Original release: January 12th, 1996
Running time: 128 minutes
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writer: Joe Eszterhas
Composer: David A. Stewart
Cast: Elizabeth Berkley, Gina Gershon, Kyle Maclachlan, Robert Davi, Gina Ravera, Rena Riffel, Glenn Plummer
The pool scene: 01:20:53 to 01:23:36
It’s funny how films can influence what you want to do with your life. All the other boys in my class wanted to become policemen, firemen and footballers. I had very different career aspects.
At the age of seven I wanted to be a fisherman so I could catch Jaws. At eight I wanted to become a vampire slayer, staying up all night patrolling graveyards. Then at the age of ten I built a replica of the Lament Configuration so I could interview Pinhead and the Cenobites and be a world renowned journalist (thankfully it didn’t work).
It was at the age of eleven when, during a sleepover, my cousin and I naively decided that we wanted to move to Las Vegas after watching Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 cult classic Showgirls.
Following the success of his earlier films Robocop (1987) and Total Recall (1990), Verhoeven caused quite the controversy with Basic Instinct (1992), one of the most financially successful films of the 1990’s. Using similar themes of sexual exploration he followed that up with Showgirls.
Drifter Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) has one thing on her mind: success. Having been robbed of her belongings after hitching a lift to Las Vegas, she becomes a stripper and lap-dancer at the Cheetah Club, earning enough money to pay her way whilst living with seamstress Molly (Gina Ravera).
She is soon discovered by Cristal (Gina Gershon), the star of the biggest and sexiest show in Vegas. With her lover Zack (Kyle Maclachlan) they give her the chance to fulfil her ambition and dream. But behind the sequins and glamour lies a world of traps fuelled by jealousy and lust which Nomi, who’s blind ambition has censored this, is soon going to find out what it really takes to get to the top.
Enter the world of Showgirls and leave your inhibitions at the door.
Out of all the scenes, one in particular has become the most memorable that everyone mentions, the infamous pool sequence.
Having snagged her nails into her rival’s lover, Nomi seduces Zack at his posh mansion. Stepping outside she provocatively removes her dress in front of the neon palm tree lights, which illuminate the garden. Walking towards the pool, she dives in, pulling her hair back. The fountains start pumping water out and she splashes it seductively on her body.
The shot changes to the backside of Zach who is also naked, carrying a bottle of champagne and two glasses. He gets into the pool and begins pouring the drink, spilling it everywhere. Rather excitedly he pours the bottle over Nomi’s hair and breasts as she mimics taking a shower, laughing as he does it. With him licking it off her body the tension is at a high as she moans and begins to passionately kiss him.
Going under the water she performs a sexual favour before swimming under and leading him under a waterfall. They continue being passionate as she pushes him up against the side of the pool and they have intercourse. Nomi begins to move her body uncontrollably, leaning herself back as the fountain showers her naked body.
Afterwards, he pulls her up for a kiss, their eyes meet again and they gaze at each other for a moment before kissing again and the screen fades.
There are numerous elements that made this scene so memorable. Berkley’s performance gives Linda Blair a run for her money. She looks possessed and Maclachlan is performing an exorcism on her. The music is meant to be dramatic but resembles a seedy adult film. There is hardly any dialogue in this scene and it’s the expressions on the actor’s faces and bodies, which lead the audience through.
It’s filled with sexual innuendo, particularly with the use of liquids such as the fountains and champagne covering Nomi’s body. When I first saw this scene my initial reaction was to giggle. I was young and couldn’t believe we had watched something so raunchy.
I do believe that we have become a generation fascinated by the striptease and confessional culture. We like to watch reality television shows where everyday people confess to their sexual activities, we like to know what people get up to behind closed doors. New York Magazine (1995) published an article on the film stating:
It creates the illusion that we have paid for a private show and you feel drawn to watch.
Critics suggested that the film was portraying a negative perception of women but Verhoeven and writer Joe Eszterhas stated that it should be taken as a ‘feminist’ statement. Instead of killing men with a pick-axe (Basic Instinct), it’s the sexualization of the women’s bodies, that act as a weapon. They are able to gain empowerment over the male characters and can control what happens in order to stay ahead of the competition.
With a budget of approximately $45 million dollars, Verhoeven had high hopes for Showgirls, marketed as a serious drama. Sadly, it was panned by critics and flopped at the box office. The film has been the winner of eight Golden Raspberry Awards and even the pool sequence won an award for Worst Screen Couple. It was the film that former Saved by the Bell star Berkley hoped would make her a star, but became the film that ended her career.
As Cristal says: “There’s always someone younger and hungrier than you coming down the stairs after you,”
Striptease (1996) had a similar storyline and tried to distance itself from Showgirls in order to avoid becoming a box office bomb but failed.
Over the years, films like Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild (2008) have mimicked the pool sequence, highlighting the over the top performances and hilarity of it all. Recently, a parody and homage to the original film titled Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven has been announced. Rena Riffel, a co-star of the original, wrote, directed, edited and reprised her role as Penny.
Fourteen years after watching it, I can safely say that I didn’t become a Las Vegas Showgirl. My cousin on the other hand works in a similar environment and tells me the competition between the girls mirror the film. I tell her to let them go down the stairs first – just in case!
I can’t express my love for this film enough. The fact it was portrayed as a serious film makes it all the better. It’s camp, offers hilarious dialogue and is filled with entertaining moments. It may have flopped at the box office but it was successful on home release, firmly becoming a cult classic. The pool sequence always makes me laugh to this day.
It’s gained the reputation of the worst film ever made but whether you love it or hate it Showgirls is a true classic. Now watch your step, I’m right behind you.
Jamie, editor for Cult Movies at Static Mass, is a 24 year old media studies graduate from Sheffield, who likes nothing better than watching films. If he was to star in a horror film he’d like to be the first one killed (think Drew Barrymore in Scream).
He has a keen interest in horror which started when he was a child. Due to his hyperactive behaviour his cousins made him watch films they thought would calm him down- They were wrong! It was watching Hellraiser and Killer Klowns from Outer Space that his passion for horror began. Over the years this developed into a passion for zombies, madmen, mutated animals and all things gore.
When he’s not working, in his dream world, worrying about zombie epidemics or watching films, he can be found on Twitter sharing his thoughts and bringing his dream world into reality.
You can follow Jamie on Twitter @JamieSuckley.