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Paul Verhoeven
Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan, Gina Gershon, Glenn Plummer, Robert Davi, Alan Rachins, Gina Ravera, Lin Tucci
Writing Credits:
Joe Eszterhas

Leave Your Inhibitions At The Door.

It's the ultimate in infamy ... a deluxe V.I.P. Edition packed with more bonuses than a lap dancer's bustier. From the creators of Basic Instinct comes Showgirls, an "instant camp classic" (The New York Times) and a spectacularly lusty film experience no one should miss!

Vegas, baby. Where the dreams and desires to make it big are as sharp as a stiletto heel. Enter Nomi (Elizabeth Berkley), a girl with the looks and drive to devour the glitz and glamour whole. When she catches the eye of Cristal (Gina Gershon), the main attraction at the Stardust stage show, Nomi is on the brink of realizing her dreams. But as she quickly bumps and grinds her way to the top, Nomi realizes that there is room for only one starlet on the marquee ... and that either she or Cristal will have to take a fall!

Box Office:
$45 million.
Opening Weekend
$8.112 million on (unknown) screens.
Domestic Gross
$20.302 million.

Rated NC-17

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 131 min.
Price: $39.98
Release Date: 7/27/2004

• Audio Commentary with Showgirls Expert David Schmader
• Video Commentary during Strip Club Dance Scene with the Girls of Scores
• Lap-Dance Tutorial
• “A Showgirls Diary”
• Trivia Track
• Trailer
• Set of Showgirls Shot Glasses
• “Pin the Pasties on the Showgirl” Game
• Deck of Showgirls Playing Cards
• Six Photo Cards with Party Games


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Showgirls: VIP Edition (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 9, 2004)

Here it is, folks: the first - and so far only - mainstream, general-release movie to be rated "NC-17". That rating was created in the early 1990s to try to eliminate the stigma attached to the "X". It was felt that filmmakers felt stifled by the limitations of "R" but needed to edit their movies to make them "R"-worthy or else they'd get the dreaded "X" with its connotations of porn and certain financial death at the box office.

As such, the MPAA tried to reclaim their rating system from the porno movies and they made the "NC-17", which was supposed to be the classy, painless way to offer adult-oriented films. That was the intention, but it never quite worked out that way.

The first "NC-17" movie was Henry and June, an art house affair that had almost zero appeal for the general public. Filmmakers still seemed afraid of the "NC-17" and stayed away from it, other than for these kinds of small films that would have just been unrated anyway.

Showgirls had the potential to change that. Here at last was a mainstream film from a well-regarded director with Paul Verhoeven of Robocop and Basic Instinct fame plus a successful writer via Joe Eszterhaz of Basic Instinct and Jagged Edge) with the backing of a major studio in the form of MGM. How could it fail?

Pretty easily, as it happens. The problems: a) the film was no good; and b) it turns out no one was really all that interested in seeing a movie about the happenings "behind the scenes" at Las Vegas revues. Add to that the ironic stigma that Showgirls was essentially perceived as a glorified porno movie and the film died a very quick death at the box office. Had things gone differently, thousands of Internet geeks would have been spared the ordeal of endless arguments about whether Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut should have been altered because Warner Bros. might have let it go out as "NC-17".

I guess Showgirls was the wrong horse upon which to bet all the "NC-17" bucks, though the entire affair has given it an infamous immortality that otherwise might have been lost. Had it received an "R", it would have been long forgotten, for it really is a pretty crummy movie.

Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) comes to Las Vegas with the dream to become a showgirl. She quickly gets ripped off, though this allows her to meet and befriend Molly Abrams (Gina Ravera), a costume mistress for a big show. Nomi gets a job as a stripper but still hopes to get into casino revues. Her connection through Molly allows Nomi a bit of an inside connection, and she idolizes star performer Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon), at least until the dancer insults her. Nomi also lusts for Cristal’s boyfriend, hotel entertainment director Zack Carey (Kyle MacLachlan).

Nomi meets nightclub bouncer named James Smith (Glenn Plummer) who claims he can help improve her dancing skills. They engage in a rocky relationship. In the meantime, Cristal drags Zack to Nomi’s club, primarily in an apparent effort to humiliate the dancer. This works, but Cristal initiates a triangle when she pays Nomi to lap-dance Zack, which piques his interest in her.

Cristal also maintains a perverse fascination with Nomi, so she sends a representative from her show to recruit her for an audition. She thinks she fails, which is what first lands her with James. However, she ultimately lands the gig as part of the chorus.

