Anchor Bay // 1991 // 990 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // November 10th, 2004
"Freeze! Or I'll blow your ass away." -- Rita Lance
Long, tanned legs and creamy cleavage cradled in silk. A male lead with piercing blue eyes, a fine physique, spiky black hair that evokes a longing in your fingertips, and a boyish charm that makes women want to tame him. A female lead with captivating green eyes, soft dark hair, a perfect complexion, and an approachable manner that infects the dreams of men. Sex, violence, cops, and crooks. Put them all together, and there's only one conclusion: Silk Stalkings.
Let's get something out of the way early: Silk Stalkings is bad. Downright, gloriously...bad. It is bad in the way that all bad television should be bad, rewarding you for your tawdry tastes.
Silk Stalkings is a cop show in the same way that ALF is a scientific exploration of extraterrestrial life. Despite laughable plots, cringe-inducing dialogue, and complete departure from realism, Silk Stalkings became one of cable television's smash successes. Let's see what it has going for it.
This sexy series follows homicide detectives Rita Lance (Mitzi Kapture, Baywatch) and Chris Lorenzo (Rob Estes, Melrose Place) as they investigate "Silk Stalkings," or sexually motivated murders. The investigations are laced with lace and spiced with innuendo as Palm Beach's finest delve into the steamy underbelly of high society.
A contemporary of Baywatch and Love Street, Silk Stalkings is a precursor to today's harder cable television dramas that show actual nudity in sex scenes. Akin to a 1990s version of Charlie's Angels, Silk Stalkings is high on the jiggle factor as it features faux-police action.
In Silk Stalkings we see lots of sex, but we don't really see it. The camera crests the slope of a breast or a buttock, but it always stops at the "line." I don't have an anatomy degree, but I can always tell where the line is. Camera pans up the leg will always stop at the line, as will close-ups of bare backs or midriffs. Lacy, shadowy, and strategically lit shots are highly structured to pique our interest, while never violating standards of decency. It is the trademark mixture of eroticism and restraint that has come to define "bad" cinema.
Nonetheless, the approach worked. I remember 1991 fondly. Our house had three televisions: one in the living room, one in my parents' room, and one in my younger brother's room. When 10:00 came around and Silk Stalkings hit the cable wires, I couldn't turn my eyes from the screen. I knew that Silk Stalkings was trashy, but it was so fun I got sucked in. When the show was over I'd walk upstairs and hear the closing music coming from my parents' TV set, echoed at the other end of the hallway from my brother's room. Three sets, three generations, all tuned into this naughty USA show. It was at one time the highest-rated original cable program ever.
Sex sells, and Silk Stalkings has its fair share. Hot women in various stages of undress abound in this series. The plot lines echo the visuals, with central issues such as bondage, voyeurism, prostitution, incest, swinging, workplace trysts, nannies, and other fantasy fodder. In such an environment, a certain amount of heat is built in. While it is certainly the sex angle that draws people in, the sex is not sexy enough by itself to keep them glued to the screen. That distinction goes to lead actors Mitzi Kapture and Rob Estes.
Mitzi and Rob are extremely attractive people, which never hurts. Yet their chemistry together is what compels us. Sergeants Lance and Lorenzo may be the most charismatic screen duo of the decade. They happen to be police officers investigating crimes of passion, but they could be insurance fraud investigators or window washers and we'd still watch. Homicide investigations routinely take a back seat to Chris and Rita's flirtatious friendship.
We learn from the get-go that Chris and Rita find each other desirable (who wouldn't?), but their friendship and professional relationship are more important than a few rounds of golf. In fact, the "will they or won't they" angle is so downplayed as to be nonexistent. They won't, at least not as far as Season One is concerned. Rita and Chris are about intimacy, honesty, and flirtation, but not about sex.
So why is it that every time they share the screen, we can practically see the flames dance between them? It is chemistry, chemistry so powerful that it vaulted Silk Stalkings to the top of the cable ratings. Rita tells Chris about a nice burger joint, but all we hear is "I want to rip that holster and hot-pink blazer off of your broad shoulders and spoil you for all future women." Chris replies with an offhand remark about curly fries, and we could swear he said "Sure, rip my blazer off, you minx, but be ready for a three-day marathon of passion if you do!" It is no stretch to say that Chris and Rita having coffee is as watchable as some actual cop shows are today.
Though he certainly scored big by landing these two leads, Producer Stephen J. Cannell is no stranger to successful television shows. Cannell has been producing hit shows for decades. In the '70s he gave us The Rockford Files, followed by The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team, and 21 Jump Street in the '80s, up through The Commish and Silk Stalkings in the '90s. Cannell's shows are cheesy in a way that we don't find offensive. His best shows are like TV crack, selling a vibe that we want more of every week.
