The plotline was as flimsy as the costumes. The dialogue was beyond dreadful (''You are a whore, darlin'!''). Even the dancing was bad. So naturally, Showgirls is being revived with a sequel. In fact, a couple of them.
That's right, there are now competing sequels in the works to a film almost everybody in the world considers one of the worst ever made. Neither project has a distributor yet, and neither will be an official follow-up because the rights to Paul Verhoeven's 1995 All About Eve update, featuring backstabbing Las Vegas dancers, are scattered among numerous owners, which makes purchasing them all but impossible. But there's no mistaking where these films about topless hoofers are finding their inspiration. One is called Showgirl note the lawsuit-deflecting missing s in the title and is written and directed by Rena Riffel, the actress who played Penny/Hope in Verhoeven's original movie (you remember, the blonde with the bob cut who stripped at Cheetahs). The other, Showgirls Exposed, was shot in Europe, and it rearranges a few letters too. ''In Paul Verhoeven's movie, the character Nomi spelled her name with an i at the end,'' says German director Marc Vorlander. ''In my movie, Nomy has a y at the end.''
However you spell it, the question is the same: What would compel two people on different continents to make rival sequels to a film that won seven Golden Raspberries at the 1996 Razzies (from a record 13 nominations) and ended up grossing roughly half of its $35 million budget? Sure, in the years since its release Showgirls has acquired a so-bad-it's-good cult following thanks to packed midnight screenings. But this was only after it nearly destroyed the reputation of its director (who'd previously made such fine fare as RoboCop and Total Recall), to say nothing of the damage it did to Elizabeth Berkley's chaste Saved by the Bell image. Only Gina Gershon and Kyle MacLachlan emerged relatively unscathed. And also, it turns out, Rena Riffel. ''I've been to so many of the midnight showings,'' says the breathy 41-year-old star of such B-minus movies as Caligula's Spawn and Trasharella. ''The audience just loves this film. And I love Showgirls too. In my real life, I am that character. I am Penny Hope!''