Exit to Eden


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

from the mailbox:

"I would like your opinion of a movie that drives me nuts: Exit to Eden, which is very frustrating to watch. If I didn't know better, I would swear it had a directorial change during the filming. It starts out as a very interesting mainstream look at S&M complete with the island paradise. Then the two moron cops show up and the movie changes direction from a S&M fantasy movie into a lame comedy. The thought of going from Dana Delany nude and provocative as the head mistress to seeing Rosie O'Donnell in a revealing corset is about as much of a U-turn as I can stomach. Even ignoring Rosie's lack of sex appeal, the movie just turns to shit once she and Ackroyd enter the picture."

I don't have anything to add to what you've said, at least in terms of analysis. I think you've summed up the film's problem very precisely. But it might to interesting to ask, "Why?"

It seems to be two separate movies compacted uncomfortably into one because that's just what it is. Exit to Eden was originally a romance novel, a woman's erotic fantasy, one of those things with Fabio on the cover, and it was written by Anne Rice. Yes, the same Anne Rice who is most famous as the author of Interview with a Vampire, and is now devoting her talent to Jesus. I haven't read the book and it's unlikely that I ever will, but I understand that there is nothing in it about L.A. cops or diamond smuggling, and there's no comedy. All of that was added for the movie version.

I suppose Garry Marshall felt that the original story would have to be a late-night cable film if kept in the foreground, but could get worked into a sexy mainstream film if moved to the background. Maybe he was right about that, but this script treatment just didn't work. The two stories required very different tones, and they more or less contradicted one another's virtues. As you pointed out in your letter, the viewer gets ready to sink into the erotic fantasy and then sees Ackroyd and Rosie and loses his erection. Maybe for weeks.

I know that Rice is known to be thrilled with the film adaptation of Interview With a Vampire. I'd love to hear her comments on this one.

I have to tell you, though, that I don't think the B&D story would be much of a commercial movie on its own. Garry Marshall was absolutely right that the romance between the mistress and the submissive, on its own, was nothing more than a story for adult cable, like an expanded episode of Red Shoe Diaries. He correctly identified that it needed fixing to make it a theatrical movie, but the problem was that he didn't know how to fix it. He might have been able to keep the cop story if he had filled it with dark thinly-veiled eroticism and sexy music, ala Miami Vice. Rosie and Ackroyd didn't belong at that resort, but Crockett and Tubbs would have fit right in. It didn't happen that way because Garry Marshall is most comfortable with comedy, so that's what he turned to.


Wrong answer.

In summary, my take on it is that the story had three elements: the thriller, the B&D romance, and the comedy. The romance alone, directed by Zalman King, could have made an excellent Cinemax film. The romance plus the thriller, directed by Michael Mann, could have made an excellent and unthreateningly kinky movie for limited release, ala Secretary. The romance plus the thriller plus the comedy, directed by Garry Marshall,  produced what the film is now. Which is bad. Real bad.

How bad is this movie?

The actors are miscast in general. Dana Delany is the world's least dominant dominatrix, the only dominatrix who gives you milk and cookies as part of your punishment.  And some of the romance consisted of Rosie O'Donnell making out with a young hunk, which may be the most uncomfortable love scene ever filmed. You guys voted for Rosie O'Donnell's performance here as the single worst performance ever given by a female in any movie. And, except for the nudity, Rosie is the best thing in the movie! By a wide margin. She shone like a comedic beacon compared to Ackroyd. 

On the other hand Rosie and Ackroyd are Hope and Crosby when compared to the bizarre script.

  • The jokes aren't funny.
  • The movie's philosophy was written by eighth graders.
  • The plot and dialogue are from another planet. (Mercurio asks Delany to marry him after they've been together about 10 hours.)
  • The parallel plot about the supercriminal may be the dullest crime story ever written.
  • Hector Elizondo's scenes are completely unnecessary padding.
  • The character development consisted of a couple of brief flashbacks following a direct question - like when David Letterman has one of his fantasies. ("How did I become a dominatrix? Ah, that's a very good question. Well, ...")
  • And if all that were not bad enough, Rosie O'Donnell actually narrates all the action, Sam Spade style.

Mercifully, the author never sold another movie script.

I think this would be a serious contender for the worst movie ever made if not for the copious and enjoyable nudity. There is absolutely nothing to hold your attention at any time except nekkid chicks.

Garry Marshall was definitely the wrong director for this project. That I get. What I don't get is this: if he didn't want to make a late-night cable movie, why did he buy the rights to that kind of book in the first place?


* no widescreen

* cast interviews

* behind-the-scenes montage

* minor features: bios, TV spots, etc.




It was nominated for an Oscar for cinematography.

2 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
1/2 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
07 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)


3.4 IMDB summary (of 10)


Box Office Mojo. It is memorable for one thing. It was released the same day as Pulp Fiction, and was actually in 300 more theaters than the Tarantino classic! It seems hard to believe that distributors ever thought that was the one with the greater popular appeal. Pulp Fiction ruled that weekend, while Exit to Eden didn't manage second or anywhere near. It finished fourth among new releases and eighth overall.

Pulp Fiction went on to gross some $200 million worldwide, and Exit to Eden went ... well, it didn't really go on at all. It suffered the largest week two drop-off any of that week's films, and disappeared after its contractual two weeks.


  • Full frontal female nudity: Dana Delany, Stephanie Niznik
  • Breasts: Julie Hughes, Sandra Taylor, Tanya Reid, unknowns
  • Male nudity: bum from Paul Mercurio


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


I am giving it two grades. the first is the grade it would have without the nudity. It is a film with virtually no merit. Bad script, bad casting, bad performances, unfunny jokes, inappropriate tone shifts. It would be an "E."


One cannot ignore the fact that it has some pleasant nudity, including Dana Delaney's only full-frontal scene. The nudity alone makes the film worth watching if that has value to you, thus qualifying the film for a C-. If that has no value to you, then revert back to the "E"