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  Mantis in Lace Kit Off Freak Out
Year: 1968
Director: William Rotsler
Stars: Susan Stewart, Steve Vincent, James Brand, Vic Lance, Pat Barrington, Janu Wine, Stuart Lancaster, John Caroll, John LaSalle, Hinton Pope, Bethel Buckalew, Lyn Armondo, Norton Halper, Judith Crane, Cheryl Trepton
Genre: Horror, Sex, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lila (Susan Stewart) is a stripper at this Los Angeles nightclub where she goes through the motions for a crowd of men every evening, and usually fends off their advances when they ask her out after the show. However, tonight someone in the audience catches her eye and instead of plucking out a cigarette from his mouth and dropping it in his beer, which is what she likes to do to those she's not interested in, she agrees to play a game of pool in the back room with him. One thing leads to another, and before long they are at her place where he has something to introduce to her...

That something is LSD, in what appears to be an awful warning drama about what could happen to you should you take the hallucinogenic, though on closer examination was simply an excuse to see a bunch of young ladies not wearing any clothes. Not that you had to look very close at all, because whenever the filmmakers grew bored with their plot, which was about every five minutes, another stripper would appear and go through her act, the most recognisable being Pat Barrington who would often show up in sexploitation flicks such as this. She was only a supporting character, however, as it was Lila's tale we were to concentrate on.

And what a tale of woe it was: a happy-go-lucky (to a point) topless dancer who was led to ruin by her ill-advised dropping of acid. When she and her new partner are in the warehouse she calls home, lit with candles and with a single mattress on the floor as the sole indication somebody lives there, she removes her clothes once again, though oddly director William Rostler (whose other claim to fame was as an accomplished science fiction artist) is pretty coy about showing Lila in the altogether here, whereas when she's onstage we get an eyeful. Therefore when she and her guy for a night start rolling around on the mattress, what we get are lots of closeups on his back, and occasionally her back, for variety.

This is where events take a tragic turn as Lila (who has her own theme tune which plays throughout) starts having a bad trip and becomes abruptly violent, stabbing the bloke with a screwdriver (was it his single dangly earring which sent her over the edge, we wonder?), then when he attempts to get away she grabs a meat cleaver and finishes him off. Quite what she was doing with a cleaver in a warehouse is one enigma left unresolved, all we know is that she chops up the body (offscreen) and stuffs the parts into a cardboard box which she leaves on wasteground. All apparently still under the influence, because all she recalls later are the colours from her hallucination and nothing else.

Once this has been established, Mantis in Lace, which is a great title at least, settles into a pattern of Lila murdering some chap who thinks he's getting lucky but isn't, a sequence of nude dancing, then the cops making incremental progress with the case, though the bit where they investigate nightclubs is fun for spotting what's on the marquee. What's interesting about this for some is that it was one of many low budget efforts respected cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs lensed, so there are some interesting camera effects especially when Lila is going nuts as he and Rostler tried to recreate the experience of a freak out within their limited means. This also has random dialogue on the soundtrack to increase the disorientation, including a man intoning sternly "Eat your vegetables!", and it's offbeat touches like that which distinguish this, as much as it could be distinguished. Its don't do drugs kids message makes you wonder who this was aimed at, and what was up with Stewart's accent? Music by Frank Coe.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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