The monster. The stripper. Whispers about some kind of arm-ripping scene. Director Ron Ormond and his family’s mysterious legacy.
These are the details which have secured The Monster and the Stripper a throne atop the kingdom of shrouded 1960s trash. These are also the details that may very well keep it there. But, that depends on the expanse of an individual’s heart. Is there enough room in yours to humor both a harmonica novelty act and spilled cow guts? A fire-eating stripper plus dozens of Borscht Belt zingers? Pucker those lips, ’cause here comes the big, wet kitsch.
Untold layers of pink and green neon, surf-jazz-brass bombast, increasingly creative pasties, and very dirty floors—welcome to New Orleans, Ormond-style. Nemo’s Strip Club is on the rocks. Lacking a new act that will reel ’em in, Nemo and his ruffian syndicate turn to the headlines for inspiration. And they find it: the Swamp Monster! It’s a furious, snorting caveman that kills swampfolk, decapitates cows, and lives underneath a layer of hay. Perfect. Or is it? Once captured, the Monster (rockabillionaire Sleepy LaBeef) does, indeed, fill the seats. But he also breaks loose and smashes heads. Incidentally, if this all went down in 70 minutes or less, my heart would still be beaming.
On a base level, Monster is a series of odd, tedious paddings punctuated by occasional nastiness, some blood, and a few good jokes. With its overblown caricatures and travelogue asides, it’s clear that Ormonds just wanna have fun. Which is terrific. That’s how The Undertaker and his Pals and Love Goddesses of Blood Island did it. And they turned out great. But Monster, for all of its colorful, ridiculous grace, goes overboard. With everything. The strippers stripping, the strippers talking, the swamp exploration, the random stage performances — length overpowers strength. The initial surge of trashy glee dissolves over 90 minutes of sameness, while scenes of real animal violence (cow mutilation, live chicken beheading) do little to encourage the choking mood. If the Ormonds tire you, the what will the Mahons do?
The Monster and the Stripper does, indeed, deliver on its reputation for kitsch exploitation. It’s all in there. However, you never hear about the rest of the film, which often swaps grubby fun for grubby restlessness. Enjoy it at some point, but don’t expect a celestial experience.
Then again, that arm-ripping scene was pretty great.
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