Bad trip a Go-Go! There aren’t nearly enough groovy horror films about nightclub dancers on LSD, and even if there were, Mantis in Lace would stand out in the crowd. Lovely redhead Lila (Stewart) gyrates nightly before the standard sweaty beer-swilling patrons of a seedy L.A. grindhouse - while her fellow performers jiggle to a jagged sub-Velvets garage instrumental, Lila takes the stage to her very own theme song, a slow but far from smoochy little number that The Cramps would kill to have written. Picked up by a chemically-minded punter who introduces her to the delights of the potent pep pill, Lila lures her supplier backstage for an acid-fuelled romp - but when the effect of the drug kicks in, mid-coitus, she freaks out in a flurry of wild visions, pierces the poor chap with a handy ice-pick and finishes the job by hacking him to pieces with a hatchet. Further unfortunate frolics ensue, including an entertaining encounter with a doomed psychologist played by Russ Meyer regular Lancaster, before the cops accidentally intervene - staking out the place they have deduced as being the scene of the violent crimes, they espy Lila at the mercy of a hulking would-be rapist, but realise the truth as she manages to turn the tables before lunging at them, axe poised for deadly action, mind lost to psychedelic substances long ago.
Like some of the best rock music of the era, Mantis in Lace settles into a metronomic, repetitive rhythm early on, relentlessly replaying the same riff as our confused go-go girl tumbles into an endless spiral of murder and mental mayhem. Some may find the primitive trippy visuals to be a rather cheap lightshow, and regard the staging and setting of the virtually identical killings to be unimaginative, but it’s the very mundanity and basic quality of these scenes that make this into such a minimalist gem. Message-wise, it may initially appear as irrelevant to the debate on drugs as misguided predecessors of the Reefer Madness variety, but there are things crawling beneath the skin of this movie if you’re brave enough to delve.
Mantis in Lace is the kind of flick for which it definitely needs to be pointed out that the Mike Weldon who contributed the make-up is not the same Mike Weldon who edits Psychotronic Video magazine! However, cameraman 'Leslie Kovacs' is indeed the award-winning Lazlo, on one of his final z-film assignments before hitting the big time; and director Rotsler was a noted authority on pornography, and a frequent contributor to the publication Adam Film World. Produced, as though it could possibly be any other way, by Harry Novak.