From there Showgirls follows Nomi’s path to stardom. She eventually capitalizes on Cristal’s failings, and she also manipulates situations to her own advantage. She becomes cutthroat and plows through everyone in her way as she runs to the top.

Any similarities between Showgirls and All About Eve are purely intentional. Imagine the Bette Davis classic without the snappy dialogue and vivid performances but with a lot more skin and you get Showgirls. It’s almost like a porn knock-off of Eve, honestly; it’s only marginally classier than cheap rip-offs with titles like Saving Ryan’s Privates.

Actually, Showgirls isn't bad in an unentertaining, unwatchable way. Indeed, it does offer some guiltily campy pleasures, and despite the protestations of many, I think Verhoeven meant it to be that way. His American films have always tended to have an overblown spirit and openly satirize aspects of our culture. It's not quite as obvious in Showgirls as it was in Robocop or Starship Troopers, but it's definitely there.

The conflict occurs because it also seems clear the Eszterhas wasn't kidding around when he wrote the script. It seems obvious that he was on some sort of hit-writer high and he thought he was concocting some sort of sleazy epic. The result is some insanely laughable dialogue - such as an interchange between Nomi and Cristal about the pleasures of dog food - and the entire movie possesses a bizarre mix of high drama and low comedy. God knows what Eszterhas was thinking, but he really crashed and burned here.

Large portions of Showgirls are quite dull, but we find enough trashy fun to keep us entertained. Berkley is uniformly awful as the mercenary Nomi, but she doesn't stand alone in that category. Quite a few of the other actors are not so hot as well - though no one else is nearly as overly-emotive as she - and Verhoeven's movies often feature poor acting. I might even believe that perhaps some of Berkley's extreme broadness was intentional were there not at least a few other decent performances, notably from Gershon, who seems to have been the only participant to actually get a career boost from this film. Whereas Nomi comes across as a nasty bitch who cannot possibly seem endearing to anyone, Cristal seems to be a clever, charming bitch whose popularity we can understand.

Although not much about Showgirls seems entertaining, and its crassness can be pretty bad, I have to admit the nudity doesn't hurt. Actually, I thought there'd be more than there is. Sure, we see lots of topless scenes, but we get only a little full-frontal. Hey, I thought this was supposed to push the envelope?

Ultimately Showgirls stands as a genuinely bad movie, and whether or not you'll enjoy it depends on your tolerance for campy trash. I won't really try to defend it on the grounds that much of the silliness does seem intentional, but I suppose that'll let the more pretentious folks feel better about watching it.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Showgirls appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Very few problems manifested themselves during this consistently fine transfer.

Almost without exception, the image presented strong sharpness. A few shots looked slightly soft, but those didn’t occur more than a couple of times. Instead, the movie almost always appeared concise and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I also saw no problems with edge enhancement. As for print flaws, the film demonstrated a couple of speckles but that was it, as the movie almost always came across as clean and fresh.

Colors generally seemed wonderfully rich and deep, with excellent saturation and few signs of problems. The only concerns occurred during the fairly frequent scenes that depict colored lighting. At times, these appeared a bit noisy and hazy. It's not a terrible concern but it's a slight distraction nonetheless. Black levels were thoroughly dense and dark, and shadow detail appeared nicely opaque but never overly thick. The minor concerns I mentioned caused me some indecision when I needed to give the image a grade, but I felt it looked too strong too much of the time to knock it below an “A-“.

I also felt positively about the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Showgirls. The soundfield seemed terrifically involving throughout virtually the entire film. In quieter moments, ambient effects helped reinforce the mood, but the best parts were during the louder scenes; that was when the track really kicked into high gear. Primarily these occurred during the many segments that featured music. Between nightclubs, parties, and the Vegas shows themselves, loud music was a near-constant partner in this movie, and the soundtrack helped blast it with "you are there" realism. Not only did the songs fly from all five channels, but also they present a quality that made them seem natural. The audio didn't engulf the listener randomly but instead created an atmosphere that resembled the dynamics of the depicted venues, so that music in a club had the boomy echo of audio in an actual club. It all worked very well.

Quality was also strong. Dialogue consistently seemed pretty natural and warm, with no intelligibility issues. I detected a slight bit of distortion from the speech at times, but this seemed mild. Effects were crisp and clear and appeared nicely realistic. Music was bright and bold and always sounded appropriate for the on-screen setting.

