Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stripped to Kill (Katt Shea, 1987)

Topless dancers aren't allowed to go within five feet of the patrons, and a pair of fishnet stockings can be purchased for around fourteen dollars. These are just two of the many things I learned while watching Stripped to Kill, a glorified lingerie ad masquerading as a slasher film. The former has to do with a rule that stipulates that no dancer can be topless within a certain distance of the shady rabble sitting around the pole-plentiful stage the scantily clad women perform on. The latter occurs when a macho cop blurts out the price of fishnet stockings seconds after his female partner asks him what your average pair might cost; only problem being, she thought she was asking a rhetorical question. Okay, so you know about the strict rules that dictate how far a topless stripper can be to, oh, let's say, that sleazoid in the stained hoodie, while gyrating in a garter belt, and you know that some male detectives have an acute talent for being able to price lingerie, but what else did you learn? Actually, to be honest, I think that pretty much covers it. If you've seen the movie, then you really can't blame me for my lack of retained knowledge when all was said and done. Forget about being an educational tool, is it even a horror movie? I mean, from where I was sitting, all I remember seeing was hot chicks doing handstands in lingerie. And since the film was produced by Roger Corman, the music they dance to is generic eighties strip club pop; in other words, stuff that sounds like the popular music of the day, but was made by people you've never heard of. All right, we've established that the film has no redeeming qualities when it comes to spiritual enlightenment and that many corners were cut in order to save on music, so where did all the money go? I'll tell you where. Lingerie!

Filled to the brim with lacy bits, smooth bits, and, of course, feathery bits of skimpy underwear, the lingerie budget must have been astronomical. How else can you explain the total absence of anything else? Sure, the film has actors who utter the occasional line of dialogue, like the late great Normal Fell, but as far as I'm concerned the film is basically one long lingerie fashion show. And you know what? I'm totally cool with that. In fact, and this may sound a tad out of character, but  I wish more movies would focus their attention on women who wear lingerie for a living.        

As a person who is sick and tired of watching films that feature no lingerie whatsoever, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of attention writer-director Katt Shea, a woman who clearly knows what perverts want, gave to the frilly underthings in Stripped in Kill, as they're pretty much featured in almost every scene.  

The film wastes little time introducing us to this filly world as it opens in a strip club where we find a big haired beauty named Brandy (Lucia Lexington) putting on a poll dancing clinic in a black negligee for a small yet captive audience. Actually, the audience is basically made up of two people, Ray (Norman Fell), the owner of the Rock Bottom club, and a stripper named Angel (Michelle Foreman), but she pretends the house is packed, nonetheless, pointing seductively to the non-existent patrons as she grinds pole number two. Poll number two?!? Yeah, it would seem that Brandy was giving the club's new duel poll layout a test drive, or a "test dance," in this case.

Anyway, near the end of her number, she removes her top for eighteen seconds. Which, as we'll soon find out, was twelve seconds short of meeting the thirty second rule; which stipulates that all Rock Bottom dancers must appear topless on stage for at least thirty seconds or incur harsh penalties.   

"Circling above the drinks / I wonder what she thinks / You can't deny the night."

Next up, it's a blonde firecracker named Dazzle (Debbie Nassar), the sexiest dancer in Rock Bottom's deep roster of garter belt pushers, and her prop is a motorcycle (parked underneath a graffiti-covered wall), and a her uniform consists of is a silver thong that doesn't know the meaning of the word quit, a matching top, and a pair of high heel boots (the right one has a bandana tied around it). Wait a minute. What do you mean, "next up,"? Isn't there any plot development between the Brandy's dance number and the one you're currently blathering about? Not really. Okay, just checking. Carry on. Bathed in pink light, Dazzle makes poll dancing seem easy as she slides her taut body up and down its smooth circumference with an effortless elan.

As she's performing back flips in time to the synth rock being blasted by the club's DJ, we can't help but notice that a man in a grey hoodie has taken a seat by the stage. It's the ubiquitous Mr. Pocket (Peter Scranton), a Rock Bottom regular who will feature heavily over the course of the next eighty or so minutes.

