dir. William Rotsler
"Not my law, baby. My law says groove, baby. So stay up and don't come down."
Halfway through the sexploitation pic Mantis in Lace, director William indulges in a delicious non-sequitur. An aspiring stripper (henceforth referred to as boobies) approaches a titty bar owner and asks for a job (both characters were previously unseen in the film, incidentally). The owner then informs boobies that she will have to audition at his apartment. Boobies only too eagerly obliges him, treating him, and us the viewers, to ten minutes of sweet, sweet sexing. Although it may appear at first that a reason exists for the introduction of this plot strand (maybe boobies is a partner in crime with Lila, the serial killer main character), it is soon apparent that Rotsler was only looking for an excuse to squeeze more t & a into a film already bursting at the so-tenuously-held-together-seams with lady nudity. Indeed, after this scene, neither of these characters are to be seen again in the film.
Such shenanigans are par for the course in Mantis in Lace's sleazy sub-genre.When trash directors realized in the sixties that they could portray sex and nudity on screen without fear of imprisonment, their priorities became set in stone.
"Hey, should we write a script?"
"We got titties."
"What are these titties gonna do?"
"Jiggling titties. Who'd a thunk it? You're a fuckin' genius."
Sex is the not sole interest of Mantis in Lace, however. With all the nuance and subtlety of a Dragnet episode, Rotsler's film also examines the LSD laced hippie culture. LSD, in fact, provides the motive behind the aforementioned stripper Lila's serial killings. After being introduced to this groovy drug while sexing on a hippie, Lila has a bad trip and dismembers the hippie. Logically, Lila soon becomes addicted to taking LSD and murdering fuck partners.
Although Mantis in Lace dips its toes into drugs, mostly it is concerned with tits. For every minute of plot we are greeted with five minutes of stripping scenes, such as this one (Is it NSFW? You bet your ass it is.). Not that I'm complaining.
As with so many of his exploitation peers, William Rotsler also laced his sex flick with a pinch of social commentary. Hot on the trail of the killer, two detectives discover Lila's trippin'/sexin'/murderin' warehouse and hide there until Lila returns with another of her potential victims. Never suspecting that a woman could be responsible for such horrific acts, the fuzz opens fire on the man whom Lila has lured over. Johnny Law is so convinced of Lila's innocence, in fact, that when she attacks the cops with a butcher knife, they don't see anything suspicious in such an act. They simply subdue her and bring her home. "Probably just a case of the mensies. Time to take this loopy broad home." This is the glass ceiling at work. Female serial killers have to kill twice as many people just to get the same recognition as their male serial killing counterparts.
For all its sexploitation conventions, Mantis in Lace does contain its own unique charms. Although most likely the result of incompetence, Rotsler's almost surreal abandonment of logic and conventional plotting results one helluva hypnotic movie. Of course, those not inclined to watch jiggling titties for long stretches of time might disagree.