Mantis in Lace (1968)

MantisInLacePosterAfter watching this less than riveting tale of a go-go dancer who takes LSD and kills her lovers, the biggest question is whether you should categorize what you’ve just seen as a bad trip or merely a bummer. I would submit that while aggressively lengthy in its pointlessness, nothing beyond the expected community playhouse acting, wooden dialogue, and pasty-sized plot occurs that would induce flashbacks years later.

There is of course the memorably bad theme song Lila that our go go dancing heroine (also named Lila) insists on playing while grinding with her johns that she picks up and takes to her daddy’s abandoned warehouse, but soon enough you’ll be humming “Li-la” over and over as you shimmy about your living room suggestively.

This film will be best remembered by those foolish enough to be sucked in by the wacky title and groovy cover art for all of its very long and drawn out love scenes. The only thing that goes on in this movie that doesn’t involve a couple of late 1960s people with no morals rolling around on a urine-stained mattress in a dark and dank warehouse are the scenes at the dance club where Lila works.

There are several scenes of Lila (Susan Stewart) and her friends dancing around on stage for their adoring fans. There seems to be particular attention to paid to one of the blonde dancers whose trademark is making her belly undulate back and forth. I would advise those of you not familiar with strip club etiquette that in spite of what you see in this movie, you should never, ever, put your hand on the stripper’s belly to feel it moving around as she’s doing her act. The Mafia guys that run these joints don’t appreciate that level of enthusiasm.

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Prior to taking the LSD, Lila is apparently just a trampy exotic dancer that has bad taste in home decor (how about a bed sheet on that mattress?), but once she starts tripping out she turns into a kinky killer!

It’s an interesting transformation as she and her lover start talking about how she doesn’t like to eat bananas and watermelon and somebody (her daddy maybe) made her eat watermelon and stuff when she didn’t want to. Soon, she’s stabbing this guy in the back with a screw driver, then hacking him up with a meat cleaver!

While she’s hacking this guy up, she’s also having visions of chopping up watermelons, sees the faces of other men and the lighting gets funky, too. It’s like this stripteaser is crazy or something!

A couple of cops are on hand to ineffectively work the case. As Lila kills more people, their biggest lead is that the bodies were all dumped in the same kind of box. They also discover that soil samples from the body and the boxes reveal that they were all killed in the same place.

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None of that CSI: Strip Club stuff really figures in them cracking the case. Neither does knowing that victim number two, a psychologist doing research at strip joints, help them out though it does give them an excuse to hang out at Lila’s club and watch her strut her stuff.

For reasons that surely have something to do with either padding out the film or giving a relative a job on the film, the movie takes a break from Lila for about twenty minutes to focus on a strip club owner.

A dancer shows up and wants a job with his club. He tells her that they need to set up a more private interview at his place later on. She shows up and then we have to see her get with this guy who insists on wearing those way uncool tighty-whities nobody but guys like this wear anymore. Those two are then never seen again.

The cops finally get their big break on the case when a realtor calls up complaining about all this blood and a meat cleaver that she found at a warehouse she was showing. The cops stake it out and discover Lila and one of her johns! The film is then wrapped up in a violent yet unsatisfying way.

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This was a surprisingly dull affair with little happening throughout chiefly because of the extended scenes of Lila rolling around with her johns as well as scenes between characters that had nothing to do with the film.

It would have been interesting if the movie had explored whether there was some reason for her bad trips and hatred of fruits transferred to men, but the movie didn’t give you any clue into Lila’s past or mental state beyond the garish visuals used to show her freaking out.

There were times when Susan Stewart was so bad delivering her lines that I was convinced she was on acid when they were filming it and I remain unsure as to whether that’s a compliment on her acting in this film or not.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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