Silk Stalkings found a groove and milked it for all it was worth. The formula blinks in red neon right before your eyes: An illicit tryst turns bad and someone winds up dead. [Opening credits, followed by an aerial shot of Palm Beach and a voice-over of Rita talking about golf.] The dead person is connected to high society in some way. No one thinks it is murder, but Chris and Rita's intuition says different. With heat coming down from the press/internal affairs/politicians, Chris and Rita undertake an unpopular investigation. Rita and/or Chris flirts with a suspect to get more information, or calls on one of their many colorful underworld contacts. [Sexy cheesecake photo interlude.] The investigation stalls, and the Chief gets mad. [Cut scene to the bad guy.] Chris and Rita catch a break and close in on the criminal. A cunning plot twist ensues, the criminal dies, and Chris and Rita flirt together. [End credits.] Throughout these episodes, we learn that undercover wires always go bad at a critical moment, the police draw their guns and open fire about 45% of the time, and that most suspects in homicide investigations lounge around the pool in see-through negligees.
DVD Verdict often provides grades for each episode, but the episodes in this series are so uniform that such an exercise would be futile (B, B, B, B, B-, B, B, B+, B, B, B, and so forth). So let's try something new. The following episode discussions assume that you have either seen the episodes, have access to one of the numerous episode guides on the web, or feel that every Silk Stalkings episode has a certain uniformity that precludes any real spoilers. Nonetheless, the guilty parties will be referred to as "perps" to maintain a veil of secrecy. Instead of giving a grade, I'll cover why you should watch the episode, what makes it bad, what makes it hot, and how justice is served by the Palm Beach PD.
*"Silk Stalkings" (Pilot)
Watch it for: Rita's snarky insult-fest with a repressed Internal Affairs bureaucrat.
The Badness Factor: Rita uses a sugary, fake Southern accent to read a subject his rights and interrogate him without his catching on. The accent is bad, but even dumber is that the doofus falls for the ruse.
The Heat Factor: Chris interrogates a witness who is clad in scant lingerie and spread-eagled on a leather bench.
The Justice Factor: Rita sticks her piece into a rapist's skivvies and threatens to blow off his jewels. He is later arrested for murder, along with another baddie who Chris and Rita beat down in a parking lot.
*"Going to Babylon"
Watch it for: The Captain's hardnosed conversation with a couple of arrogant perps.
The Badness Factor: Rita uses a couple of ice cubes wrapped in a cloth napkin to self-medicate herself for a brain aneurysm.
The Heat Factor: Bikini-clad dancers writhe onstage at a swinger's club in their best '80s music-video impersonation. Chris and Rita are picked up by the perps, then get hot and heavy in an S&M dungeon.
The Justice Factor: Rita shoots the slimeball's bodyguard and then holds the perp at gunpoint. Chris violates proper search and seizure procedure to find videotaped evidence behind a one-way mirror in the S&M dungeon. Rita punches the perp in the face, then reads him his rights.
Watch it for: Rita's poolside tussle with a blonde wearing a polo shirt and nothing else.
The Badness Factor: Chris looks through the departed's datebook for clues. Everything is written in small blue ink, except for periodic entries reading "S.O.B!!!" in huge black letters. Chris dutifully writes it down in his notebook.
The Heat Factor: Chris and his radio psychologist girlfriend have a sultry on-air conversation while necking in the booth.
The Justice Factor: Chris punches the perp out cold after Cheryl's wire goes bad at a critical moment.
*"In the Name of Love"
Watch it for: Rita's knowing smirk when Chris is on the phone with a needy girlfriend.
The Badness Factor: The perp shoots Rita two seconds before Chris runs in the door. The very next scene shows Rita in recovery. No suspense, no midnight vigil...in other words, no dramatic purpose for the shooting. It's as though the writers said "Hey, why don't we shoot Rita? Why? Because, that's why!"
The Heat Factor: Chris sizes up a sexy bank manager before getting her statement.
The Justice Factor: Chris runs down the woman who just shot Rita and throws her to the ground. Cuffs on, case closed.
Watch it for: Rita surfing. (The weightlifter's bar is a hoot as well.)
The Badness Factor: The bereaved son's hammy outbursts ring about as true as a vacuum cleaner salesman's pitch.
