Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Showgirls (1995)
MGM/UA Home Video | Review by Dan Taylor

I recently purchased an old-fashioned laser disc player from the Gonster, cutting a deal that cost me a hefty $35 and a couple packs of Shadowfist trading cards. Although the thing is bulky enough to give you a hernia and can't play the multiple tracks of many of the "deluxe" lasers on the market, it more than does the job for this cinematic junkie. [Unfortunately, my copy of the incredible RE-ANIMATOR 10th Anniversary edition can only be viewed with the alternate tracks "on"... fortunately, I can recite the film from memory.]

At this point, I've been resisting the temptation to stock my collection with beloved exploitation efforts, especially since these usually run into triple digit price tags. (That makes sense... cheap jack fare like HALLOWEEN runs about $100 for the deluxe edition.) Luckily, I have been able to snag a couple flicks on sale or closeout (including the unheralded THE CHASE) and ER friends have been nice enough to gift us with such beautious cinema as THE WILD BUNCH and the original GETAWAY.

Anyway, the only reason I'm yammering about my ldp is because of my desperate need to get SHOWGIRLS on laser. Reason? Twenty years from now, my children will think I'm lying when I tell them how much of a "sit-on-plastic-'cause-you're-gonna-wet-yourself" classic this puppy is!

I'm assuming you all know the basic poop behind this $40 million turkey-lurkey. In a nutshell, director Paul Verhoeven slums on (what should have been) a straight-to-video pic and screenwriter Joe Ezsterhas (what, no Oscar nomination?) continues to flaunt what little talent he has. Remember gang, his claim to fame is writing the captivating BASIC INSTINCT, a forgettable snoozer with/without lil' Ms. Oscar Nominee flashing us her dam builder.

The -- oh, I can't bring myself to call it a "film" -- movie pretty much lifts the framework from the equally hilarious BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (young upstart moves to big city, clashes with those who've made it, gets trapped in the scene, overcomes tragedy and returns to the "normal" life) and transfers it to the glitz and glamour world of Las Vegas show revues. Question...is this really that glamorous a world? Do little girls in (insert the name of a dull state here) sit under the peach tree and dream of showing their hooters to drunken gamblers waiting to see if they lost enough at the craps table to earn a comp room? [By the way, when I refer to women's breasts as "hooters" I'm only attempting to maintain the perversely unerotic mood of the film... it's as erotic as reading a cereal box.]

For those of you wishing to explore the history of the whole "vengeful stripper" genre, I'd recommend digging through the 99¢ bin at your local vid store and grabbing the excellent STRIPPED TO KILL (installments 1 and 2) as well as Dan Golden's phenomenal video potboiler NAKED OBSESSION (featuring a splendid cinematic turn from director, writer, producer, nice guy Fred Olen Ray as a strip club mc). Then watch SHOWGIRLS and see the same framework tale done for 40 times the money.

As for Elizabeth Berkley -- in the center of the maelstorm as Nomi Malone -- I think she needs to court 'Saved By the Bell' co-star "Screech" for her next film. I've always insisted that he brings out her best!

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