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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Retro Review: Stripped to Kill (1987)

Stripped to Kill
Cast: Kay Lenz, Greg Evigan, Norman Fell, Pia Kamakahi, Tracey Chowder 
Genre: Erotic Thriller 

Plot: A maniac is killing strippers & Detective Cody Sheenan has one weapon to stop him..... her body. A beautiful stripper is found dangling by piano wire from a bridge, another one dies in a fiery inferno..... a third dancer is killed by being dragged by a truck for miles. & Cody (Kay Lenz) is determined to get to the bottom of it. To solve the case, Sheenan infiltrates the club's dancers and goes undercover, uncovered, as a performer. 

'Over-The-Top Guilty Pleasure That Is A Cut Above Other Softcore Erotic Thriller Movies'

With a title like Stripped to Kill, this has all the trappings of eroticism, sex-ploitation, nudity, some corny music, - in all fairness, it has the potential makings of a Z-list softcore sex flop: dire acting, dire music, dire dialogue, everything being dire and terrible. And yet surprisingly, within this obscure thriller, there is so much more to it than that. That there are some decent performances from the actors involved in this film, as well as dialogue. 

One may call this an unashamedly - & yet glorified adult movie that masquerades as a slasher film. Glorified? Maybe. Slasher film? There are some instances where the killer targets its victims by killing them with a knife or by strangling one of the dancers with a piece of wire. 

The film's plot is very run-of-the-mill: Cop Detective Cody Sheenan (Kay Lenz) has to go undercover and infiltrate a seedy sex club filled with strippers, in her attempts to capture the person responsible for a spate of killings. The strippers won't talk to the cops and the killer is out there murdering them, one by one. Her fellow partner, Heineman (Greg Evigan) is on hand and assisting her with the case & he is a bit of an easy-going guy compared to the serious, & at times broody, Cody. Most 80s mullets looked horrific but his looked good and wasn't corny: that and his leather jacket & driving a nice jeep, he's a pretty cool guy. They both seem to think the killer is either an employee who works at the strip joint or a member of the audience. 

Cody and Heineman's relationship in this movie was interesting, especially at how it evolves later on in the film as it progresses and I liked that they threw in a romantic subplot. Both characters have a likability factor. I was a little disappointed however at how it - as in their transition from employees to friends, and to lovers - began, as well as ended. Though the chemistry between Kay Lenz and Greg Evigan was great throughout, I enjoyed it & I liked that their characters fell for one another. They play off each other so well with humour and conviction. Their love scenes as nice as they were, given this is an R-rated movie and this movie has a lot of nudity, could have been a whole lot better, however. If you show two characters kissing each other in an R-rated flick, why leave out a scene where they'd make love and sleep with each other, whilst showing some skin and sexual nudity? It doesn't make sense. 

By keeping an open mind, as well as going into this movie with the right attitude that I did, one would view this as an entertaining, yet at times campy detective romp. If you don't get too distracted by the female nudity and you look at it from a crime thriller perspective, then one can see to it that Stripped to Kill is an interesting take on the usual standard cop thriller. The music, however, is the worst thing about this film: it's cringe-inducing, cheesy, really bad '80s pop and from artists, I couldn't identify. It was awful. I'd assume they'd use better '80s chart pop music or music that has seductive lyrics for a movie that is about stripping, but no. 

There are plenty of nude scenes, some of which involve Cody without her clothes on, which didn't bother me at all, and they were all tastefully done. The film has a lot of visual flair: it's colourful, has bright neon lights illuminating all around the club & interesting stripper outfits. What makes this movie stand out from all the other erotic thrillers (and usually erotic thrillers get a bit of a bad rep from critics & in general, because let's face it most of them are terrible) are the performances, the plot twists, that there is some good dialogue and the script ain't half bad. 

The characters are also a vivid and varied bunch, with some of the strippers getting to show off their pole-dancing abilities as such (one even does a bunch of nifty backflips) & getting to make quite an impression. Director Katt Shea made a bright move by casting actual strippers to play as strippers, and because of this, it gave the stripping theme a lot more authenticity, not to mention it made it look more convincing. 

However, she complained that her original story for this movie was tweaked and reused by Roger Corman and that as a result, she declares Stripped to Kill to be a bad movie. Whatever the circumstances that arose from that and despite that Corman changed a few things about it, I completely disagree with Katt Shea when she said this is terrible and to say that this is a decent movie. It's miles better than 1992's Dance With Death: a film which has exactly the same premise. The very thought of Heineman attacking and murdering Cody and betraying her just doesn't fly with me, and thus, I'm glad the movie didn't go down that route.  

In fact, of the numerous ''dead stripper'' movies I've seen, this is not only my favourite, but it is arguably the best also. The story holds up all the way until the very end, the lead protagonists are likeable and like I said, Greg Evigan and Kay Lenz look great together. It made me wished the sequel Stripped to Kill 2 still had these two reprising their roles as cops and perhaps, we would get more hot and sexy scenes with Cody and Henneman as a couple together. 

The plot twists and the surprises towards the very end were unexpected and a nice addition to the movie; plus they really kept me glued throughout, making Stripped to Kill entertaining: had they not been there, the film would have been extremely wary and sluggish. The sequel titled Stripped to Kill 2, which has different lead actors in place of Evigan and Lenz, is nowhere as good as this film. 

Final Verdict:

One look at the title & you'd think this movie is beyond a stinker. & yet apparently, this is actually a well-produced and at times over-the-top erotic thriller, crammed with bright colours, stripping, naked flesh, some gore and convincing acting performances, as well as nice plot twists towards the end of the film, which really ramp up the suspense. It's not as gritty as some of the critics made it out to be, but in comparison to other softcore erotic thrillers, Stripped to Kill has some depth, intrigue, good dialogue, as well as style and substance, which is something that cannot be said about those other movies.  

This film is softcore porn with a plot.

Other than the cheesy bad music and the disappointing love scene between Cody and Heineman, which should have been a whole lot better, I didn't find much fault with Stripped to Kill.  Like I said, if you keep an open mind and give it a shot, then you will probably find quite a lot you will enjoy from and out of it. This movie was fun to watch. 

It is one of those guilty pleasure movies that is so bad.... & trashy, but yet it's also so entertaining as well. 


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