'Showgirls': The trainwreck that keeps chugging along, 15 years later
If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know that long after all of the vomiting is over and you’ve finally purged the enemy from your system, there’s a taste memory that sticks with you forever. It’s why I can’t eat green onions or cilantro 10 years after my night of hell at the hands of a bad burrito. Well, 1995’s Showgirls is the movie version of food poisoning.
When Paul Verhoeven’s stripper saga was released 15 years ago, critics mercilessly dogpiled on the film. And the moviegoing public didn’t care much either for Elizabeth Berkley’s Nomi Malone — the gritty, Vegas rumpshaker who’ll do whatever it takes to make it to the top, including losing her soul and, ewww, licking a stripper pole. Showgirls was one of those rare, ignominious, once or twice-a-decade turkeys that becomes an instant punchline. (This one falling on the turkey timeline somewhere between Ishtar and Cutthroat Island…only this one had bedazzled boobies!)
Part of the blame went to Joe Eszterhas, who pocketed an unseemly seven-figure sum for his bump-and-grind All About Eve screenplay, which was lousy with laughable dialogue. Part went to Berkley, the relative newcomer fresh off the squeaky-clean series Saved By the Bell, who didn’t seem to get the tone of the movie she was in (or the damage it would do to her career). And part of it went to Verhoeven, who, after the fact, tried to pass the silly skin flick off as an arch satire. In essence, he seemed to be saying that he knew the film was awful and that’s what made it art. Nice try, sir. But the so-bad-it’s-good argument just won’t wash.
But rather than just fade away into celluloid oblivion, which is what happened more or less to Ishtar (a defensible film) and Cutthroat Island (not defensible at all), Showgirls is like a Hollywood cockroach: so unkillable it will be the only thing that survives nuclear Armageddon. Over the past 15 years, it’s not only become a midnight movie mainstay, but it also gets trotted out every year or two in new, splashier DVD incarnations. The latest of which is Showgirls: 15th Anniversary SINsational Edition on Blu-Ray.
Now, I’m not convinced that a spiffier-looking version of a turd like Showgirls is what Tinseltown’s digital messiahs had in mind when they took up the cause of Blu-ray. But somehow this new disc feels inevitable…and also totally unnecessary. In addition to the nicer-looking version of the junky film, the set includes a couple of tutorials on how to work the pole like an actual stripper, a commentary track, and some other goodies that were already available on the recent Showgirls: V.I.P. Edition DVD. So, really, the only reason you’d be getting this thing is for the improved picture quality, which, come to think of it, is like spending $30 to get a slightly bigger and warmer version of the same meal that gave you food poisoning already. But that’s just one man’s opinion. After all, you may honestly believe Showgirls is an underrated, misunderstood film. And if you do, by all means share your reasoning in the comments section below…