SassyFlix | Lila


  • R
  • 1968-06-19
  • 01:27:00
4/ 10
2 votes

Crime, Drama, Horror, Romance, Thriller

"Lila" ‒ played by Susan Stewart ‒ is a seemingly good-natured go-go dancer who strips at a seedy topless bar on the Sunset Strip. After taking LSD, Lila becomes a psychopathic serial killer. She continues to pick up men at the bar where she is employed, but after her sanity is lost she routinely is interrupted mid-coitus by psychedelic bad trips in which she visualizes a balding, half-naked old man clutching wads of cash in one hand and a bunch of bananas in the other. These psychotic episodes cause her to murder her partners by stabbing them with a screwdriver and dismembering them with a rusty meat cleaver (or in one case, a garden hoe) while imagining that she is cutting up cantaloupes and watermelons.

As pieces of the victims' bodies are discovered in cardboard boxes, she is pursued by a pair of Los Angeles Police Department detectives played by Steven Vincent and M.K. Evans. The narrative is interrupted by long sequences of topless dancing, softcore pornography, and recreational drug use.


Sexy, druggy, bloody psychedelic sexploitation

This is a film that takes all that was great about exploitation films in the 60s and mixes them into a heady brew sure to entertain any and all cinema deviants. Originally released in two versions (one for the sex crowd, one for the horror crowd), it's the lean and mean horror version that is the one to see. Unfortunately the version released onto DVD is the longer sexier version but some of the scenes from the horror version (an alternate psychedelic murder, splashing blood) are included as supplements. The sexier version of the film drags in many spots with extended dances in the nightclub scenes and a totally extraneous sex scene in the middle that brings the film to a dead halt. But still either version of this film is worth watching and cherishing by fans of 60s psychedelic cinema.

Good Time with a Bad Girl

Warning: Spoilers

SPOILERS The late William Rotsler was an award winning novelist, sculptor, WW2 veteran, photographer and from the mid-Sixties to the early-Seventies a sexploitation director. Rotsler was prolific but his 1968 picture Mantis in Lace is his most well-remembered. Rotsler was also a contributing editor to the UK's Cinema X magazine- a way ahead of it time publication that covered all manner of horror and sex exploitation films. Coincidentally another character who popped up regularly in the pages of Cinema X was Mantis in Lace's producer Harry Novak, whose productions like Please Don't Eat My Mother and Below the Belt were the subject of articles and glossy pictorials. Cinema X also made cover girls out of the stars of Novak's productions like Uschi Digart and Rene Bond. In the UK Mantis was rejected/banned outright by the British-Censor and like much of Novak's output released only in membership cinema clubs (under its alter-ego ‘Lila' and sometimes double-billed with Bob Cresse's Love Camp 7).