The Heat Factor: A sleazy senator buries his nose in a party guest's cleavage and takes a sniff. Then he goes onto the beach, strips his son's tasty girlfriend naked, and takes a naked moonlight swim while tonguing her throat from the inside. (Bonus: She later gets a very friendly massage from a tight blonde in a bikini.)
The Justice Factor: An angry and depressed perp confesses to Chris, whacks him in the kneecap, and then drowns herself in the surf.
*"Men Seeking Women"
Watch it for: Rita's confrontation with a red-herring sicko. He pulls a rubber knife on her and tries to get busy, but unbeknownst to him she's undercover and her partner is behind the door.
The Badness Factor: Chris's radio psychologist girlfriend gives a psych profile of the perp on the beach without evidence or research.
The Heat Factor: A signature of the series: gratuitous beach interludes that show scads of ladies in scant bikinis from the shoulders down and the knees up.
The Justice Factor: When the serial killer shows up at Rita's apartment, Chris shows up just in time to engage the perp in hand-to-hand combat. Rita and Chris draw their guns and unmask the greaseball.
Watch it for: Rita in a rock 'n' roll dress -- and the reaction from Chris.
The Badness Factor: Donovan's scene...He's done better jobs of pushing Chris and Rita around than this weak effort.
The Heat Factor: Rita taking advantage of her knockout outfit in a limo.
The Justice Factor: Chris fishes the perp out of a pool and resuscitates him on the sidewalk.
Watch it for: Chris losing his grip in the interrogation room.
The Badness Factor: The victim, who has been dead in a pool all night, has perfect skin, flawless makeup, and stellar cleavage when pulled out of the pool. This ain't CSI, folks.
The Heat Factor: Chris gets manhandled in bed by a bisexual old flame.
The Justice Factor: A long-standing Silk Stalkings tradition of gruesome perp deaths begins here. The perp fights with Chris in a pool. An accomplice holds Chris at gunpoint while the perp gets out of the water and prepares to throw a power sander into the water. He trips up, falls into the water, and electrocutes himself. The accomplice is hauled off to the slammer.
Watch it for: Rita undercover as a coed.
The Badness Factor: Will Rita's wire go bad at a critical moment? Stay tuned!
The Heat Factor: Rita undercover as a coed.
The Justice Factor: Chris guns down perp one, then covers the others before they can blink. Nice moves, Chris!
Watch it for: The introduction of Donnie "Dogs" DeBarto. Chris taking out "The Hangman." Rita charming everyone in sight. Actually, the entire episode is on a roll. If you like Silk Stalkings, this is probably the kind of episode that hooked you.
The Badness Factor: When Chris is chasing down a perp, you can clearly see the Ralph Macchio-esque face of Rob's stunt double. They aren't even close in appearance. It is absolutely hysterical.
The Heat Factor: A runway, a parade of models, and a few scraps of silk.
The Justice Factor: Rita runs down one of the perps in a beauty salon and cuffs her to a chair. Chris has an extended brawl with the other perp, turns his face into ground beef, cuffs him, then takes a picture of it for posterity.
Watch it for: Chris playing the hell out of a sax. Bonus: any scene featuring Tina, a high school flame that Chris needs to stay away from.
The Badness Factor: Let's just say that the perp's confidence borders on melodrama.
The Heat Factor: Chris bumps into an old friend -- and his ultra, ultra hot woman, Tina. Turns out that Tina and Chris have a history, and she reminds him of it in the sexiest possible way.
The Justice Factor: The perp breaks and enters to silence a witness. Little does she know that she has walked into a trap.
Watch it for: Rita losing her grip in the interrogation room.
The Badness Factor: "You ever have someone come into your life like a five-alarm fire? Where everything burns up before you can stop it?" No kidding, dear readers, this dialogue was written, and actually spoken, in this episode. Mitzi, I feel for you, I really do.
The Heat Factor: Stepmommy plays junior's little slut.
The Justice Factor: Chris and Rita can't touch the perp despite her obvious guilt. Never fear, one of her victims comes out of nowhere and plants six rounds in her chest. Case closed.
Watch it for: The surprisingly convincing possibility that the perp might get away with it.
The Badness Factor: Pretty much any scene that features the Shock Jock's mental drivel.
The Heat Factor: The opening striptease/shower scene is hot even by Silk Stalkings standards. The line pushes a little higher and a little lower.
The Justice Factor: Chris turns the perp's alibi into Swiss cheese during a live radio broadcast. Rita is waiting in the booth with the cuffs.
Watch it for: Rita's softness and caring for the runaway.
The Badness Factor: The "fifteen"-year-old street urchin looks about twenty-two.
