Saturday, October 13, 2012

Have You Ogled a Ford Lately?: "Showgirl Murders" (1996)

Jessica is one bad chick. In the film's opening shot, she robs an overdosing drug dealer and hitches a ride to Hollywood to pull another scam.

Jessica (Maria Ford) stops in at a bar run by dummy Mitch (Matt Preston) and his sauced wife Carolyn (D.S. Case). Mitch and Carolyn's bar is not doing well. Carolyn killed a kid in a car accident months before and drinks to try and forget it. Jessica asks for a job, is hired as a waitress, then dances on a table and suddenly Mitch and Carolyn are in the topless bar biz.

Jessica's weird floor show brings in every booze hound in the L.A. area, and profits begin to grow. Jessica stashes some money away on the sly, and Carolyn resents Jessica's beauty and ability to remain sober. DEA agent Ridley (Bob McFarland) comes poking around, as does Joey (Kevin Alber), a scuzball from Jessica's past. Joey gets into a bar fight, but Jessica convinces Mitch not to report him. Jessica and Mitch have sex on a pool table, and Jessica convinces him to kill Carolyn. Carolyn sets the apartment kitchen on fire, smacks Mitch around a little, but Mitch cannot bring himself to off her. Jessica convinces Joey to stab Carolyn, but she lives and Joey dies running from the cops.

Carolyn dries out in the hospital, comes home, and Jessica and Mitch get her drunk, poison her, then bash her head in with a lamp (it was easier killing Rasputin). Ridley starts asking questions, takes some photos of Jessica and Mitch having sex while scattering Carolyn's ashes in the woods (!), and blackmails the couple when they come home from a quickie marriage. Jessica's ex (and Joey's brother), Crank (Jeff Douglas) arrives in town, and the only mystery left is which man will Jessica screw over to get what she wants.

On the surface, "Showgirl Murders" is not as bad as the other fodder that has spewed forth from any company run by Roger Corman. It is well directed, well acted, and well edited. It is eighty-five minutes (the unrated version), so it is not too long, and having Ford take her clothes off every five minutes certainly kept this reviewer awake. Once you start thinking about the film, however, its flaws are more than evident.

Mitch is one of the dumbest characters in recent memory. Drunk Carolyn actually isn't too bad, but Mitch just goes along with the murder plan as if he were buying a carton of milk. Jessica is so obviously bad, there is no suspense behind her motives. I kept waiting for the screenwriter to make her the sister of the child Carolyn killed in the accident, but that never came about. Ridley the crooked cop, Mitch the idiot, Jessica the villain, Crank and Joey the secondary villains, Carolyn the angry drunk, just who the hell is the audience supposed to root for? The "good man being led astray by the bad girl" is a storyline that has been done to death, and it doesn't help any subtlety to have Mitch and Carolyn's last name be "Goodman," and Jessica's is "Cross." With this line of thinking, Crank and Joey's last name should have been "Badguys," but no such luck.

After Jessica arrives, the film follows a routine. There is a dialogue scene to move the story along, then Jessica dances a dance in the club, more dialogue, more dancing, dialogue, dance, etc. Ford choreographed her routines, but I mostly stared at a painful looking nipple ring she was sporting. The conclusion is something you see coming down your local street from a mile away, and suddenly this film is a loser.

"Showgirl Murders" is a quickie made to cash in on the notorious "Showgirls." Save your clammy dollar bills for something more rewarding than this. (* *) out of five stars.