The film starts as it means to go on, as stripper Lila (Susan Stewart) does a cute dance-act for a crowd who look like they're going to storm the stage any second. Not surprisingly given that she spends her on-stage time topless and her off-stage time in barely much else Lila is never without a strip-club habitual to take back to her warehouse love-nest, where she entertains men with a mix of stripping, music and the chance of a one night stand. When one of her boyfriends brings a new element to the party- LSD(‘the stuff dreams are made of') he gets more than he bargained for. Lila freaks-out on acid big time, stabs the guy with a screwdriver during their lovemaking, then chops him up with a meat-clever. Taking vast quantities of LSD, Lila develops the split personality of meat-clever favouring psychotic by night and happy stripper by day. Among the sleazes getting on the wrong end of various garden implements is Ackerman (Russ Meyer regular Stuart Lancaster) a psychiatrist doing ‘field research on the psychedelic generation'. Ackerman's psychobabble bores Lila but what the heck he's taken back to the warehouse and hacked up anyway ‘you look funny like that'. Discovering Lila's dismembered victims in cardboard boxes are two detectives whose investigation into the murders draws them to the seedy side of LA- giving Rotsler ample opportunity to shoot lots of vintage late-night Sunset Strip footage- (‘Topless, Bottomless,LSD revue'-proclaims a marquee). With its sexy, drug fuelled plot Mantis in Lace was no doubt the film for audiences who craved boobs and psychedelia from their movies back in 1968. ‘Then' dialogue like ‘what's your bag' and ‘my law says groove baby' dates the film, but in the best possible sense and the ace cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs makes the ‘groovy' Mantis in Lace worth a look. Alongside Hollywood's favourite way of depicting acidic experimentation (a thousand swirling light effects from hell) Rotsler and Kovacs offer up subliminal glimpses of LSD-inspired horrors like mad surgeons, chopped up melons(!), and disembodied hands terrorizing our heroine- made all the more effective by the fast editing from Novak's business associate Pete Perry . For the purpose of the trip scenes Mantis even invents its own medical condition in Banana-phobia, yes it seems that LSD brings out Lila's hatred of bananas, so while all her boyfriends have a jolly good time with the sex kitten all poor Lila sees is visions of a fat man in a mask waving the offending fruit in her direction- the symbolism of which I doubt even Lancaster's psychiatrist could fully explain. The irritatingly catchy theme song by one Lynn Harper is guaranteed to forever haunt anyone who watches the film (‘Lila-Mantis in Lace-and she has a pretty face'). Several versions of Mantis in Lace existed, and at least two remain in circulation. The version on DVD is ‘Lila' the sexy version where the girls take their tops-off, while in the shorter Mantis in Lace the girls modesty remains intact and with the focus on Lila's meat-clever antics the film plays more as a Drive-In horror movie. Each version has dialogue and scenes the other doesn't. Unique to ‘Mantis' is a sequence where Lila slices into a sandwich only to start imaging it's a human hand, while the ‘Lila' version serves up a backstage oil massage scene designed to showcase the equally unnatural sight of Orgy of the Dead star Pat Barrington's bust, as well as an out of the blue sex scene between a would-be-stripper and the club's bartender- who auditions the girls the casting couch way. The man on top in the latter is actually Bethel Buckalew who later took credit for directing Novak-produced sex extravaganzas like The Dirty Mind of Young Sally and Southern Comforts (he wasn't behind the camera for any of those films- but that's another story). Nice as it is to see a sex film director, or even a would be one, prepared to do on camera what he would ask others to do, this bartender balling does seem like a needless diversion in light of the fact that the actions of these stock characters have nothing much to do with a film whose erotica is provided by strip-acts and whose sex scenes usually end with the men folk getting hacked-up. Although short on plot and not as explicit as the raunchy soft-core movies Novak's Box-Office International would turn out in the Seventies, the hallucinogenic and innovative Mantis in Lace probably constitutes Mr Box-Office International's finest hour (or five if you add the two versions, the 100 minutes of outtakes and the other DVD extras together). The cherry on the cake is the lead performance by Susan Stewart who whether she's playing sassy, vulnerable or downright evil dominates the film- it's a shame that nothing else in her career (which fizzled out with 1976's The First Nudie Musical) compares. When last heard of Stewart was working as a real estate agent, and hopefully isn't as handy with a meat-clever in real life.

Psychedlic murder!

A terrible exploitation film of the late 60's with a sweet actress in the lead role. The cops are really terrible (as actors and cops). The only standout part of the film is the presence of the incredible Pat Barrington. There's nobody quite like her. This director has made better films (The Agony of Love). The sound quality is particularly bad.

The title song is excruciatingly awful as is most of the muzak. As I mentioned, if not for Pat Barrington, this would be totally unwatchable. Ms. Barrington should have played the lead instead of playing the belly dancing stripper. She has attributes the other females in the cast do not possess.

Nice and trashy little thriller!

Well it's safe to say that Mantis in Lace doesn't have a lot in the way of a storyline. This is obvious from the outset as a sequence that should have took little over five minutes is dragged out to around half an hour, but the lack of plot line isn't important as William Rotsler's psycho thriller is really all about atmosphere. This film precedes a load of these films that were made in the seventies, and is certainly above average for its type. Most of the runtime is taken up by gratuitous nudity and phoney looking violence, as well as a fair helping of scenes involving drug use; and all of this is fine with me! The plot revolves around LSD and features a sweet young stripper who is picked up in a bar by a man. He gives her the drug and this begins a hallucinogenic nightmare as she promptly kills him and then proceeds to pick up other men from the club and take them back to her place, where they suffer a similar fate to her first 'boyfriend'. The twist is that she kills all of these guys with garden tools! There's also a rather lacklustre police investigation going on...

