This is not the worst movie ever made. It’s close, and it should be mentioned in the same breath as the all-time worst movies, but at the end of the day, this is not the worst. It’s just really, really bad. I’ve actually seen it four times over the past 15 years, each time at the nudging of someone that hasn’t seen it and insists; it can’t be that bad. But 136 minutes later, they inevitably mutter the words; “wow, it really was that bad”. I will say that after the fourth viewing, I realized a couple of things about SHOWGIRLS that I hadn’t noticed before. The first thing I noticed is that it has definitely ascended to the so-bad-it’s-good level and it’s actually fun to watch, just for how horrible it is. The second thing is that under all the gratuitous sex and nudity, I think there could have been a decent movie in here if it weren’t for all the failures.
The idea of a hooker trying to go legit as a Vegas showgirl is not a bad idea. In 1995, it was something that hadn’t been explored before and with the right talent, it could be an enjoyable film. Establish some back-story for the lead female, maybe towards the end of her hooking days, then get her to Vegas where she makes a promise to go straight. A little bouncing around at different clubs and then let her have her big shot. We’ve seen similarly themed movies with male criminals that are trying to turn their life around, so the basic mold can work. So I’d like to think that when this film was early in the production phase, that’s what they had in mind. I don’t know where the horribly wrong turns occurred, but they managed to go out of their way to screw up this movie.
In 1995, Elizabeth Berkley was desperate to break out of her bookworm, nerdy ‘Saved by the Bell’ character. And what better way to prove to the world you’re a serious actress than to star in an NC-17 film that was just a few money shots away from being a porno? To be fair to her, this movie is not her fault and starring in a movie directed by a good director like Paul Verhoeven and featuring some respected actors was actually a good move on her part. No, if I’m going to blame anyone, it’s going to be Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas. Picking it apart so many years after every viewer has spouted off dozens of problems seems pointless, but the film’s failures all come back to amateur directing and second-rate screenwriting.
One thing I’ve always found fascinating about this film is how they managed to show so much nudity and sex, yet make it as un-erotic as humanly possible. Berkley is a beautiful woman and Gina Gershon has a lot of sex appeal of her own, but Verhoeven manages to somehow show these two women naked and in the most unsexy way imaginable. The seizure-sex scene is infamous now for making the audience laugh while we’re in a somewhat pivotal plot point in the film.
I don’t know the intention of the film, at least not from Paul Verhoeven. If he set out to make a campy NC-17 film that made little sense, featured atrocious acting and uncomfortable sex scenes, then he accomplished his goal. I find it hard to believe that he wanted to tell a real story and just failed so miserably. He has made some decent films over the years, so there’s proof he knows how to make movies. But with all of this said, every movie fan has to watch this so they can soak in just how horrible of a film it really is.
Video: The glitter-soaked breasts never looked as good as in this Blu-ray. The picture was crystal clear.
Audio: The audio was also nice, even though Verhoeven didn’t utilize the surround speakers very much.
Commentary with David Schmader: Schmader is a writer from Seattle that gained notoriety by doing commentaries over SHOWGIRLS in screenings. It’s hard to tell where he’s coming from in this commentary track. He spends a lot of time ripping the film, but he does seem to have an appreciation for it and seems to really enjoy it. I found his track to be funny for the most part, but confusing as to his real feelings of the film at others.
Pole Dancing: Finding Your Inner Stripper (11:53): This is a workout video utilizing various stripper moves. No actual stripping occurs.
Lap Dance Tutorial (4:54): Some slutty stripper teaches women how to give a lap dance and then utilize your newfound skills to manipulate your man. Whatever. If you’re going to abandon all morals and use your sex appeal to make money from a man, there are other skills that would probably come in more handy.
A Showgirl’s Diary (10:56): This was an odd compilation of storboards and behind the scenes footage. Not much to see here.
You can also watch the film with a Pop-up trivia track that continues to slam the film at every turn.