Thursday, 9 October 2008

Mantis in Lace (1968)

What do you think of when you think of the 60s? If, like most people, your answer is LSD, go-go dancing and female axe murderers, then Mantis in Lace may be just the movie for you.

It was originally released as a sexploitation movie in 1968 under the title Lila. It flopped badly. But being a good exploitation producer, Harry Novak was not dismayed. He simply re-titled it Mantis in Lace and re-released it as a horror movie. It was a huge hit.

Lila is a topless go-go dancer who takes men back to an abandoned warehouse that she’s set up as her little private hideaway where she can do things she can’t do anywhere else. All goes well until one of her pick-ups introduced her to LSD. Now as everyone knows, the effect of acid on women is to turn them into paranoid homicidal maniacs. And unluckily for the guy, there happens to be a screwdriver lying within easy reach when the acid starts to take its effect. Even more unluckily for this guy, there’s also a meat cleaver within similarly easy reach. A few days later the cops find the guy in a cardboard box, in several pieces.

The cops are pretty sure the murder is the work of hippies (hippies being known for their extreme violence) but it doesn’t occur to them that the murderer might be a woman. Cops being not exactly renowned for their imagination. Meanwhile Lila has decided she likes acid, especially during sex, and she’s completely forgotten about its slightly unfortunate side-effects since she was still tripping when she disposed of her unfortunate paramour’s body. Pretty soon the police are amassing a nice collection of disassembled men in packing cases.

Mantis in Lace showcases the usual 1960s psychedelic bad acid trip visuals, the sorts of visuals that make 60s drug scare movies so much fun. The acting is average exploitation movie quality, although Susan Stewart does make a pretty good psycho killer. It also features groovy 60s music, including a song called Lila that recurs throughout the movie. There’s very little gore, and quite a lot of nudity and sex. As was the case with so many exploitation movies there were several alternative cuts of the movie, with varying mixes of (fairly moderate) gore and sex. The good people at Something Weird Video have included out-takes and alternative scenes, including even more outrageous psychedelic effects.

Mantis in Lace is trashy but fun, with an amusing 60s trying-to-be-hip vibe,and any movie with go-go dancing is worth seeing. It doesn’t have a great deal to say about the human condition or the meaning of life, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable for what it is.

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