While the late Zalman King did well with feature films like 9 And A HalfWeeks, Two Moon Junction and Wild Orchid and will be forever love by cult film aficionados for his squirrely performances in movies like Blue Sunshine, Galaxy Of Terror and Trip With Teacher (probably the craziest role he ever played!) there's a certain segment of the population that are going to instantly associate his name with Red Shoe Diaries. The series, which was made up of a standard TV series and a few made for TV movies, aired on Showtime and was considered pretty racy stuff for its time.
This 1992 made for TV movie, simply titled Red Shoe Diaries: The Movie, introduces us to an architect named Jake Winters (Duchovny) who seemingly has it all. His practice is quite successful, he's got loads of money and when the story begins he's about to marry the woman of his dreams, his fiancé Alex (Brigitte Bako). As the story progresses, however, Jake realizes that there's more to Alex than he first realized. See, she's met a man, a buff construction worker named Thomas (Billy Wirth) who has seriously got the hots for her. While she at first pushes him away, she soon finds that she cannot resist his advances nor can she deny her attraction to him. They begin to have a torrid affair that involves a lot of sex, which seems to be all that he wants from her. There are no strings attached, at least at first.
Alex's conscience starts to catch up with her, however, and when she tries to push away from Thomas to get away from the guilt she feels, he's not having any of it. As Alex finds she's unable to completely sever her ties with Thomas to live happily ever after with Jake Winters, she instead opts not to decide between the two men in her life and she commits suicide (no spoilers here, really, we learn this in the opening scene and then see how and why she was driven to that point). Jake then pours through her diaries to see if he can find out why she did this.
While Brigitte Bako is certainly an attractive enough woman that we can see why Thomas would be interested in her the movie absolutely fails in building interesting characters for us to care about. The sex is, let's face it, the real reason most would have tuned into watch this one on TV more than two decades ago as for its time, this was racy stuff to be sure. Unfortunately, as nicely lit and enthusiastically performed as the bump and grind scenes are (and they really never pass the R-rated finish line in terms of explicitness) they really just do not carry the film. On top of that, the acting, or more specifically the delivery of the super bad dialogue, is laughable. Bako looks great but her inability to make up her mind becomes trying after a while, while Wirth is too alpha male for his own good and winds up unsympathetic and hard to believe. David Duchovny is as wooden as a tree here and is really tough to connect with. Given that he's the ‘good guy' in the story that we're supposed to feel for, that hurts things. He's been great in plenty of other series' but not in this movie, though to King's credit he does manage to tie in the story that plays out here into the way that the fairly long running TV series played out.
The movie is nicely shot and the score, while out of place at times, features some interesting music that winds up losing its impact when it's overused and occasionally too loud in the mix to really work. Nice cinematography and evocative lighting do help to create the occasional moment of mood and there are fleeting instances where some atmosphere is appreciable, but it falls apart once the characters start talking. There is a twist at the end that at least earns points for trying to do something clever here, but aside from that this is pretty goofy stuff. If you're into either of the men featured in the film or a Brigitte Bako fan then there's plenty of eye candy to appreciate but otherwise, it's hard to take this in the least bit seriously.
Red Shoe Diaries: The Movie arrives on DVD framed at 1.33.1 fullframe which would seem to be the correct aspect ratio for the production. The image is fairly soft, though in all fairness much of this has to do with the way in which the movie was lit and shot as you'll notice that a lot of the TV episodes of the Red Shoe Diaries look similar. Color reproduction is okay but never as bold as you want it to be. Skin tones look decent enough though black levels appear more of a dark grey than a true black. Detail isn't particularly revelatory but, all in all, the movie looks okay. Not great, but perfectly watchable.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix on the DVD gets the job done but don't expect to be blown away by anything here. Dialogue is a little bit flat and the score, which periodically sounds way out of place, never punches through the way it maybe could have. At the same time there are no issues with any audible hiss or distortion. This isn't in any way an exciting sound mix but neither is it all that problematic.
The only extra of any substance is an twelve minute introduction to the movie by director Zalman King who offers up a bit of background information about the movie and his intent as a filmmaker. It's a bit more clip heavy than it needs to be but it's moderately interesting. Aside from that, we get a still gallery, a three minute The Stars Of The Red Shoe Diaries featurette (this is really just clips showing some of the celebrities that appeared in the series, there's no context here) menus and chapter selection.
Red Shoe Diaries: The Movie is pretty goofy stuff. Yeah, there's a fair bit of softcore bumping and grinding here to enjoy and if you're a David Duchovny fan, you'll probably appreciate seeing him in as male lead but the story fizzles out and winds up relying too heavily on sex scenes that honestly aren't as interesting as you'd hope. The DVD looks and sounds okay but it's not going to amaze anyone and the extras are minimal. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.