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SHOWGIRLS
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan, Gina Gershon, Glenn Plummer, Robert Davi, Alan Rachins, Gina Ravera
Director:  Paul Verhoeven
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  MGM
Features:  See Review
Length:  131 Minutes
Release Date:  June 15, 2010

“I’m a DANCER!”

Film *1/2

It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since Showgirls first lap danced its way into our lives, isn’t it?  I can still remember it like it was yesterday…mostly because, I confess, I was there on opening day.  Not because I really bought into the hype about it being the steamiest, most envelope-pushing feature this side of an NC 17 rating.  No, it was because of the crush I’d always had on Elizabeth Berkley.  Even in the Saved by the Bell days, when all my friends were ga-ga over Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as Kelly, my heart belonged to Ms. Berkley as Jessie.

As Jessie, she was the no-nonsense smarty who stood for equal rights and women not being treated as objects.  As Nomi Malone in Showgirls…well, let’s just say our little Jessie had a change of heart.

The movie delivers spectacle in terms of what you see, but at the same time, offers very little to connect to.  It’s the kind of picture you can only respond to with your libido and not your heart, mind or soul.  In fact, at over two hours, it’s a little bit like being caught up in someone else’s wet dream.

That someone would be Joe Eszterhas, who has delivered about an equal amount of really good and really bad screenplays in his career.  With Showgirls, he wears his drive on his sleeve and makes no apologies.  I’ve frankly never seen a film that seemed to so perfectly express one man’s lurid fantasy with absolutely no regard for reality (at least one that wasn’t made by Michael Moore).  He apparently likes seeing women dominate with their bodies and other objects, which is why I think the movie begins with Nomi wielding a switchblade and ends with her kicking the crap out of a brutal rapist, while in the middle, using lap dancing so forcefully as to make it seem like an interrogation technique.

Okay, a little more detail is in order…Nomi Malone (“Know me?  I’m alone”…hmmm) comes to Las Vegas to pursue her dream of dancing, only to find a less than warm welcome when she gets robbed and left with nothing.  She takes up with a stranger named Molly (Ravera), and soon finds the shortest way to her dream is exotic dancing, though the emphasis is less on dancing and more on exotic (I love the sleazy club owner who says things like, “Dis is a class joint”).

While dreaming of someday making it to the famed Stardust, that club’s lead dancer Crystal (Gershon) comes in with her slimy boyfriend Zach (MacLachlan) and pays for a $500 lap dance from Nomi for him.  Fortunately for us, we only had to pay the price of a movie ticket to see it.

The plot, if you can call it such, evolves into a kind of All About Eve scenario where Nomi finally gets a chance at the Stardust, finds that being on the bottom rung of a bigger show isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and schemes to take Crystal’s place in the lead role.  She learns things along the way such as that she’s expected to make herself available for high rolling clients, and that…ready for this?…some of the big wigs in show business are complete louses.  As Hannah Montana might say, "Ya THINK?!"

That’s the bare bones version of the story, but of course, the real story was the open attempt to create the first Hollywood adult feature in some time.  In a sense, it succeeded…it had all the production values of a major studio offering while serving up all the cheesy limitations of a true adult film.  At the time, Eszterhas was the highest paid screenwriter working in Hollywood.  I don’t even think he considered quality when he wrote this script…he probably just figured he would go for broke in reveling in all of his misogynistic fantasies and stringing together a row of his favorite masturbatory images, and guessed that with the right marketing, he’d have a hit.

He was right, and if his goal was also to craft one of the most notorious pictures of all time, he succeeded.  But for those who actually see it, they can’t help but come away a little disappointed that this was the best he could come up with in trying to craft a piece of pure eroticism.  There is eye candy galore, but little to actually connect to. 

It’s safe to say that this movie didn’t do much for the careers of director Paul Verhoeven or even my lovely Elizabeth, who did her best in bringing an intensity to a thankless role that merely required her to look good sans clothes.  On that level, at least, her performance was a success.

Video ***1/2

Blu-ray services even the trash well...every incarnation of this movie has looked better than the one before, and this Blu-ray is a nice improvement.  The colors and lights of Vegas are quite beautiful and detailed, and all levels of lighting come through cleanly.  There is a touch of murkiness noticeable slightly in a couple of the darkest scenes, but the overall contrast and detail are much better than previous issues. 

Audio ***1/2

The DTS HD 5.1 gets its dynamic range mostly from the music and dancing numbers, but that's plenty of punch for the story.  The surrounds don't get a lot of usage, but the subwoofer gets its fair share, and dialogue is cleanly delivered against it all.

Features ***

The first  disc comes with a commentary entitled “The Greatest Movie Ever Made” (how’s THAT for chutzpah?)  by David Schmader, along with video commentary of the dance club scene by the girls of Scores.  Those ladies also offer a “lance dap tutorial”…’nuff said.  There is a making-of featurette, a bonus trivia track, and the original trailer.

Disc two, a standard DVD, has a behind-the-scenes featurette.  Not quite sure why it didn't fit on disc one, but there it is.

Summary:

I always remember the quote someone once said about this movie:  "Showgirls is the worst movie ever made...I should know, I've seen it a hundred times."  It may be forever synonymous with big budgeted cinematic sleaze and over-the-top trashy camp, but for all its epidermal glory, you might still find yourself left surprising cold.

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