Meanwhile, down in the park, an undercover police detective Cody Sheenan (Kay Lenz) who is posing as a homeless woman, suddenly finds herself with a flaming stripper on her hands. A flaming stripper? Is that hooker code? No, the detective comes face-to-face with a stripper who is thrown off a bridge and set on fire. In fact, she would have been torched as well had it not been for Detective Heinenman (Greg Evigan), her quick thinking partner. After the two detectives make their way home, we ushered back to Rock Bottom where we find Zeena (Athena Worthy) performing a dance number with a fire theme. When she's done, Roxanne (Pia Kamakahi), who had to be convinced by Ray, goes on and performs a routine that can best be described as unenthusiastic. In her defence, she does end strong (she finishes by poring champagne over all her body).

What we have so far in terms of suspects are a dancer who uses fire on stage, a creepy patron in a stained hoodie who gives the dancers paper flowers ("nothing real is worth shit"), and the victim's disillusioned lesbian lover. Oh, don't get me wrong, there are others I've got my eye on (the lesbian has a brother who just oozes shadiness). It's just that these three are the one's who are scratching my itch the hardest so far.

Take Ray, for instance, he just scolded Dazzle for not taking her top during her routine (she felt the audience didn't deserve to see her tits), and maybe the "harsh penalties" I alluded to earlier involve a can of gas and a pack of matches. But why would he kill his own employees? No, it has to be someone else, someone with a grudge against strippers.

The next morning, Cody and Heinenman are discussing the case outside Randy's Donuts, a scene which, by the way, solidifies the film's commitment to capturing the gritty underbelly of Los Angles. Somehow convincing her that she needs to go undercover as a Rock Bottom stripper (they seem to think the killer is either an employee at the club or an audience member), Heinenman sets the stage for Cody's stripping debut. After a quick makeover down at police headquarters by Shirl (a scene stealing Diana Bellamy), Cody is ready to wow the perverts with every succulent inch of  her 5"1 frame.

As with the majority of contests that involve the dreaded applause-o-meter, Cody's transformation from Detective Sheenan, the city's most tomboyish street cop, to Sonny, the shapeliest exotic dancer to ever to slip into a pair of size six fuck me pumps, is fixed. Are you telling me that a woman who can't dance would beat Debra Lamb?!? Who's Debra Lamb? It doesn't matter who she is, what matters is that Rock Bottom's "Amateur Night" was rigged. True, the cops had the audience packed with ringers (a modest group of off duty policemen who were told to applaud loudly for Cody), but there's no way Cody/Sonny would have beat those five other women. The only reason she won was because she danced last. And, as most people know, the applause-o-meter always favours those who go last.

Of course, if we were to judge them solely on the length and girth of their nipples, than Cody/Sonny would destroyed the competition. To sort of quote Jimbo Jones from The Simpsons, "I hear Kay Lenz's nipples have their own congressman." Or to make it more Canada friendly, "I hear Kay Lenz's nipples have their own Member of Parliament." But it wasn't about nipple size, it was about dancing (the DJ calls her stripping technique, "minimalist dancing," in that she barely moved). That being said, I did like the way Cody/Sonny used the gigantic slit on her blue dress as ripping leverage after she struggled to get her dress off via conventional means (the zipper was stuck). And I bet it was her ability to improvise under pressure that landed her the top prize: three hundred dollars and the chance to become a full time Rock Bottom dancer.

Flaunting her legs sheathed in black stockings in front of strangers is one thing, catching a psycho-killer is quite another. As Cody/Sonny contemplates her new position (she tries to ingratiate herself to the other dancers), Cinnamon (Carlye Byron) is hitting the stage. You know how I said Dazzle was the sexiest dancer at Rock Bottom? Well, I think I was a little hasty in that regard, as Cinnamon (not to confused with "Cinnamon," Stacey Q's character from the Facts of Life), is, to use the crude food metaphor, a tasty dish. Not only did she wear opera gloves during her routine, and playfully gave her thong-ensnared muff box a pat, she danced while high on drugs (a wide array of pills to be mildly more specific). What can I say? I dig strippers who are addicted to pills.