Despite the slow pace and thin plot, the film is entertaining for fans of this sort of stuff. Director William Rotsler builds up a fabulous trash atmosphere, which benefits the completely trashy plot line. The film stars Susan Stewart, who perhaps isn't the greatest actress of all time; but she plays her part very well and gives the film the added benefit of some eye candy. She looks good without her top on. A lot of the film takes place inside a strip club, which is an excellent setting for a film like this. The comic relief comes from the two inept police officers, who spend more time coming up with silly theories and cracking jokes than they do actually investigating the crime. But then again, this wouldn't be much of a trashy thriller if it featured decent coppers! There are practically no surprises at all in the plot and it's always obvious what is going to happen - at least it is until the end when Mantis in Lace finally shows some ingenuity (but don't expect too much). Overall, this is a nice little thriller and comes highly recommended to fans of this sort of stuff!

Crazy psychotic 60's stripper chick a-go-go, baby!

Warning: Spoilers

Sweet stripper Lila (adorable redhead Susan Stewart, who has a really cute funny foreign accent) gets turned on to LSD by a creepy hippie guy. The bad acid causes Lila to go lethally bonkers. She takes various lecherous men to her grotty warehouse love nest, kills them, and hacks up their bodies with a meat cleaver. Director William Rotsler gleefully pours on the abundant gratuitous nudity and tacky gory violence (the blood looks just like red paint -- and probably was exactly that). Laszlo ("Easy Rider") Kovac's garish, kinetic cinematography, a couple of lengthy simulated sex scenes, the wonderfully wiggy psychedelic freak-out sequences (poor Lila has horrific visions of a laughing fat jerk holding bananas and dollar bills!), some pot smoking, the hypnotically funky theme song, and the hilariously dated hip slang ("Groovy pad you got here; it's a little kinky, but it's out of sight") are all completely far-out, man! Busty'n'lusty 60's skinpic starlet Pat Barrington of "Orgy of the Dead" fame performs two sizzling hot bump'n'grind numbers on stage to a rowdy crowd. Russ Meyer film regular Stuart Lancaster has a nice part as a wannabe helpful psychologist. An enjoyably sleazy soft-core psycho sexploitation hoot.

Disappointing outing from Rotsler

Fairly tame and unexciting, Mantis in Lace is about a stripper in a club who tries acid one night while out with some groovy cat and has a bad trip. She hallucinates weird lights and patterns on the guy's face. Then she stabs him repeatedly with a screwdriver. End of date. She proceeds to go find other guys and brings them back to her place and does the same to them.

I was expecting more from this one. It's very, very low-budget, even by films of this type. The main actress isn't anything to write home about and the lensing by stud cinematographer Lazlo Kovacs isn't that hot. It also drags in a big way. This feels almost like a short that was padded to feature length.

Film has none of the mind-bending visuals or stylistic flourishes of Rotsler's brilliant "Like It Is" which was also released in 1968.

60's Style Sexploitation Movie

This "sexploitation" film has got it all if your into this genre. There is skin, LSD/hallucinations, sex, horror, blood, irritating theme music and its share of bad acting. The dialog is very dated, but quite amusing at times (yeah, groovy man!), and as usual, when watching these types of movies, frequently the bad acting takes over the movie and it can be hilarious to watch. Lila (Susan Stewart) actually does a decent (not good though) job as the stripper/killer. I agree with the earlier comment that Pat Barrington (belly dancer hussy) is something to watch and must be seen. I'm not a big fan of this type of film. After watching this I felt the need to take a shower and clean myself up. I can't recommend it. But to each his own.

