'Showgirls' Takes Off as Cult Classic
It's considered one of the worst movies ever made, but 'Showgirls' has enjoyed more staying power than a superglued pastie.
Since opening more than 10 years ago to mostly scathing reviews, director Paul Verhoeven's unintentionally campy film - about a hooker/stripper/showgirl who lap-dances her way to the top in a Las Vegas topless revue - has since become a cult classic. And it achieved that status despite its place on practically every all-time bad-movie list.
In recent years, 'Showgirls' has been a popular midnight-movie attraction, the basis of a home drinking game and the inspiration for 'Harvey Finklestein's Sock Puppet Showgirls,' a Fringe Festival theater parody two years ago that featured a cast of naked, pole-dancing sock puppets (the show returns to New York in the spring).
Now comes the live comedy show 'Showgirls: The Best Movie Ever Made. Ever!' Performed at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Manhattan on Thursdays, it cleverly skewers the movie's horrid acting, laughable dialogue, trashy stereotypes, mind-numbing plot and gratuitous nudity through reenactments of key scenes and video clips of some of the film's naughtier bits.
Not to mention an in-depth 'interview' with an actor who portrays Showgirls screenwriter Joe Eszterhas as a bloated, beer-swilling misogynist.
'What makes the movie so spectacularly bad is that [the filmmakers] had such a big budget and great resources to make this amazing movie, and they ended up making this horrible movie,' says 'Best Movie Ever' co-creator and writer John Flynn.
'But that's why it's the best bad movie of all time - because everyone involved thought they were making a masterpiece,' adds co-creator Jackie Clarke, who plays the evening's moderator.
'And the reason why people have become so obsessed with Showgirls is the same reason why people are obsessed with World War II - there's so much tragedy there.'
Rated NC-17 - a first for a big-budget Hollywood movie - Showgirls opened in September 1995 to plenty of hype. The film reteamed Verhoeven and Eszterhas, who had pushed the envelope three years earlier with the Sharon Stone-Michael Douglas erotic thriller Basic Instinct.
But Showgirls flopped faster than a double-D dancer in a B-cup bra, thanks to its silly, sleazy story line and over-the-top performances - none worse than Elizabeth Berkley's (of TV's Saved by the Bell) as stripper-turned-dancer Nomi Malone.
'It was one of those movies that was so anticipated before it opened,' says David Schwartz, chief curator of the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, 'but then became an incredible car wreck that people still love talking about. That kind of spectacle fascinates people, and it's how a movie like Showgirls becomes such a guilty pleasure.'
It's that very infamy that has continued to make Showgirls such a guilty pleasure. Its distributor, MGM, even tried capitalizing on it by rereleasing the film as a comedy soon after its initial theatrical run.
And two years ago, the DVD rerelease included shot glasses and instructions for a drinking game to complement home-viewing parties.
'It was fun to watch it the first time with your jaw open, because audiences were just astonished at what they were watching,' says Schwartz.
'But it's even more fun to look back on it now.'