Unfortunately, the club's owner doesn't share my affinity for pill-popping pasty pushers, and her fires her skanky ass; the fact that she fell into the audience was the last straw. A dancer who isn't in danger of falling over is a goddess with crimped hair named Fanny (Tracey Crowder), as her poll work was sublime. Yeah, but she seemed to take her job way too seriously, so I didn't gravitate towards her the same way I did Cinnamon.

Speaking of which, as Fanny is doing the splits with an alarming ease, Cinnamon is staggering pathetically (she's got a bum knee) from the Rock Bottom club (her right boot is untied and she can't seem to hail a taxi). Imagine being canned from a place called "Rock Bottom" while wearing blue sequin tube top? That would mess up my self-esteem like you wouldn't believe. Oh, man, now I'm depressed. Stay strong, Cinnamon. Things will work out for you in the end. You''ll see.

My favourite non-stripping scene is definitely the one that involves Kay Lenz (who's sitting next a cactus) asking Greg Evigan (who's nowhere near a cactus) about the price of fishnet stockings. Which went something like this: Cody: "Have you any idea what a pair of fishnet stockings cost?" Heinenman: "Fourteen bucks." Now, while that might not sound all that great on paper, it's the speed in which Evigan delivers the line that makes it such a memorable moment. It's soon after this cute little exchange that Cody/Sonny breaks the five foot rule (all dancers must stay at least five feet away from the audience while topless). Wearing lingerie (duh), Cody/Sonny, who is sitting on a chair with zebra print upholstery, and showing off her legs, which this time are encased in white stockings, she wanders topless over to a patron who is holding what looks like a ten dollar bill in his hand. You see, you're not supposed to do that, and Ray gives her a warning.    

Even though the five feet topless incident was an honest mistake, is Cody getting sucked into the stripper lifestyle. The awkward amateur from a week ago has been replaced with a woman who seems to relish the power that her protruding nipples provide her on a nightly basis. Will she be able focus on the task at hand (stopping a serial killer who is targeting strippers) or will she become hopelessly addicted to wearing lingerie in front of strangers. Call me insensitive, but I'm hoping the latter occurs.

If you're like me, and you dug the sight of Kay Lenz in white lingerie, be sure to stick around for her third dance number. It would seem the longer you dance at Rock Bottom, the more freedom you get when it comes to staging your routines. Playing a tired woman coming home from a long day at the office, Cody sits in front of a set of blinds and gets undressed like a normal person, well, sort of normal, as her movements still bear the markings of low rent erotic entertainment. If you're a fan of costume designer Beverly Kline (Heathers, Remote Control, and Modern Girls), and happen to think Ted Lin is the shit when it comes to choreography, then you'll love Kay Lenz's new wave businesswoman routine, as it encapsulates everything that is great about Stripped to Kill; what I wouldn't do to be able smell Kay's white garter belt corset after she had finished twirling in it for who knows how long.


  1. Debra Lamb is queen-B of my analog world. I have a special love for movies with scenes in dressing rooms because they could easily be at an opera house, burlesque house, circus, Broadway theater, or strip club, and you'd never know the difference until they go to work.

  2. Your queen-B has a speaking role in Stripped to Kill II.

    These movies are basically dressing room porn, as most of the action either takes place on stage or backstage.

  3. I have both VHS boxes scanned on tumblr ;-) I've been waiting around until I got the motivation to do a 2-minute edit of each movie for blogger before posting hi-res but...still waiting

  4. Duh, of course you have. In fact, according to the notes, I reblogged one of them.

  5. This video contains content from New Horizon Picture Corp. It is not available in your country. :(

  6. Tracey Crowder, the most beautiful dancer in the movie! Hubba Hubba!