wrong for this sort of thing. Like the Pink Panther, the villain should perhaps be an ultra-civilized sort of person who would never be so crude as to actually harm a damsel in distress, though he might actually put a damsel in distress.

And just as Garry Marshall did, you could have lots of scenes of naked and/or half naked hotties flouncing about in all their hottiness in the background. In fact, the squeamishness of Exit to Eden didn't just extend to the bondage and dominance themes. It also extended to the general nudity of the resort.

On the left we see a slaveclerk in a slaveclerk bikini. Nice, but you know, they coulda done better. A lot better.

See, the point of a sex resort is the sex, and the costumes of the slavegirls and slaveboys at Eden when they weren't engaged in vigorous exercise or running weren't all that naked. Or all that BDSM-y. Now, say what you like about BDSM, there's no doubting the truth that strategically placed black leather straps have a way of accentuating the lines and curves of the human body.

And while it's true that slaves may need to have their hands and feet free of bonds in order to fetch things and carry things and so forth when they're being all servile, there's no reason why a proper slavegirl couldn't wear something like this:

Here's a model who's dressed in nothing but chains (Kitty from www.shadowplayers.com). Note how powerfully her nakedness ramps up her vulnerability against the desert background, and how slavelike her chains make her look. Even if you'd put a skimpy thong bottom on her, she's still look very vulnerable. Add a gag and you've got a very hot slavegirls who can still move her arms and legs to serve others.

Or this:

Here's another smokin' hot slavegirl, this one wearing just straps and a gag, from the folks at www.shortfusevideo.com. Her arms are pinioned behind her back, but even if they weren't, for service purposes, it would still be one hot outfit.. And that big leather gag is definitely adding to the hotness. put a bit of leather down at her crotch and you've got yourself an R-rated slavegirl, of incredible hotness.

Wearing these, the slavegirls look very slave-like, and very bondage-y but able to move about and do tasks and such. And minor variances on the costume -- a thong for either costume if need be for ratings reasons -- would work just fine and still have that slavegirl look.

And I know it generally isn't done, but having some of your slavegirls wandering around wearing gags would REALLY crank up the kink factor on this story. Gags are both erotic and dramatic, but they're rarely used outside of DiD scenes, because under most circumstances people wouldn't wear them in public.

But in a bondage resort, they might. In fact, some of the slavegirls would INSIST on wearing them -- they are there because they are INTO bondage, after all. They LIKE being gagged, just like they like being tied up. It turns them on. (Some women who like bondage report that they get turned on just by the sight of ropes lying on a bed.) And gags don't detract from most forms of service in any way. (They can of course be removed when necessary for oral service, of course.) Gagged slavegirls would definitely have added enormously to the kink factor in the movie, and the great thing about them is, they don't have to be in the foreground to be effective.

A 1990s-era science fiction adventure series called Cleopatra 2525 used gagged slavegirls brilliantly as background in a scene set in a futuristic nightclub frequented by slavers. They added hugely to the futuristic atmosphere, because no one made a big deal of them -- this was a society where gagged slavegirls were a normal part of the nightclub experience.

Here we see a pair of gagged slavegirls kneeling before some guy in a gimp suit in a background scene from a network TV series called "Cleopatra 2525." The gagged slavegirls really add a dramatic flair to the scene, emphasizing how different things are in the society in which they live. It's a lesson that no one appears to have learned, because I haven't seen anything like it since in any mainstream production.

And if there had been gagged slavegirls wandering around Delos, you have to figure that would have made Delos look like a very different kind of place, which you might imagine the filmmakers would have found appealing.

Of course, the filmmakers who made Exit to Eden didn't do any of this. That's a large part of the squeamishness about the subject matter I was talking about. But the REAL giveaway to the squeamishness about bondage in Exit to Eden is this: there was almost no bondage in a film based on a book about a bondage and dominance relationship, and set in a bondage and dominance themed resort.

Here's a statue of a Greek goddess in chains, symbolic of all the bondage they DON'T practice on Delos.

And this is self-defeating when you think about it. What is it that made Exit to Eden the novel such a hot property? Other than the fact that it was written by Anne Rice, there was the fact that it had a theme about a sexy, kinda offbeat thing called bondage and dominance.

Even if a mainstream audience wouldn't be turned on by bondage the way the readers of the book were, you have to figure that there's a lot of prurient curiosity there. And if you're purchasing rights to make a movie based on the book with the idea of pandering to that prurient curiosity, then you ought to get down and PANDER to it.

And have fun while you're at it, of course.

Would a few images like this have been so terrible?

But the people who made Exit to Eden were too fucking squeamish about all the bondage and dominance that they could just barely stand to show any of it, much less PANDER it. Slavegirls writing in ecstasy in their bonds? You just weren't about to see any of that in Exit to Eden. Because that would have been TOO KINKY. Slavegirls having sex while BOUND? And GAGGED? Inconceivable!

When you make a movie and the kinkiest bondage image in it is Dan Akroyd in a leather gimp suit, you have to ask yourself some questions, such as, "What the HELL am I doing?

That's why Exit to Eden was not a huge success at the box office. It's not that the film was too kinky -- you could tell that the filmmakers took every precaution to see that it would not be too kinky. The problem is, the film wasn't kinky ENOUGH. No, not just for me, crazed bondage fiend that I am. For the MAINSTREAM folk who came to the movie to see wild and crazy bondage stuff to satisfy their prurient curiosity, and instead got the wildest, craziest bondage costume worn by ... Dan Akroyd, and the hottest sexual bondage scene performed by ... absolutely no one.

And that's who the movie turned out to appeal to ... absolutely no one.

Well, what a surprise.

The end. And we must note that a ponygirl or two wearing a buttplug would have added considerably to the kinkiness as well. Another fine bondage image from www.shadowplayers.com.