I like strip clubs and though I don't go to them. I know it sounds kind of weird, but you're hard pressed to get me through those doors. Strip clubs are, after all, designed to please your wallet. You're putting out a lot of money and get nothing in return, save for a good feeling that is. Much like going to a casino, it's about the experience. I would just rather have cheaper experiences, but I do appreciate that they're there. I feel it's an interesting setting that add something to a film, a bit of edge and debt that hangs over the rest of the picture. That is if it's done correctly. Rose McGowan, Cassandra Peterson, and countless others have graced the strip stage in a film or two, and those images remain embedded in our mind. Planet terror and working girls are just two of many films set in and around the strip club, but one of my favorites is 1968’s Mantis in Lace.
Mantis in lace opens up in a strip club, so you know, it's a good start. Lila does her dance routine happily and a bit slinky. She makes eye contact with a guy who I'm sure in 1968 look pretty cool, but watching him now, he just looks like an ass hole. But I guess I shouldn't judge. Would Lila leaves the stage we are blessed with an extra treat. A dancer who follows her is ridiculously gorgeous with breast-fed are dare I say stupendous. The camera noses of their holds on them pretty much near five minutes. For you trivia buffs out there Jimmy Bickert noted this film as inspiration for his strip scene in Dear God No!
Anyways, Lila looks up with this Manson family reject and takes him to a warehouse. Is she sleazier just plain crazy? Turns out her father owns the place and she likes to bring guys here. Sleaze balls packing some LSD and convinces her to drop with him before they get crazy. Drugs, alcohol, an abandoned warehouse, and a stranger, yep, things don't go as planned. Lila freaks out, and I mean literally has a bad trip. Taking a long screwdriver she kills the sleaze ball, who in the end, I guess, isn't all that sleazy. From that point forward Lila never comes back. She kills and kills and kills again. Her second victim, interestingly enough, is Stuart Lancaster from Russ Meyer's Faster pussycat Kill Kill and Born Losers. Will she be stopped, will she come to her senses, is there a way out for Lila?
Mantis in lace was originally released in 1968 under the title “Lila". Billed as a sex toy case in film, he failed to deliver much sex, though boobs are aplenty. This being the good old days of cinema, if you movie failed under one title you simply released it under another. This happened a lot back in the day. Producer Harry Novak simply retitled the film "Mantis in lace" and released the film as a horror film. It didn't matter business the second time around. There were a lot of LSD films made during this time each trying to find its own little niche to get the audience through the doors and this is no exception. Though it's relatively light on the gore and nudity, what it does have counts.
Susan Stewart who play Lila, is effective as a psycho. Not quite sure what I'm saying with that statement but I do meet it with admiration. She didn't do much else, save for some uncredited hooker roles and a few spots on Hawaii 5-0. She eventually quit acting altogether and became a real estate agent as I understand it.
In short, while Mantis in Lace is not the film the base to be in your collection it's a nice little diversion. Put it on as a precursor to watching dear God no our planet terror and settle in for an evening of blood and gore and go-go boots.
Other Horrific Musings:
Exploitation Theater: Satan's Cheerleaders (1977)
Exploitation Theater: Candice Rialson in Pets (1974)
Exploitation Theater: Truck Stop Women (1974)