Color, 1968, 84m.
Directed by William Rostler
Starring Susan Stewart, Stuart Lancaster
Image Entertainment (US R0 NTSC)
One of the key films bridging sexploitation and gory horror, Mantis in Lace belongs with such sordid company as Michael and Roberta Findley's Flesh series and the kitschy Olga torture films. However, Mantis is a considerably more enjoyable film, at least on a surface level, thanks to its heavy helpings of psychedelia and go go dance numbers, aided in no small amount by imaginative, colorful cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs, who went on to fame next year for his hit and run photography on Easy Rider (and which also includes a memorable LSD trip scene, by the way). The plot, such as it is, concerns a troubled topless dancer named Lila (skin flick veteran Susan Stewart), whose mind is being eaten away by bad acid trips. After she gets off work, Lila takes her gentleman of the evening to a spooky warehouse, where they make passionate love capped off by a handy screwdriver in the back and a round with Lila's meat cleaver. During this drug induced butchery, Lila can only shout "Leave me alone!" over and over, followed by a period of amnesia. Led by Sergeant Collins (Steve Vincent), the police begin to close in on our murderous stripper, particularly after she offs prying shrink Stuart Lancaster (a familiar face to Russ Meyer fans).
As far as sleazy quickies go, you could certainly do a lot worse than this trippy little ghoulie. The treatment of Lila's character is actually rather interesting for the time period, culminating in an oddly humane finale that foreshadows Dario Argento's The Stendhal Syndrome, while the murders are executed with enough visual panache to keep horror fans happy. The film was originally released as a straight softcore film called Lila, but after its immediate box office failure, producer Harry Novak ushered it back into theatres in a slimmed down version, Mantis in Lace, with a more horrific variation of the first meat cleaver murder. Naturally the mixture of splashing blood with T&A proved irresistible to crowds tired of benign monster mashes like House on Bare Mountain, and a new grindhouse genre was born. Something Weird's DVD contains the original, longer Lila cut in an edition which can only be described as hallucinatory in its appearance. The gaudy colors have never looked more eye popping, and the negative used to creative this transfer is close to immaculate. The disc also includes a variety of nasty nuggets like the alternate Mantis murder sequence (containing added acid effects like a masked guy holding a bunch of bananas, some gory footage of blood spattering on Stewart, and a nasty cannibalistic punchline), the Lila theatrical trailer, a fun 20 minute educational short called "LSD: Trip or Trap" ("Maybe the world sure is all fouled up, but we don't have to do our bit to make it worse!"), the climactic color trip scene from Alice in Acidland, a campy tropical go go loop called "Lady in a Cage," and a gallery of Novak exploitation posters accompanied by lurid radio spots. The real jewel, though, is no less than one hour and forty minutes of Mantis outtakes, including more gore, more trip footage, more nudity and sex, and anything else you could imagine. You can also see undoctored footage of such hilarious LSD visuals as a smashing pinata and the aforementioned banana man. Since these were also lifted from the original camera negative, the quality of the outtakes is also quite stunning and equal to the film itself (while actually surpassing it in running time as well!). The package is rounded out with a "Something Weird Trailer Park" containing previews for The Mad Butcher, The Curious Dr. Humpp, and Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks.