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Red Hot + Blue

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We gave it an A

Two eras of sophistication are covered by these newly released tapes involving the classic-pop composer Cole Porter. You’re the Top: The Cole Porter Story is a workmanlike museum piece, cobbling together the wry songwriter’s history through talking heads such as Kitty Carlisle Hart, critic Brendan Gill, and current musical disciple Michael Feinstein. The performances of Porter’s music are too truncated to inspire repeated viewings, and there’s nothing here to surprise true fans. As a result, the piece worked better in its original form as a PBS special.

More unusual and challenging is the video clip compilation Red Hot + Blue. With profits going to the fight against AIDS, the program shows today’s pop stars radically reinterpreting Porter’s romantic hits of the prerock era. An abbreviated version of the show ran on ABC last December, but this tape includes six more clips plus material cut by the network. Nearly everything soars, especially David Byrne’s ”Don’t Fence Me In,” transformed into a witty statement against prejudice; the Jungle Brothers’ ”I Get a Kick Out of You,” which convincingly eroticizes condoms; and Erasure’s ”Too Darn Hot,” which presents the most politicized side of the AIDS crisis and does so in a way that, like the whole tape, makes you swoon. Story: B; Red: A

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