Judge Brett Cullum puts on his red shoes and dances the blues.
How far will YOU go?
Red Shoe Diaries was a 1992 project for Showtime hatched from the fertile mind of erotic director Zalman King (9 1/2 Weeks, Wild Orchid, and Two Moon Junction). The show was a pioneer in television series made for an adult audience shown exclusively on cable television. Every week it provided Showtime viewers a half hour of extravagantly lit sex scenes and foul language, and that was something nobody could ever see on the big three networks. It was an anthology that hinged around the conceit men don't know the internal landscape of women very well, so it told stories about relationships from a women's perspective. The framing device was a pre The X-Files David Duchovny getting a woman's diary in his mailbox off a personal ad he wrote soliciting such tales of sex and romance. The pilot movie set up his story, and that feature is available on a separate disc. This collection is only the first year out of five seasons total (which started airing in 1992) but it is arguably the best of the best.
Red Shoe Diaries was soft-core porn, and it never apologized for that. Populated with B-list actors and actresses still struggling to hit big in Hollywood, it was a training ground for those hoping to exploit their way up the ladder with a bit of nudity and grinding. It was always stylish, photographed well and had some amazing music to go along with the sexy storylines. George Clinton helped supervise the score, and he and Zalman King produced new tracks as well as mined their back catalog to set the right sonic tone. Some of the narratives worked while others clunked their away along with a camp sense of melodrama. In watching the show now, over two decades later, I found the earnest yet over the top erotica giggle-worthy, but then I recalled it debuted in the age of AIDS and "safe sex." This was a fantasy where sex could be unbridled, naughty, and somehow desirable again without any hesitation. It represented what Zalman King was best at, making hot steamy sex scenes that worked for both men and women because they had context and a sense of high art to take away the sting of just being carnal acts caught on celluloid.
We get thirteen half hour episodes spread out over two DVDs inside a slimline case. Notable stars that pop up in this batch include Steven Bauer (Scarface), Joan Severance (Bird on a Wire), Denise Crosby (Pet Sematary), Richard Tyson (Two Moon Junction), Annabelle Gurwitch (Guiding Light), Matt LeBlanc (Friends), Maryam d'Abo (The Living Daylights), Sheryl Lee (Twin Peaks), and Ally Sheedy (The Breakfast Club). It's the most celebrity heavy run of The Red Shoe Diaries, so this first year is certainly the must have season to own out of the five. The transfer is definitely from 1992, with a softness and grainy video quality that looks aged and of the time. You will see the difference in quality immediately, and often there is a strange lack of clarity which makes the series murky and sometimes blurred. Extras include a nice featurette which has Zalman King himself talking about the genesis of the series. There is also a look at the guest stars over the years which include a montage of all of them in the scenes. To top everything off we get to see a fun vintage on-set discussion with David Duchovny talking candidly about his early career and pre-fame days as a wannabe basketball player and Calvin Klein model.
Fans should be thrilled that finally we are getting Red Shoe Diaries: Season One in a single package with a nice couple of extras. These episodes have been on DVD before, but often in silly and rather expensive two episode pairings. This is a nice package that should make things easier for people to take in the first year of the show in one easy collection. It's a jazzy reminder of what idealized sex in the '90s was all about, and a look back at what premium cable was trying to do before shows like Dexter, Game of Thrones, and Sex and the City. Saxophones blaring over naked oiled bodies was all it took for people to get excited that a show would dare to show us more than anything else at the time. It helped make David Duchovny a star, and brought Zalman King's soft-core sensibilities off the big screen and onto the small one.
A guilty sexy pleasure ride with all the sophistication 1992 had to offer.
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