An early rumbling about a sequel came on October 5, 2009, when JoBlo.com reported that a German director named Marc Vorlander was developing Showgirls 2: The Story of Hope. Vorlander claimed that Rena Riffel was going to reprise her character from the original, in which her name was Hope as well as Penny, you see. The JoBlo article was titled "Showgirls Sequel???", and all three of those question marks were necessary.

On October 7, The Stranger interviewed Riffel, who was baffled to have read that she was supposed to be involved. She said Vorlander (whose IMDB entry at the time featured no credits whatsoever) had contacted her a year earlier and asked if she would be interested. She'd said yes, though she was skeptical that he could get the rights to the characters, and she never heard from him again.

Two days after that, The Stranger followed up with Vorlander, who claimed to have been "shocked" (shocked!) by Riffel's statement — and said that they were now back in touch and determined to work together. He also promised that Showgirls 2: The Story of Hope would have "more nudity," "brutal action," and "a great soundtrack" by Laura Branigan's producer. Oh, and the film was not and never would be about the character of Hope, never mind the title, and that it was going to be less of a sequel and more of a "reload." Oh, boys.

Rena Riffel: Writer, producer, director and editor of Showgirls 2: Penny's From Heaven.
Rena Riffel: Writer, producer, director and editor of Showgirls 2: Penny's From Heaven.

All was quiet until March 2010, when Twitchfilm.com reported that ;Riffel was no longer working on Vorlander's film, now called Showgirls: The Return (taking a page out of the Cocoon-sequel playbook), citing it as "horrifically graphic and out of the show's original story theme." Instead, she was now working on her own sequel, called simply Showgirl (taking a page out of the Alien-sequel playbook, but reading it backward). She posted a teaser trailer for it that no longer appears to be online — and because she was going to write, direct, and star in the picture, Riffel compared herself to Barbra Streisand, saying, "Showgirl is my Yentl." That right there, that's the kind of moxie that gets movies made.

Vorlander was having none of it, of course, ranting in his uniquely Teutonic way to Twitchfilm.com that Riffel was full of spätzle: "There is no second Showgirls sequel! My film Showgirls: The Return is already in the post-production and will be finished this spring. The trailer for it is clicked more than 15 million times on the official website. Rena Riffel's teaser is watched less than 1,000 times, although it was published only days after my trailer. It's a teaser for a film that does not even exists . . . pure fake — a big lie."

A four-minute teaser for Vorlander's newly christened "music photo play" Showgirls: Exposed was released that June, and it's . . . something.

In addition to being deeply unsafe for work (seriously, the original Showgirls in its entirety would be safer), the opening voiceover during the seemingly endless titles establish that Nomi — Elizabeth Berkley's character from the first film — died a "very slow painful death" on the toilet of a German strip club, after ingesting cocaine contaminated with rat poison. That's exactly how you'd expect a fan of the first film to continue the story, right? It just gets more dark and weird and disturbing from there, much like Riffel had suggested. Also, in an apparent bid to supplant Uwe Boll as his country's douchiest director, Vorlander threatened a German blogger for not liking him; Google translates it as "I'll legally the ass tear open you up to the back of the head and file criminal complaints." Okay, then.

Vorlander's Showgirl: Exposed has been available since early 2011 as a manufactured-on-demand DVD-R through Amazon. The cover art alone makes Riffel's film look like a masterpiece, and since Vorlander's self-published work clocks in at a mere 60 minutes and doesn't really qualify as a movie, the IMDb slapped a (V)-for-"video" on it. That's gotta sting, but he's kept working, including another 60-minute thing with a trailer that proudly proclaims that it's produced by the director of Death Wish V, and a documentary about said Death Wish V director that clocks in at 75 minutes. (If Riffel and Vorlander had worked together, I imagine their film would have been exactly 90 minutes long.)

But Riffel's Showgirls 2: Penny's From Heaven is hitting video — and perhaps more importantly, it's played at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco as part of Peaches Christ's annual Showgirls celebrations, with Rena appearing onstage. Her handmade, deeply flawed film has been shown on the 25-by-44-foot screen of an honest-to-goodness movie palace, and has found acceptance by the very cult that's kept the original alive for all these years. It couldn't have happened to a nicer Showgirls sequel.

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