Thursday, August 23, 2012

Monster and the Stripper (1968)

... aka: Exotic Ones, The

Directed by:
Ron Ormond

The Ormond family - papa Ron, mama June and son Tim, had a fascinating film career that stretched four decades and included low-budget 'B' westerns (dozens produced for their company Western Adventures Productions throughout the 40s and 50s), cheapie science fiction flicks (such as 1952's MESA OF LOST WOMEN), sex-and-violence exploitation (1963's PLEASE DON'T TOUCH ME!) and, after Ron survived a plane crash and became "born again," Christian scare films that mostly played in churches (see my review of THE BURNING HELL for more information on these). Monster and the Stripper (the VHS title of what was originally called The Exotic Ones), falls square in the sex-and-violence category and it's an amazing whirlwind of craziness that you won't soon forget. We begin with a brief narrated documentary look at New Orleans, the "Paris of America." We get to see The French Quarter, Bourbon Street, St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square and the place where the Louisiana purchase was signed, learn a little history about the area and, naturally, get to see footage filmed at Mardi Gras. We also learn that New Orleans isn't only the birthplace of blues. It was also the birthplace of the exotic dance.

We venture into the swamp, where a creature known as "The Swamp Thing" (played by huge rockabilly singer Sleepy La Beef) pulls a swamper off his boat. A newspaper headline reading "Swamp Monster Strikes Again: Claims Another Victim" drops to reveal Titania (Georgette Dante), a limber exotic dancer giving her flaming tassels a workout. She then drops to her back for more tassel action, does flips, backbends, kicks, spins, headstands (where she drinks a glass of water), splits and all kinds of other stuff with a chair prop. Needless to say, Titania's currently the star attraction where she works, though even her wild act isn't packing 'em like it used to. With only his underground drug / crime ring currently keeping him afloat, strip joint owner Nemo ("Vic Naro" / Ron Ormond) is desperate for a new attraction. A talent scout brings a bunch of potential new acts over to the club to try to get entertainment coordinator Bunny's (the delightful June Ormond) approval. There's a chubby, rhythm-deficient go-go girl, several other dancers (including one who's "Klass with a capital k!"), a psychedelic nude body painter and a soul singer. The singer, Mary Jane (Donna Raye), is young, innocent and talented, and manages to impress everyone. Nemo decides to groom her to become a star by making the virginal girl sleep with him in exchange for a job and a 500 dollar advance for clothes.

Because none of the new acts are anything special, country boy Gordon (Gordon Terry) gets the idea to go into the swamp with a tranquilizer gun and capture the killer beast, which is reputed to be 9-foot-tall, have the strength of a dozen men and the ability to uproot trees with its bare hands. Gordon and one of Nemo's thugs, the drunk Coke (Cecil Scaiffe), enlist the aid of a redneck named Stud and a young boy named Timmy (Tim Ormond), whose stepfather has already been killed, to track the "thing" down. The guys camp out and eventually the monster - a big, caveman-looking dude with bushy hair and eyebrows, patches of hair glued all over his body and jagged teeth - shows up. It throws boulders around, pulls out Stud's guts and rips Coke's arm off and beats him to death with it! Gordon and Tim manage to shoot it with the tranquilizer dart, it's caged up and shipped back to the club. Now they have an unusual Freakshow act to pack the house. And what an act it is!

While all that's going on, Nemo's busy dealing in drugs and other criminal activities. One guy who runs a brothel for him steals money, so Nemo has his thugs blow cigar smoke in his face and force him to drink the contents of a spittoon. A nosy DEA agent (Edward B. Moates) hanging around waiting to bust Nemo and his cohorts ends up falling in love with Mary Jane and doesn't want her to turn into a tramp (oops... too late!). Titania gets jealous that the new girl is stealing her attention. After she accuses Mary Jane of sleeping with the barely-teenaged Tim (who's been hired by the club to train the beast), a nasty backstage catfight ensues. The monster's act - a play on Beauty and the Beast - involves Mary Jane charming the savage beast with song followed by Titania riling it up again by performing the "Wild Dance of Passion." That's followed by the "thing" being handed a live chicken, actually killing / geeking it, ripping it open and then eating its guts! The creature eventually escapes its cage, rips off the mean stripper's breast, crushes someone's head with its bare hands and then escapes into the streets of New Orleans never to be seen again.

Why this extremely entertaining, hilarious, colorful, tacky and frequently surprising little exploitation movie isn't more famous is a mystery. There's a little bit of everything in here for just about everyone. In addition to generous helpings of gore, skin and flagrantly awful acting (though not everyone is bad), the dialogue is often hilarious, the stripper acts are great and the music (including a memorable harmonica duet performed by Jimmy and Mildred Mulcay) is excellent. If you enjoy the bizarre, the campy and / or the trashy, seek this one out immediately. You won't be disappointed.


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