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Featured Blu-ray Review: Showgirls

August 25th, 2010

Showgirls - Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack - Buy from Amazon

Showgirls is widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, certainly one of the worst studio films ever made. At some point in the past 15 years, the film stopped being treated as an erotic drama and it is now considered to be pure comedy. Is it able to survive better in that regard? Obviously it couldn't be worse, but does it transform trash into a movie worth watching? And is the film's Blu-ray debut worthy of picking up, or at least checking out?

The Movie

The plot, what little there is, goes something like this...

Elizabeth Berkley stars as Nomi, a girl who travels to Las Vegas to become a dancer, but ends up working as a stripper. She gets her big break when she meets Cristal Conners, who is currently the lead dancer in the Goddess show at the Stardust casino. Cristal helps get Nomi out of stripping and into the world of merely dancing topless. However, her motives are unclear and when Cristal and Nomi become rivals for the lead, there relationship changes. Will Nomi find the fame she desires, or will the cruel world of erotic dancing crush her spirits?

There are a lot more details than that, but quite frankly, just writing about it is causing my IQ points to melt away.

This is a stunningly bad movie in nearly every regard. Big picture, this movie is about the dangers of fame and the costs associated with the quest for fame. In this regard, it's a failure, because the lead character is not sympathetic enough to root for. In fact, almost none of the characters are sympathetic in any way. The only major character that is kind is Molly, (played by Gina Ravera) and she ends up beaten and raped. The events of the film are so preposterous that they strain suspension of disbelief way past the breaking point. We are led to believe the Goddess act at the Stardust was some major attraction that international journalists would cover, and respectable actresses would vie for the lead. However, it looks like a pornographic act done by someone with delusions of artistic grandeur. The acting in the movie ranges from distractingly bad to "What were they thinking?" levels of bad. I'm sure in some cases this is the result in poor casting decisions, but a lot of the blame has to be placed on the script. The script was seemingly written by someone who is not human and has no firsthand knowledge of what human interaction looks like. They certainly have never met a woman, yet are filled with nothing but hatred for the gender.

Even as a Sexploitation film it is a failure, as the sex scenes range from poorly done, to creepy, to giggle-inducing, and worse. Sure, there's a lot of nudity, but there's so much that it loses all effectiveness and by the end, you never want to see another boob in your entire life. That's probably the film's most impressive feat; it's so bad it will make you dislike breasts.

This film virtually killed the movie careers of its lead, its writer, its director, and for good reason. The only person that I think came out of the film more or less unscathed was Gina Gershon, mainly because it felt like she knew what type of film this was. Her performance at least fits the feel of the movie and her character is one of the few that feel natural.

Even calling Showgirls a guilty pleasure is being too kind and the best you can say is, "It's so bad it's good." I found it a chore to sit through (it's over two hours long) and without the audio commentary track, it would be impossible to watch.

The Extras

Extras on the Blu-ray start with an audio commentary track by David Schmader, He believes the movie is so bad that it touches people on a deep level, the same way great art does. It's sort of like if you have a really, really, really old car and the odometer kicks over. Instead of having a car with nearly a million miles on it, you have a car that has barely been driven. I don't know if I'm in agreement with that assessment, but without his commentary, I wouldn't have been able to sit through the movie for more than a few minutes at a time. Even with the audio commentary track, I had to pause the movie on several occasions and walk away. There is also a trivia track that treats the film with the same level of respect, i.e. none.

There are several featurettes, starting with Pole Dancing: Finding Your Inner Stripper. The 12-minute featurette on the gymnastic side of pole dancing doesn't come across as exploitative. On the other hand, Lap Dance Tutorial does feel like that. There are 11 minutes of behind the scenes / storyboards.

It also comes with the DVD of the movie, which has a making-of featurette found on the Blu-ray.

Looking at the technical specs, the movie looks and sounds better than expected. The detail level is solid, colors are strong, contrast is good. There are a lot of rather dark scenes, but this is not the fault of the transfer. There are more directional effects than I was expecting in the audio track, while the bass gets a bit of a workout. Overall it is very good, especially considering its age and they type of release.

Finally, the price is acceptable for "Special Edition" Blu-ray release.

The Verdict

This is the first time I watched Showgirls and even though I knew its reputation, I wasn't prepared for how bad it was. I was expecting a misfire of a movie, but not one that is this bad in virtually every way. If the Blu-ray tried to celebrate the film as a legitimate success, then it would be utterly skippable. However, for fans of bad movies, this is the Holy Grail. The studio understands its appeal and the heart of the extras don't try to sell the movie as anything other than trash. Fans of bad movies in general will want to check it out, while if you had the previous DVD release, it might be worth picking up. (However, without the physical extras like the shot glasses and such, it's not enough to replace the collector's edition.)

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