This movie is filled with nudity but treats its female characters decently (by 80s standards).
SUMMARY (Written while drunk)
LAPD officer Cody (Kay Lenz) and her partner, Heineman (Greg Evigan), are working undercover in a low-rent neighborhood. They then find a stripper named Angel (Michelle Foreman) being thrown off of a bridge and then burned alive. LAPD pretty much immediately indicates they don’t really care about this, but Cody agrees to go undercover at Angel’s strip club to try and find the killer. Cody competes in an open stripping contest and wins by rigging the audience with cops who, the film notes, really were enthusiastic about the “look at strippers” assignment. Your tax dollars at work. She then gets hired when another girl, Cinnamon (Carlyle Baron), gets fired for drugs… and subsequently murdered. Cody starts to befriend some of the other girls at the club, but doesn’t get particularly close to Angel’s lover Roxanne (Pia Kamakahi).
Heineman starts to look into possible suspects, including the local pervert Pocket (Peter Scranton), a man named because the girls notice he has a hole cut in the pocket of his pants. Some of the other girls, believing that Pocket is the killer and that the cops don’t care about them, because they’re viewed as sex workers, beat the crap out of him, only for Heineman to discover that Pocket is actually missing a hand and thus couldn’t be the killer. Cody’s superiors find out that she’s still undercover and order her to quit, but she continues behind their backs, hoping to defend the other girls. Cody and Heineman eventually bang, because of course they do, and then they fight, because of course they do. Cody eventually meets Roxanne’s brother, Eric, and, suspicious, searches his place. She discovers that Eric has killed Roxanne (who was going to run off with Angel) and has been taking her place, including stripping using a pair of latex breasts. He chases her with a gun and eventually ends up back at the club where Eric starts shooting people randomly. Eventually, Cody covers him in gasoline and he burns to death when he shoots her. Heineman arrives and saves Cody from the fire and they probably bang again after the credits.
Last year I reviewed Ida Lupino’s movie The Hitchhiker. It’s a pretty timid horror film to the modern audience, but at the time it came out it was pretty unique. Part of that uniqueness is that it was the first film noir directed by a woman. While that film only had male characters, it still had an approach exploring the emotions and lives of the characters that didn’t happen much in films back then. In 1982, Amy Holden Jones and Rita Mae Brown came up with a low-budget film called Slumber Party Massacre under the Pope of Pop Cinema himself, Roger Corman. That movie came off like a less-scary Halloween, but it’s gained a cult following because, unlike most horror movies, the victims all came off as real people. What I’m saying is, women-directed scary movies, while they were rare back then (and now, honestly), tended to have a different approach to character development that set them apart. This movie takes that up a notch by treating strippers as actual people, something that I think even modern cinema is hesitant to do.
While it’s pretty clear that the massive number of strip routines that feature in this movie, often intercut with other scenes, were probably one of the selling points to producer Roger Corman (yeah, same guy), they are actually treated as empowering, expressive, and artistic. It’s clear that Writer-Director Katt Shea (who would later make the film Poison Ivy), really considered strippers not just to be people, but talented performers. That stands in direct contrast to most ’80s horror. While the scenes are still done in a way that clearly cater towards getting men to fork over their paychecks, they’re damned impressive physically, particularly when we get to compare it to some of Cody’s original, very clumsy routines.
I’m not going to say that the actual acting or plot of this movie is great. The performances are often very flat and, while the twist ending doesn’t come out of nowhere, the fact that so much of this movie is occupied by strip routines does mean that there is not a lot of story. The character development between Cody and the other girls at the club is great and believable, while most of her interactions with Heineman are not. However, this movie is, at least, something different for the time period and it worked towards humanizing a group that most movies considered expendable. That’s something to be respected and I do recommend watching it for that reason.
Overall, if you don’t appreciate the feminism, you’ll appreciate the boobs, so… something for everyone?
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