Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Wild at Heart (1990)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Wild at Heart (1990)

In writer/director David Lynch's R-rated neo-noirish lovers-on-the-run road film - it was a cult arthouse romance film and the winner of the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or; it was based on the 1990 novel by Barry Gifford, part one of a series of Sailor and Lula stories, entitled Wild at Heart: The Story of Sailor and Lula. It was basically a vengeful and violent pursuit film filled with double-crossing characters - a psychopathic, vindictive homicidal mother (to avoid complicity in her own crimes) had hired various sleazy assassins to pursue after two fugitives - her passionate 'wild at heart' daughter accompanied by her ex-convict paroled lover. Imagery and dialogue often made references to "The Wizard of Oz."

The violent, sex-drenched film, Lynch's follow-up to Blue Velvet (1986), was originally threatened with an X-rating, until Lynch toned it down. Some of the most explicit erotic scenes were not included in the final cut, including an orgasm with Lula describing it as being ripped open by an animal, and another in which she proposed oral sex on Sailor's face ("Take a bite out of Lula"). See Sex in Films for uncensored version

  • during the opening title credits, a simple wooden stick match ignited and became a blast furnace of blazing heat, emphasizing one of the film's themes - pyromania; it told about two sex-crazed, star-crossed lovers who went on the run westward from North Carolina
  • the two lovers were:
    • Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage), a 23 year-old, an Elvis-loving bad-boy, who claimed his snakeskin jacket was "a symbol of my individuality and my belief in personal freedom"
    • Lula Pace Fortune (Laura Dern), a sex-loving, blonde, horny, 20 year-old southern girl, Sailor's girlfriend, nicknamed "Peanut"; she described to Sailor how she had been sexually abused and raped at age 13 by her father's business partner "Uncle Pooch" (Marvin Kaplan) - and had an abortion
  • Note: according to Lula's deranged and domineering mother Marietta Fortune (Best Supporting Actress-nominated Diane Ladd, Laura Dern's real mother), Lula's father Clyde had allegedly died in a self-immolating suicide, although in reality, he was murdered by her mother's hired gangster-friend Marcello Santos (J. E. Freeman). Her cackling mother was complicit and witnessed the killing. Lula's mother Marietta was compared to the Wicked Witch by Lula, and Sailor called her a "piece of white trash." Marietta feared that since Sailor had been a "driver" for Santos, he would know "too much" - that Clyde's death was homicide and that she was responsible.

Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage)

Lula Pace Fortune (Laura Dern)

Marietta Fortune (Diane Ladd)
  • the film opened in Cape Fear in southeastern NC, where Sailor and Lula were at a dance hall. Sailor was confronted in the dance hall's restroom by switchblade-wielding, African-American hired killer Bob Ray Lemon (Gregg Dandridge), who had been paid by Lula's crazed, monstrous, vindictive and obsessed mother Marietta Fortune to attack him and wrongly accuse him of propositioning Marietta: ("Crazy f--kin' bad boy, tryin' to f--k your girl's Mama!"). Sailor immediately fought back against the false accusation and viciously killed Bob Ray in public view, and subsequently was charged with manslaughter.
  • [Note: The truth (revealed later) was that Marietta had drunkenly attempted to seduce Sailor in the men's restroom in the dance hall: ("Sailor boy! How'd you like to f--k Lula's Mama?...Lula's Mama would like to f--k you"), but he rejected her. Humiliated, Marietta became fixated with jealousy over Sailor's interest in Lula and took revenge. She threatened Sailor: "I'm gonna cut your balls off and feed 'em to ya." She immediately hired Bob Ray Lemon to keep Sailor away from her daughter. After Bob Ray's death, Marietta warned and reprimanded Lula that she must never see Sailor again: "And you know you aren't, and I mean are not gonna see him ever. End of story."]
  • Sailor served almost two years of a prison term in the Pee Dee Correctional Institution. When he was released from prison, Lula disobediently and happily picked up Sailor in her black 1965 Ford Thunderbird convertible. They drove to a room at the Cape Fear Hotel to make passionate love. Sailor proposed breaking his parole and heading westward with Lulu to California to escape Lula's domineering mother
  • back for a night of dancing on the Cape Fear dance floor, Sailor fought off a suitor who inappropriately approached Lula, and then serenaded her with Elvis' "Love Me": (Lyrics: "Treat me like a fool Treat me mean and cruel But love me Wring my faithful heart Tear it all apart But love me (won't you love me?)..."). Later during further hot love-making in their hotel room, he vowed that he would only sing his favorite Elvis love song: "Love Me Tender" to his future wife
  • the next morning, she told him she had visions of the Wicked Witch of the East flying in. He responded: "The way your head works is God's own private mystery." As they smoked cigarettes in bed, Lula told him: "You remind me of my Daddy, you know. Mama told me he liked skinny women with breasts that stood up and said 'Hello'."
  • Lula's persistent mother Marietta hired two others to hunt down and retrieve Lula and get rid of Sailor:

PI Johnnie Farragut (Harry Dean Stanton), Marietta's Part-Time Boyfriend

Evil Gangster-Assassin Marcello Santos (J. E. Freeman)
    • Johnnie Farragut (Harry Dean Stanton), a level-headed but weary-looking private detective, Marietta's part-time boyfriend
    • Marcello Santos (J. E. Freeman), a cold, menacing, and evil criminal gangster/assassin, another of Marietta's boyfriends; he had helped Marietta get rid of her husband Clyde by setting him on fire (a fact known by Sailor); Santos' secondary goal was to also eliminate Farragut
A Plot to Murder PI Johnnie Farragut

Santos' Decadent Crime Mob Boss "Mr. Reindeer" (W. Morgan Sheppard)

Mr. Reindeer's Accomplice: Voodoo Woman Juana (Grace Zabriskie)
  • during their early search for the fugitives, Santos contacted his mysterious, decadent crime mob boss "Mr. Reindeer" (W. Morgan Sheppard); he was pictured on the toilet with a topless dancer and then with two topless handmaidens or valets
  • "Mr. Reindeer" then communicated (via a symbolic reference to two 'silver dollars' or two hits) to an unseen voodoo woman, his accomplice - handicapped Juana (Grace Zabriskie) who walked with a cane, and two other killers: Reggie (Calvin Lockhart) and Dropshadow (David Patrick Kelly). Their job was to eliminate two individuals: (1) PI Farragut (to prevent him from learning more about their dubious and illicit criminal activities), and (2) Sailor; Marietta became worried that Farragut was endangered
  • after Sailor and Lula entered New Orleans and had sex in their hotel room, she complimented him on his love-making skills, with a Wizard of Oz reference: "Sometimes, Sail', when we're makin' love, you just about take me right over that rainbow. You are so aware of what goes on with me, I mean, you pay attention. And I swear, baby, you got the sweetest c--k. It's like it's talkin' to me when you're inside. Like it's got this little voice all its own. Oh, you get right on me."
  • in the back of a night-club bar known as Robbie's in New Orleans during their fugitive flight, Sailor recalled and described to Lula (in order to excite her) an especially memorable sexual encounter he once had as a 'bad boy' with Irma (Charlie Spradling) when he was visiting his cousin, Junior Train, in Savannah
  • in response, Lula urged him: "Jesus, honey! You more than sort of got what you come for. Uh, oh. Baby, you'd better run me back to the hotel. You got me hotter than Georgia asphalt." Sailor replied: "Say no more, but go easy on me, sweetheart. Tomorrow we got a lot of drivin' to do." After another bout of feverish love-making, Lula speculated: "Wouldn't it be fabulous if we someway stayed in love for the rest of our lives?...It'd make the future so simple and nice."
  • meanwhile, "Mr. Reindeer" complied and carried through with Santos' request to eliminate PI Farragut, causing Marietta to go crazy with fear for hiring him - she painted her entire face with red lipstick, and called Farragut to announce her arrival in New Orleans the next evening. However, it had already been arranged with Mr. Reindeer's henchmen Reggie, Dropshadow and Juana to capture and kill Farragut in New Orleans. He was assaulted in his hotel room, kidnapped, tortured, and murdered (a gunshot to the back of the head) by the group led by Juana
  • during their continuing car journey westward somewhere in rural Texas (on a metaphoric "Yellow Brick Road"), Sailor and Lula came upon an ominous car accident - and a dying and bloody car wreck victim Julie Day (Sherilyn Fenn) who was confused and complained about "sticky stuff in my hair" (unaware that she had blood in her hair), and that she couldn't find a bobby pin, her wallet or her purse before she collapsed and died in front of them

Perdita Durango (Isabella Rossellini), Juana's Daughter

Perdita's Hitman-Boyfriend Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe)
  • in Big Tuna, TX, Sailor spoke to an old associate - bleached-blonde Perdita Durango (Isabella Rossellini), Juana's daughter - who confirmed to Sailor that Marietta and Santos had together conspired to immolate Lula's father, and that they believed Sailor knew of their crime. Perdita was the Mexican mistress of psychotic, hot-headed ex-Marine and no-good weirdo-hitman Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe) (with rotten teeth)
  • after their repeated bouts of sex together, Lula revealed her pregnancy and morning sickness to Sailor on a note. He promised he wouldn't let things get any worse
  • in a tense sequence while Sailor was away, Bobby approached Lula in her motel room, and deduced that she was pregnant (he viewed 'morning sickness' throwup on the floor); he sexually threatened and assaulted Lula after crudely taunting her, and then demanded that she say: "F--k me!" But then after groping her down her entire body and her weak whispering of the two words, he humiliated and pushed her away: ("Someday honey I will — but I gotta get goin'"). As he left, Lula clicked her red-slippered heels together multiple times (another Oz reference) and burst into tears
  • afterwards without Lula's knowledge, Bobby urged Sailor to join him to rob a feedstore in Lobo, TX, by convincing Sailor that he needed "easy money" now that Lula was pregnant: "Really could set you and that little lady up good." Sailor agreed: "That kinda money will get us a long way down that Yellow Brick Road." Sailor was unaware that it was part of Bobby's plan (in concert with "Mr. Reindeer") to make sure that he didn't survive the robbery due to a "bad accident" (by providing him with a gun loaded with blanks)
  • Lula became suspicious that Sailor was speaking to "black angel" Peru: "This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top. I wish you'd sing me 'Love Me Tender'. Oh, I wish I was somewhere over that rainbow."
  • during the aborted heist with Perdita serving as the getaway driver, after Bobby had shot and seriously wounded the two feedstore employees, he raced outside and was shot multiple times by an alert police officer. As he fell to his knees, the wounded Bobby experienced a startling suicidal death when he blew off his own head with his sawed-off shotgun. Unharmed, Sailor surrendered and was arrested by police, and knew he had let down Lula. He was sentenced to serve a prison term (of almost six years). Marietta arrived at the police station with Santos to fly Lula back home to North Carolina
  • Lula wrote Sailor a note about keeping their baby ("our child") that would be named Pace, if it was either a boy or a girl; in the meantime, she had relocated to Los Angeles
  • in the final scene set almost six years later, Sailor was about to be released from prison after serving his time, and was due at the LA train depot at 6 pm; on the phone with Lula, the angry and crazed Marietta was adamant that Lula not associate with Sailor anymore: "Girl, what if I told you not to go?", but Lula threateningly said that it wouldn't make any difference: "Mama, if you get in the way of me and Sailor's happiness, I'll f--kin' pull your arms out by the roots!" and she slammed the phone down; in Lula's living room, she toppled a photograph of her mother when she splashed it with her drinking glass - and it began to sizzle and melt (a reference to Dorothy's elimination of the Wicked Witch of the West with water)
Upon His Release From Jail 6 Years Later

Sailor Awaiting Lula's Arrival at LA Train Station

Sailor Was Greeted by Lula and Son Pace
  • Sailor was greeted by Lula at the train depot in Los Angeles, now with their infant child named "Pace" (Glenn Walker Harris Jr.). After driving off a short distance with them, Sailor decided that it was a "mistake" to get together again with her and raise a family: ("He ain't never known me, Lula, so there's not much for him to forget. And not seeing each other for six years makes it next best to simple for us, too. It's what makes sense, is all"). He referenced "The Cisco Kid" and "Pancho" in his decision to leave her, as he told Pace:

    Oye, amigo. If ever somethin' don't feel right to you, remember what Pancho said to the Cisco Kid: 'Let's went, before we're dancin' at the end of a rope, without music.'

  • his parting words to Lula were: "You've been doin' fine without me, Peanut. There's no need to make life tougher than it has to be." After kissing Lula, he left them and walked away back to the train depot on foot, where he was surrounded, assaulted and knocked out by nine gang members after he derided them as faggots: ("What do you faggots want?")
  • while unconscious, he received an hallucinatory visitation from the Good Witch (Sheryl Lee): "Sailor Ripley. Lula loves you," but Sailor felt he wasn't good enough for Lula: "But I'm a robber and a manslaughterer. And I haven't had any parental guidance," but was assured that even though he was 'wild at heart,' Lula had forgiven him. She advised: "Don't be afraid, Sailor....If you are truly wild at heart, you'll fight for your dreams." She urged him to remain with Lula: "Don't turn away from love, Sailor. Don't turn away from love." She threw him a kiss.

Sailor Knocked Unconscious by Gang

Sailor's Hallucinatory Visitation by the Good Witch (Sheryl Lee)

Sailor Serenading Lula with "Love Me Tender"
  • Sailor apologized to his dumbfounded gang attackers for calling them homosexuals: "You've taught me a valuable lesson in life." The film ended with an ironic, cliched happy ending, when Sailor had a change of heart, ran back to Lula driving away in her convertible but stuck in traffic, and told her: "I just met the Good Witch." He reunited with her - singing "Love Me Tender" as he had earlier promised.

Sailor and Lula's Love-Making at the Cape Fear Hotel

Decadent "Mr. Reindeer" In a Bathroom With a Prostitute-Dancer (Lisa Ann Cabasa)

"Mr. Reindeer" Ordering Two Hits on Farragut and Sailor

Hitman Reggie (Calvin Lockhart) for "Mr. Reindeer" - With One of the Silver Dollars

Sailor and Lula in New Orleans

Irma (Charlie Spradling): "Oh, baby, what a bad boy you are!"

Lula: "You got me hotter than Georgia asphalt"

Lula's Psychopathically-Crazed Mother Marietta

On Their Road-Trip - in San Antonio, TX

The Injured and Dying Car Accident Victim

Lula's Revelation to Sailor: "I'm pregnant"

Bobby Peru's Crude Sexual Taunting and Attack on Lula

Lula Clicking Red Heels Together After Bobby Peru's Attack

During Aborted Robbery, the Suicidal Death Scene of Bobby Peru

Sailor Arrested and Jailed For Heist

Marietta Retrieving Daughter Lula From Police Station After Sailor's Arrest

6 Years Later: Marietta to Lula: "What If I told you not to go?"

Toppled, Melting Picture of Lula's Mother


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