2000, $1.99, at Goodwill Superstore on San Fernando

First Impression: From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan

Second Impression: a Tyler Perry Film

Like all things, this DVD reflects the time in which it was made. Denise Austin is sporting a “Rachel” cut, as well as a cropped, lettuce-edged tank top. I know I owned a few shirts like this back in the day. If I had known there was a matching set of bottoms… well. I would have tried to wear them to my temp job, for sure.

As comfortable as this Tampax-ad wardrobe looks, Denise Austin ups her cozy game even further in the workout segments. She’s wearing a boyleg onesie sweater in that delightful shade of periwinkle that, if fashion magazines are to be believed, flatters all women.


Why don’t I already own this? I didn’t know I needed a blue knit modest maillot for exer-lounging, but now that I know this item exists, Must Have. Want.

And speaking of comfort, I need to know where I can get a mat like the ones Denise Austin and friends are using to demonstrate J.H. Pilates’ exercises. They look like feather beds, and I can only imagine how any workout performed on them could quickly devolve into an extended cooldown, followed by a thorough relaxation period.

Don’t you get the sense that some lawyers got involved with the crafting of this video’s very specific title? I’ve never heard Mr. Pilates referred to as “J.H.” before, but it made me think of H.P. Lovecraft. This unspeakable workout will drive you to the very edge of madness!

Indeed, the studio’s painted backdrop portrays an inchoate valley of despair. It’s a rocky desert landscape, with a stone archway in the foreground that looks as if it is about to plummet down and crush the innocents below. This lends the workout a kind of tension, which is helpfully ratcheted up with editing. During the routine, we will frequently cut to Denise performing the same move, but on top of a mountain. Clad in angelic white, her spirit soars as the wind whips her hair around her face and she squints against the uncomfortable glare. Then we cut back to her in the studio and we know it was all a dream…?

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