Bass seemed positive, though I must admit it's a minor disappointment that it didn't use the LFE channel. This usually didn’t cause any concerns, but I thought some elements - especially rock music - lacked great depth. Most of the mix featured fine bass, but it could have been warmer at times. Nonetheless, the track presented a lively presence that fared nicely.

How did the picture and audio of this release compare to those of the prior DVD? The audio seemed identical, as I noticed no differences between the two discs’ Dolby Digital tracks. However, the new transfer demonstrated improvements over the old non-anamorphic one. This one looked tighter and lacked the shimmering and jaggies of the earlier visuals. Much of the first disc held up well, but the new version offered a noticeable improvement.

This “VIP Edition” of Showgirls also expands on the extras of the original DVD, though it fails to present the kind of stuffed package fans would like. We start with an audio commentary from Showgirls expert David Schmader, who provides a running, screen-specific chat. Apparently Schmader runs annotated screenings of the flick during which he chats about it as it proceeds. I guess he saves the good material for the paying customers, as his commentary seems less than scintillating.

Expect almost no information about the film’s creation. Schmader tosses out a handful of remarks about some cut sequences as well as Verhoeven’s motivation and that’s about it. Otherwise he simply snickers at the movie and makes fun of it. That’d be fine if he offered more entertaining statements. His cracks tend to be fairly lame and obvious, and he also fails to speak much of the time. Schmader remains silent during the vast majority of the film. I don’t know if that’s good or bad; since what he says seems so pointless, I can’t imagine this painful commentary would fare better if he talked more frequently. Anyway, skip this dud unless you can’t live without a screening of Showgirls narrated by a mostly unfunny MST3K wannabe.

We also find a brief video commentary from some strippers at the Scores nightclub. They chat solely during the main scene at the strip club; they first pop up at the 20:40 mark and they appear sporadically until 32:40. They watch the flick and comment on the reality of the strip scenes as well as their own experiences. An interesting tidbit or two shows up, but most of their remarks seem banal.

Another viewing option appears via a trivia track. With this activated, little blurbs pop up throughout the movie. They concentrate on facts connected to different parts of the film like Vegas and its shows as well as notes about the movie and its participants. These incorporate some nice tidbits about the flick and even toss in occasional catty comments from those involved as well as from the track’s writers. The track balances information about the movie and external factors to become a fun and useful discussion, and it’s one of the better trivia tracks I’ve seen. It certainly outdoes the silly audio commentary; at least when this one jabs the film, it does so in clever and amusing ways.

More activity from the Scores dancers comes from a Lap-Dance Tutorial. In this four-minute and 55-second featurette, two dancers tell us the methods they use to provide good lap dances. Their notes come accompanied by snippets from the film and some shots of the two Scores dancers in action. It’s a pretty silly extra.

The DVD presents A Showgirls Diary. This offers four featurettes that each concentrates on different scenes. They run between two minutes, eight seconds and three minutes, 25 seconds for a total of 10 minutes, 46 seconds of footage. They incorporate shots of director Paul Verhoeven’s script - annotated with little drawings - plus movie snippets and footage from the set. These seem moderately interesting and that’s about it; the material from the shoot is fun, but we don’t get a lot of it.

In addition to the flick’s theatrical trailer, we find some ads in Other Great MGM Releases. This includes a general promo called “MGM Means Great Movies” and specific trailers for The Great Escape and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

That concludes the disc-based supplements, but the “VIP Edition” packs a number of physical extras. The set includes a Showgirls-branded pack of playing cards and a pair of Showgirls shot glasses. What at first glance appears to be a topless poster of Berkley turns out to be a Pin the Pasties on the Showgirl game; the set also tosses in a mask and the necessary tassels. Finally, six picture cards offer glossy photos from the film plus instructions for some “non-alcoholic” drinking games and a few “fun facts” about Showgirls. These components seem cute and that’s all.

I hate to have to pan a movie that provides a memorable dry-hump scene, but I'm afraid I must. Showgirls is a few minutes of campy fun surrounded by long stretches of glossy boredom. The DVD offers very strong picture and sound, and it tosses in an elaborate package with some fairly mediocre extras.

If you’ve never seen Showgirls and want to experience its horrors for yourself, go with a rental or the old DVD; it’s much cheaper. If you’re an already-established fan, should you go with this “VIP Edition”? Yeah, but only if you’re a really dedicated partisan. The improved transfer is a plus, but the supplements don’t add enough to merit the additional money. It’s a cute set and I give MGM credit for attempting something different, but there’s little here to justify the costs.

To rate this film visit the original review of SHOWGIRLS