Mantis in Lace

Warning: Spoilers

Cheeky smut is perfect entertainment for sleaze aficionados. Photographed by Bogdanovich's frequent cinematographer László Kovács whose experiments with psychedelic colors during Lila's(Susan Stewart)drug trips are quite an experience. The film concerns the homicidal tendencies of a stripper triggered by LSD during Lila's sexual confrontations with men in a candle-lit abandoned warehouse for rent. Lila picks up various males for whom she encounters at the club she works, an unusual assortment of men, who have no idea what lies in store for them as they take part in passionate love-making as she succumbs to possible past incidents which re-awaken as the LSD overtakes her senses. After stabbing the men she beds with a screwdriver, Lila chops their bodies up with a cleaver disposing of the corpses in cardboard boxes in the warehouse, leaving them in vacant areas. The film shows two weary detectives pressed into solving the serial killings, this rash of homicides is growing in number and Lila shows no signs of stopping. The acting is obviously sub-par with this dime-store cast of unknown faces and the dialogue leaves anything to be desired. Stewart, in the lead as Lila, is quite beautiful(..often bearing her breasts during rather lackluster dance-routines)yet rather vacuous. The film luridly shows the club crowd's enthusiastic reactions to the performance artists on stage as they bare their breasts for the public..László Kovács camera gets in very close, his eye-lens peering provocatively as the strippers' bodies move in various dance routines. This film made me feel like I was a paying customer..that was how the director and his photographer often focus completely for long periods on the strippers and their routines. This will definitely be embraced by that crowd who adores trash and twisted premises like this film has. There's a soft-core sequence between the club owner that Lila works for and a potential client that seems to be in the film merely to satisfy an audience looking for a sex scene. I wouldn't call this a good film, but I certainly think it achieves what it sets out a specific audience exactly what they crave. The abrupt ending leaves anything to be desired.

She Trips, She Flips....

"Mantis in Lace" (1968) is, in four fairly equal quarters, a soft-core skin flick, a psychedelic drug movie, a slasher horror film AND a police procedural. In it, we meet Lila (Susan Stewart), a young and gorgeous topless dancer who takes LSD one night with a guy she's picked up. After hallucinating pretty severely for a while, Lila kills the young dude with a screwdriver and chops him to bits with a meat cleaver. This scenario is repeated three or four times while a pair of (surprisingly UNdorky) L.A. cops tries to track the maniac down. Yup, that's pretty much all this film has to offer. One of Lila's victims, I might add, is Stuart Lancaster, who might be a familiar face to all the Russ Meyer fans out there; another, a macho rapist, most certainly deserves to be diced at Lila's hands. The picture feels very padded with numerous topless dance numbers (the opulently cantilevered legend Pat Barrington looks pretty impressive, actually, doing a frenzied belly dance; come to think of it, she would do a bit of "tripping out" herself that same year in the film "The Acid Eaters"), long makeout scenes, a lovemaking bout between the topless club's manager and a job applicant that adds nothing to the plot whatsoever, and loads of colorful hallucinations. It has been lensed by Laszlo Kovacs, who would depict an even more harrowing lysergic experience in the following year's "Easy Rider." (Actually, I found the aural component of Lila's trips much more freaky than the visuals.) Sadly, the viewer never learns anything concrete about Lila's background, or why the drug sets her off the way it does; indeed, the only thing we can discover about her comes from the film's admittedly hypnotic theme song. Concluding with an ironic albeit extremely telegraphed ending, "Mantis in Lace" is ultimately a real mixed bag; a psychedelic psycho curiosity that should have been better. Oh...this Something Weird DVD features over 100 minutes' worth of alternate film footage. Far out, man!

Weird and interesting

Mantis in Lace is very much a product of the late 60s, with the ending of censorship and the freedom to experiment with edgier themes. Released in 1968, this film was probably one of the first color soft-core flicks to be released. The special effects are cheesy, the murder scenes are unconvincing, the dialog is hammy, and the plot is paper thin. But what do you expect? The story centers around a cute dancer, Lila, who has a drug problem. She has sex with guys who naively falls for her. Lila, while hallucinating, murder guys after wards. The murders are then investigated. The sex scenes are mainly non-pornographic with usually only the bare back and sides being shown. The 60s are very much the experimental age with some bizarre-looking hallucination scenes. I call it weird art. There is a cut scene that features an even more bizarre hallucination. And it tops it off with a gruesome gory murder that combines bare breasts, blood, and gore. It is something that was and probably is still too explicit to be shown to normal viewers.

The heart of the film are, of course, the topless dancing featured by three or four young women. They are very nice to watch, even though a couple of the girls are quite ugly. Mantis in Lace will very much remain a part of film history. Overall recommended, if this is your type of stuff.