The Heat Factor: Chris and his new girlfriend, Annie, are magic together. She has charm and looks to spare, which is great for us -- she's in the next couple of episodes as well.
The Justice Factor: The perp goes down after an extended gun battle. On a separate front, Rita threatens her ward's scumbag father as only a fearless cop can.
Watch it for: A glimpse into Rita's off-duty life and her devotion to her friends.
The Badness Factor: An opening voice-over that takes the "golf as sex" metaphor way too far. We get the idea, but no need to stretch a metaphor this thin just to keep up appearances.
The Heat Factor: Daddy gets kinky with the tasty Latina housekeeper. French maids are out, Latinas are in, but the maid fantasy lives on.
The Justice Factor: The cold fish perp has his dastardly plan dissected by the "inferior" intellects of Chris Lorenzo and Rita Lance.
Watch it for: A double-barreled wardrobe malfunction by an enthusiastic Holly Gagnier. Don't let that keep you from paying attention to the rest of this great episode.
The Badness Factor: Chris single-handedly fights his way out of a confrontation between two gun-toting heavies and an angry mobster with a baseball bat. A mobster who religiously practices martial arts, by the way.
The Heat Factor: Did I mention that Annie (Kristen Cloke, Final Destination) is hot? Especially when she's in the tub with Chris and flirting hellaciously.
The Justice Factor: A mobster who religiously practices martial arts and retains four armed bodyguards gets smacked down by one unarmed cop named Chris Lorenzo. Two of his bodyguards get iced by Rita and the Cap.
*"The Sock Drawer"
Watch it for: Hmm...tough call. This one isn't a very good episode. The conversation where Chris and Rita talk about their career options after getting fired from the force is good. Also, Chris gets "butt shot."
The Badness Factor: A man is getting shot at, but he takes the time to grab his pants and shirt before running away.
The Heat Factor: The perp's wife is a fox, a slinky blonde who is always horny. From the opening scene through the end of the episode, she flaunts herself.
The Justice Factor: Rita and Chris go rogue and set up the perp. When he takes the bait, they gun him down in a crossfire.
Watch it for: Joseph Sirola's over-the-top judge act.
The Badness Factor: Roger the coroner (Danny Gans, who by the way is a wildly successful Vegas entertainer and often provides comic relief in the series) balancing his Yin and Yang while sitting in the lotus position at the crime scene.
The Heat Factor: Call girls, and lots of 'em. They take their time to get dressed and undressed, and the camera always happens to be right there to capture it all.
The Justice Factor: The perp gets his due process -- in a hail of gunfire. A crooked judge is forced to give up his political aspirations when his indiscretions come to light.
Watch it for: The Cap going undercover as a Jamaican "spice" dealer. This fits right in with the general theme of overacting in "Powder Burn."
The Badness Factor: Worst...bad guy...ever. The Australian jacko pulls knives at the drop of a hat, laughs evilly, and generally overacts. The nadir comes when he is trying to unload a shipment of arms: When the Cap poses as a potential buyer, dude guns him down because of his looks. He then complains that he can't find a buyer. Did hate ever get in the way of money when lowlifes like these are involved?
The Heat Factor: Vanity. The woman, not the deadly sin.
The Justice Factor: The Cap, Chris, and Rita take out a gang of Australian mercenaries. Shockingly, none of them get shot, electrocuted, sliced open, or otherwise killed.
Watch it for: A nice tension is set up when the evidence suggests that Chris's memory of a shooting may be flawed. His remorse is affecting.
The Badness Factor: A bereaved mother who is unbelievably convinced of her son's innocence.
The Heat Factor: The victim's wife busting out of her silk top.
The Justice Factor: Rita breaks the perp in the interrogation room. Crazy mom gets apprehended before she stabs Chris. The two-faced daughter loses the best piece of man flesh she's ever had.
Watch it for: Not only is this the worst Silk Stalkings episode I've ever seen, it might be the worst episode of television I've ever seen. Watching this episode is like watching milk curdle.
The Badness Factor: The opening conversation, though bereft of tension or entertainment value, goes on interminably. It is simply the first in a long line of wretched scenes.
The Heat Factor:The delectable Randi Ingerman dives topless into a pool, holds her closed fists over her indomitable breasts, and wears a clingy negligee during the murder.
The Justice Factor: The seedy agent who killed his mentor gets tricked into confessing by an angry actress with a prop pistol. Sadly, this scumbag escapes a just grisly death and gets led away in handcuffs.
Watch it for: A true sense of menace that drags Silk Stalkings dangerously close to actual cop show territory.
