Craptastic Cinema

Celebrating The Best Of The Worst Movies


Year : 1995 Director : Paul Verhoeven Running Time : 131 Minutes Genre : ,
Movie review score

It was the summer of 1995.  I was in between my Junior and Senior years of High School.  I had just turned 17 years old, and all summer long there was only one movie on my mind.  That movie was Showgirls.

Showgirls was the first majorly distributed movie to have the rating of NC-17 in the United States.  By being NC-17, and not Rated R, it also meant that I could go see the movie in the theaters.  At the time, as it still is today, you had to be 18 years old to see a Rated R movie.  This movie promised lots of sex and nudity, and I was able to see it.  SCORE!!!  There was one more reason why my friends and I were excited to see it.  The main reason for excitement was because Elizabeth Berkley was the star.  Prior to this movie, Berkley played “Jessie Spano” on the television show Saved By The Bell.  Outside of one episode where she was addicted to speed, Jessie was the good girl, feminist character.  The fact that Showgirls promoted that it showed “Jessie nude” was more than enough to get almost every guy my age interested in watching.  On opening night, the first screening in town, a group of five friends, including myself, went to see what we expected to be the defining movie of our lives.  What we witnessed was pure Craptastic splendor.

Showgirls is about Nomi Malone (Berkley), a drifter who has dreams of being a showgirl in a big Las Vegas stage production.  She hitchhikes her way there, and within minutes of arriving, she gets ripped off by someone she felt she could trust.  Luck was on her side though, because very soon afterwards, she meets a girl name Molly (Gina Ravera).  Feeling sorry for Nomi, Molly takes her in as a friend and roommate.  Molly also happens to be a seamstress for the show “Goddess” at the Stardust Casino.  On the night Crystal Connors (Gina Gershon) debuts as the star for “Goddess”, Molly takes Nomi to see the show.  Afterwards, Molly introduced Nomi to Crystal as a friend, and aspiring dancer.  When Crystal learns that Nomi is working as a stripper at Cheetah’s Topless Club, Crystal told Nomi “…if it’s at the Cheetah, it’s not dancing.”  This sparked a fire in Nomi to prove herself to Crystal, and to be a star.

Crystal soon takes Zack Carey (Kyle MacLachlan), the entertainment director for Stardust, to see Nomi at Cheetah’s.  Nomi gives Zack a lap dance that was good enough to land an audition for the show.  After her audition, Nomi finds out she was given a role in the chorus line, and quits the strip club for good.  It is then that Nomi sees the dark side of being a Vegas showgirl.  She witnesses girls insult, injure, and back stab each other  almost like clockwork.  She also sees that to many involved, showgirls are nothing more than glitzy whores.  A fact confirmed by Crystal when she took Nomi out to lunch one day.  Still, Nomi claws her way up to replace Crystal as the star of the show.

Over the course of the movie, Nomi meets a wide range of characters, who all shape her character various ways.  The closest she has to a boyfriend is a bouncer/dancer named James (Glenn Plummer).  James spends too much time thinking with the brain between his legs, and he soon ruins his chances with Nomi.  Outside of that fact, he is a voice of good conscious throughout the entire movie.  A voice that Nomi chooses to ignore.  Perhaps my favorite character in the movie is the owner of the Cheetah, Al Torres, played by Robert Davi.  While Al is a complete jerk of a character, he delivers some of the best lines of the film.  Almost everything he says generates a laugh with me.  Al, and a woman one presumes is either his wife or favorite performer “Mama” Bazoom (Lin Tucci), end up being somewhat of parent figures to Nomi.

Showgirls did horribly in the theaters.  It also generated more negative reviews than positive ones.  The theater performance could be expected though.  Being a NC-17 film, most theaters did not show it until late at night, if they showed it at all.  When you limit a movie to maybe two showings a day, you are setting up that film to be a commercial failure.  The negative reviews; however, I feel are unwarranted.  If you take away the sexual overtones from Showgirls, you have a movie about a woman coming to her own against the chaos of the Las Vegas night life.  Showgirls very much is a movie of “woman power”.  The characters are great, the acting is decent, and the movie flows at a very good pace.

On our Craptastic Scale, Showgirls scores a 4 out 5.  Sadly, what hurts this movie is Elizabeth Berkley in the lead.  She wasn’t ready for this type of role fresh from Saved By The Bell.  It is not that she did a bad job, it just perhaps would have been better with someone else as Nomi.  Granted, this movie probably would not have been anywhere near as anticipated had it not been for Berkley.  That is a catch 22 for Showgirls, it’s greatest publicity is also it’s greatest falut.  All the side characters are perfectly cast, and really are the stars of Showgirls.  In fact, one of those side characters was Penny/Hope played by Rena Riffel.  Riffel later gathered a lot of the side characters, and made the independent sequel/spoof Showgirls 2: Penny’s from Heaven.  It is VERY low budget, rumored to be $35,000, and is only for die-hard fans of the first film.

Showgirls has been released, and re-released, several times over the years.  The Blu-Ray is not much different from the “Fully Exposed” DVD edition, outside of the HD Picture, and the DTS-HD sound.  It appears the Blu-Ray was a limited release, and is quite expensive to buy.  You can pick up the DVD, used, for under $10.  The Blu-Ray, used, is still around $25, unless you bargain hunt for a lower price.  There is also a “Director’s Rated R Edition” out there.  Paul Verhoeven went into the film, cut a few minutes out, and added computer generated underwear to a couple scenes.  That is the version you will find in most video stores, and the one movie channels air.  I personally like the Blu-Ray, and feel it is worth the upgrade from the DVD.  Las Vegas really “pops” in HD.

If you plan on watching this movie, I recommend gathering a group of friends, and sharing a few laughs together.  There is also a drinking game for the movie.  The official rules were actually included in the “VIP Edition” of the DVD, but here is a modified one, made by myself and a couple other Craptastic Critics.  We feel this will give you a more enjoyable viewing, and drinking experience.  Have fun with it, it doesn’t suck.


Take a drink when

  • Elizabeth Berkley grunts, or makes a strange noise, when she dances
  • Gina Gershon refers to someone as Darlin’
  • Elizabeth Berkley storms out of a room, or scene, for whatever reason
  • Elizabeth Berkley gets excited over food
  • Elizabeth Berkley slaps, kicks, or knees someone (one for every hit)
  • Elizabeth Berkley says something that is completely dumb, considering her character on Saved By The Bell was the smart girl
  • You see a cheesy haircut (basically every scene with Kyle MacLaughlan)
  • There is Girl-On-Girl action
  • Elizabeth Berkley eats fast food, or any type of junk food
  • Elizabeth Berkley hits someone’s car (one for every hit)
  • A showgirl/stripper, not Elizabeth Berkley, disses or gets into a fight with another showgirl/stripper

Take two drinks when

  • A lesbian innuendo is made which doesn’t lead to any type of action
  • Elizabeth Berkley tells someone she is on her period
  • The name Polly, or Pollyanna, is said
  • Anyone falls down from the actions of someone else
  • Someone appears to have paint, or lipstick, on their nipples for no reason whatsoever
  • The number 319 (or 3 19) is mentioned in script or in soundtrack
  • Elizabeth Berkley pulls a switchblade on someone
  • Someone asks “Have you heard Caesar sing?”

Finish your drink when

  • Someone flops around like a fish out of water, gasping for air, in a scene that is supposed to be erotic
  • Someone calls Versace “ver-sace”
  • You finally hear Caesar sing

-Matt Camarco

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