Before there was Fant4stick, there was Showgirls.
And Heaven’s Gate and Waterworld and Ishtar and my own personal choice for Worst Movie of All Time: Peter Jackson’s King Kong. What sets these movies apart from, oh say, Battlefield Earth and The Phantom Menace and Matrix Revolutions? These were supposed to be serious films. They have real directors and real actors and real screenwriters, and yet, they are really bad.
I found a cool little book called It Doesn’t Suck, which tells the tale of Showgirls. So I decided to give to another look.
Yeah, this is a bad film. It was pretty much the end of the line for director Paul Verhoeven, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, and actress Elizabeth Berkley. Like countless other really bad films, you have to wonder how they watched the finished product and thought, yeah, this is great!
We start off with a woman hitchhiking to Vegas. One of the first lines she utters is:’Back off, Motherfucker!” and the rest of the film’s dialogue pretty much follows suit. But much like the nudity to follow, the constant use of shock language soon enough stops being shocking.
Showgirls, as some people now maintain, is secretly a great film. Let’s just say it’s a very well kept secret.
Showgirls was an odd film on many levels. First there’s Elizabeth Berkley’s ‘acting’, for lack of a better word. She does a lot of screaming and ranting and pouting and throwing things around. What is especially odd about her performance is that everyone else in the film seems to be doing their best to act as if they are occasionally animated mannequins. There is one scene that takes place in the backroom of a strip club. Nomi, our hero, does a bit of ranting, while two mostly naked women stand behind her. One of these large breasted women is striking in that she stands stock still with her arms at her sides facing the camera for the whole scene.
The story reminded me of Victor/Victoria and All That Jazz. The big production numbers look like ones that didn’t make the cut for the clubs where Victor preformed. And the struggling dancer wants a job is reminiscent of all such story lines, only with a lot more nudity. At one point Nomi puts on her makeup in a mirror, much like Roy Scheider, and even goes so far as to utter his famous line: It’s Showtime.
Then there’s the reference to using ice cubes to get the dancer’s nipples stiff, as if anyone in the audience could tell one way or the other. And the stairs between the dressing room and the stage, really? Could you have a more obvious bit of telegraphing a punch?Showgirls is a movie that wants to be misunderstood. Joe Eszterhas’s brilliant book, The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood, goes to great lengths to explain how he wanted to frustrate his audiences expectations. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.