She loved them…and loved them and loved them to death!
Lila dances in a seedy nightclub advertising a "topless, bottomless and LSD review (!)." After shaking her coin catcher for puffy businessmen who drool more than allowed by law, she picks up a drippy hippie and lures him to her steamy sex pad (actually a filthy warehouse) with the promise of some guilt free fornication. Our flower-empowered provocateur offers her a little tab of enlightenment, and before you can say, "are those…BANANAS?" Lila trips, flips, and whips a screwdriver deep into the unwashed back of our prone peacenik. Then she meat cleaves him a little. Lila gets hooked on LSD and random violence, and she starts dropping acid and bodies more often than she does her clothing. Soon, the corpse count climbs as our heroine finds nothing more calming after a hard day of shaking her fans than vivisection. Detectives Dip and Stick scour the local "gentlemen's clubs," spending inordinate amounts of screen time watching nude dancers undulate for…umm…clues? As our wigged out watusi queen continues to carve up the conquests, she imagines old men in underwear offering fruit, piñatas, and Jefferson Airplane's light show. It's up to our intrepid beat pounders to stop Lila Borden before she forty whacks her way through all the heavy tippers.
Exploitation producer Harry Novak must have been smoking salad greens when he decided to distribute this psychedelic silliness. Mantis in Lace falls right off the edge of the summer of love and totally harshes the buzz. While a typical Novak opus filled with nudity, some sexual activity, violence, and the trademarked movie halting, narrative braking exchange of bodily fluids between two completely ancillary characters lasting anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, Mantis feels like an opportunity lost. The elements just don't gel together. Susan Stewart, as Lila, is captivating, more for her awkward acting, a-rhythmic dancing, and odd accented shout of "GO WAY!" than her mammalian assets, but everyone else behaves like they're being chastised. Stuart Lancaster, of Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! acts like he stumbled onto the set inebriated, and decided to pitch in and perform for gin. Another scene between two other strip club "employees" plays like your maiden aunts giving each other a rubdown with beef tallow. It's impossible to determine what is less erotic: the malformed exotic dancers with spare tire boob jobs, or the shots of audience members wiping sweat from their greasy upper lips as they ogle and perspire. Mantis in Lace should have been wacky fun. Instead, it's strangely sordid…and lifeless
Something Weird's DVD release includes over 100 minutes of outtakes and alternate scenes/edits from Mantis. Originally released in two versions (a shorter R rated version, and a soft X for the skin flick market) we get all editions here, between the feature (X) and the outtakes (R—the blood and gore give it away). SWV should have maxed the package's value and melded them all into an Ultimate Version: some of the additional violent/surreal images would have helped center the film. The DVD transfer, while occasionally showing negative scratches and damage, is very good. The Dolby Digital mono is also very pleasing (even if the movie's grating theme song seems to be the only thing playing…endlessly!) SWV also pads out the DVD with three archival short subjects, all referencing (or at least appearing to be shot while on) LSD. Along with trailers and an exploitation art gallery, the Mantis in Lace DVD is crammed with trippy goodness. Too bad the main feature is such an acid casualty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
• Alternate Psychedelic Murder Sequence
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