The Badness Factor: The super-smart perp faces Chris and Rita alone for no apparent reason, when he has plenty of time to set up a real trap.
The Heat Factor: Chris tumbling in the tub with his stripper girlfriend, Ricki.
The Justice Factor: Perp pulls a hidden gun on Chris after knocking away Chris's piece. But Chris pulls his backup gun and takes Charlie out. The DA closes the investigation, as well as the side investigation into Lance and Lorenzo's heavy-handed tactics.
There you have it, 22 doses of illicit, guilty pleasure. Each episode is introduced with a fantastic opening sequence featuring Silk Stalkings's bluesy, freaky, off-kilter theme song and a montage of erotic espionage imagery. The boxed set packaging completes the theme. Like the series itself, the boxed set is thin, sexy, and nice to look at. The six DVDs are contained in three slim cases and enveloped in a gleaming cardboard sleeve with fluorescent letters. Anchor Bay has just set the standard for boxed set packaging.
To say that everything is rosy in Silk Stalkings land would not be a white lie -- it would be a contempt of court, lying under oath felony. The easiest place to start is an analysis of the audiovisual quality. To put it bluntly, there is none.
The transfer is rife with edge enhancement. In a show that relies heavily on glossy pinup footage, this sin is particularly damaging. The edge enhancement is such that Rita appears to have a mustache in most of her close-ups, which breaks my heart. Every time her ruby lips move, a fuzzy outline moves with them.
Unfortunately, it doesn't stop with edge enhancement. Silk Stalkings has a brilliant, deeply saturated palette, and the colors weep into each other. Red and ultramarine are the worst offenders, and they are two of the most popular colors in Silk Stalkings. Pile on periodic bouts with softness, fuzziness, signal breakups, and pulldown errors, and you wind up with a major disappointment.
Sadly, the sound is just as bad, or worse. Volume levels fluctuate widely -- which highlights the clipping, frequent dropouts, and harsh sibilants. The grating S sounds had me wincing on a regular basis. In contrast, there were plenty of times that I couldn't make out what was being said at all. Closed captioning or subtitles would have been a big help. Against this generally poor backdrop, the periodic massive sound snafus didn't seem so jarring.
It might be a good thing that the dialogue isn't clear, because it often reeks. Most episodes have a line or two that will just crack you up because of their putrescence. Of course, this cheesiness is one of the draws for Silk Stalkings fans. You grow to love it.
While you're learning to love things, show some patience with the copious overacting. Aside from the series regulars, most of the acting is over the top. The acting isn't all that way, because we're sometimes treated to underacting as a change of pace. High school drama students might produce more convincing emotions than some of the bit actors in Silk Stalkings.
The extras are a series of interviews with the principal actors and Cannell. They are a treat for fans of the show, a chance to hear a stellar producer and three favorite actors reflect on how much fun they had with Silk Stalkings. The problem with the extras is that they reveal spoilers, huge spoilers, mega-gigantoriffic spoilers. The entire series is laid bare, including the destinies of each character, complete with clips from future seasons. Please, if you haven't watched beyond Season One and plan to do so, skip the extras.
I'm not a huge fan of menus that repeat the theme song ad nauseam. Nor do I enjoy having to fast-forward through the show's theme 22 times. Chapter stops are your friends, particularly those that zip us past the common footage.
Coincidentally, both actors and footage are often recycled in this series.
Silk Stalkings wears its inherent badness on its chest, like a medal of honor. If you watch this show expecting decent cop action and suspenseful plots, you are barking up the wrong tree. Silk Stalkings is instead an opportunity to indulge your naughty side and ride shotgun in a beautiful relationship between two hot partners. It is a sensual treat, especially when shared with your own partner in crime.
The poor audiovisuals mar the experience somewhat, which frustrates the trip down memory lane. Nonetheless, Silk Stalkings is finally here on DVD, which is a treat in itself. This show is a poster child for why we love bad television; it makes us giddy inside, that's why. Bring on more Lance and Lorenzo!
All evidence points to Silk Stalkings's guilt. Nonetheless, the court will show leniency in this case because Mitzi Kapture and Rob Estes are dynamite together. This case is hereby thrown out.
[Editor's note: Judge Rob would like to dedicate this review to his wife and longtime Silk Stalkings watching partner, Meg.]
Review content copyright © 2004 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 990 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interviews with Cast and Crew
* Stephen J. Cannell and Ben Vereen Reminisce
* DVD Talk Review that takes the show seriously
* IMDb: Stephen J. Cannell
* Silk Stalkings FAQ (Spoilers)