Whenever a group of comedic movie mockers stage a live commentary for a bad movie screening, the movies are secondary. David Schmader, a writer who has performed live movie commentaries in 2002, wants you to see the movies. Wait, scratch that, just this one movie.
He's done over 50 commentaries for just one movie. He's done commentaries in theaters, at film festivals and even as a special feature on an official "VIP" boxset. It's not just one of the most critically panned movies of all time. It's also one of Hollywood's biggest financial disasters and greatest, all-around disappointments. It is the Star Wars of suck, the Ben-Hur of bombs and the Citizen Kane of sub-standard cinema.
That movie is Showgirls.
"The movie is the punchline," Schmader says of his Showgirls commentaries. "I really want people to get to see the movie."
Schmader will present his live annotation of Paul Verhoeven's infamous dud on one of the screens at the Alamo Drafthouse tonight at 7 p.m.
Schmader, a columnist and former editor at Seattle's Stranger, says on his way to a Showgirls screening in Houston that he didn't see Verhoeven and writer Joe Eszterhaus' infamous follow-up to their classic erotic thriller Basic Instinct in the theaters.
"I didn't see Showgirls when it was released in 1995 because I was a young idealist and I did not go see crappy misogynist movies," Schamder says. "Then in 1999, my best friend Mindy called and said, 'You need to watch Showgirls.' So that's where I saw it and my brain exploded as she knew it would of just from the density of failure and how it all adds up to a comic Fantasia of failure."
Showgirls became his top recommendation for every movie lover on his friend, acquaintance, and random stranger encounter list. He wanted to share it with whole crowds of people so he hosted a live commentary screening in Seattle in 2002 at the Northwest Film Forum to wide acclaim that earned him subsequent screenings and a call from MGM.
"I got a call at work from MGM and one of the producers of Showgirls and I assumed it was a cease and desist," he says, "but it was an invitation to do the commentary track for the special edition."
He doesn't crack jokes at lines in the film or bad cinematography like a one-man Mystery Science Theater 3000 mining material for one-off jokes and non-sequitors. He simply provides setups to the movie's unintentional jokes.
"There's this level of comedy where nobody can do that on purpose," he says. "If there was a comedian who thought to have somebody say that, I would give them a million dollars. The accidental comedy is the key for me."
Needless to say, he's seen more than any fair man's fair share of Showgirls on DVD. When asked how many times he's actually seen the movie, he replies simply with a breath and the phrase "Dear God."
"I've probably seen it about 50 times," Schmader says. "I've tried to spread it out over the years. This tour I'm doing with the Alamo Drafthouse is the densest exposure I've ever had. I've always had a year or six months between screenings and I don't watch it except here because I want to save it as much as I can."
The screening is just as simple as it sounds. Schmader sits in with the audience with a microphone and a remote control for a DVD player. He offers his witty, rolling commentary on the pole-licking misadventures of Nomi Malone, played by Elizabeth Berkley, and occasionally rewinds the tape to let the audience relive some of the movie's more unbelievable lines like "It's amazing what paint and a surgeon can do," "She looks better than a 10-inch dick and you know it!" and Schamder's personal favorite, "It must be weird, not having anybody cum on you."
"There are lines that punch you in the face and you're like, 'Was that an outtake? That's the real movie?'" Schmader says. "There are times I don't even say anything. I just rewind because no one can believe what they heard. Everyone sounds schizophrenic. The sweet moments are disgusting. Nobody's path as a character makes any sense and it's just awash in this gross, sexist flesh and it's in Vegas, too. So they have such a play field for visual delights and then you just get dragged down by the things that people say."
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Schmader said he lives to see film snobs dragged by their ankles into the theater to watch Showgirls because it is the epitome of film failure and it has to be witnessed, especially by people who appreciate fine cinema.
"There are people who have ignored Showgirls because they know it's a piece of garbage but there are art lovers out there who need to see this because there is not another movie that's as good of a comedy, even if it wasn't meant to be," he says. "At the beginning, I always ask who's never seen it and there usually almost always is and it's so exciting. I usually hope it's someone who is too snooty to see Showgirls and will come and dive into the deep of cinematic failure and amazing aim of failure that Showgirls has."
Hollywood has produced plenty of bad movies but Schmader said Showgirls deserves at least one screening by movie buffs because it's one of the few that's so bad that it somehow accomplishes something greater than its intention.
"A lot of bad movies are boring," Schmader says "I've hosted in Seattle one night screenings to runners-up to Showgirls. This is an extreme example but Reefer Madness is unbearable to watch. It's no fun. It's nothing you want to watch once much less 50 times. It's a line I use in the show but Showgirls is like 10 bad movies trying to kill each other."