Zalman King, a commercial “soft-core” filmmaker called variously an “erotic cinema maestro” and a “brilliant and noble soul,“ died Feb. 3. He was 69 or 70 (reports differed).
King wrote, directed or produced commercial but overtly erotic films such as “9 1/2 Weeks,” “Wild Orchid” and “Delta of Venus,” and cable TV films and series including “Red Shoe Diaries,” “Chromiumblue.com” and “Body Language.” His work was lauded by websites devoted to B movies and cult films, while his mainstream reputation was somewhat less exalted.
A 2006 book, “Soft in the Middle: The Contemporary Softcore Feature in Its Contexts,” said that King was “synonymous with an upscale form of sexploitation that is addressed to women,” and the Chicago Sun-Times described “Red Shoe Diaries” as “a tour through the sweaty terrain of yuppie sexuality” and a “commercial male fantasy.”
King began his Hollywood career as an actor on TV shows such as “Gunsmoke,” “Daniel Boone,” “The Munsters,” “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” and “Adam-12,” among others. He played an idealistic young lawyer on the ABC series “The Young Lawyers”; the New York Times called him the first overtly Jewish leading man in an American television series. — jta