Monday, April 19, 2010

Stripteaser (1995)

Directed by Dan Golden
Starring Maria Ford, Rick Dean, Nikki Fritz
Rated R

"Well, I don't know about anybody else, but I've certainly got a hard-on."

In real life, there's Jumbo's Clown Room, a self-consciously sleazy burlesque bar in Hollywood. In Roger Corman's corner-cutting, royalty-free B-movie universe, Jumbo's transmogrifies into Zippo's Clown Palace, an alt-world version of Jumbo's, frequented mostly by rejects from Revenge of the Nerds and staffed by bikers and scream queens. Incidentally, the doorway to Zippo's Clown Palace is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen, an inspired bit of trashy amusement park style hucksterism. The inside, on the other hand, might just be a spare conference room at the New Concorde offices.

At any rate, as our story begins, it's last call, and Zippos' star dancer Christina (Maria Ford) has just finished her slutty bride dance. A dyke-y Nikki Fritz, wearing one of those Skid Row nose-chains, is dancing listlessly on stage, and everyone's taking their final slugs of hooch, when Neil (Rick Dean, RIP) a loudmouth blind dude with a Mark Goodman perm job shows up and demands a drink.

He gets it, and then proceeds to jabber away incessantly. The barkeep tries to throw him out, but then he whips off his glasses, pull out a gun, and hold everyone hostage.

Meanwhile, a couple of crooked cops are making the rounds. They bust in a on dude named Arnie while he's trying to jerk off to some sweet 90's porn (Forrest Hump!) and do all his coke. And then they press him for info and head out. And they even steal his porn.

Back at the club, the crazy fucker makes the stuttering simp obsessed with Christina have sex with her or he'll shoot 'em both. The dude cries while Christina blows him. It's pretty awesome.
Then he tells a story about how he's been stalking her for months, even busting into her house while she's at work so that he can sniff her panties. Seems valid. He also kidnapped her ex-boyfriend, tied him to a cross, and crucified him.

So anyways, then the crooked cops show and, a seriously over-the-top free-for-all gun fight ensues. It's so abrupt and ultra-violent that it almost looks like a bunch of maniacs opened fire on the actors while they were filming their scenes. Still, even with the aggressively apocalyptic ending, we are left with a glimmer of hope: if you can survive a hail of gunfire, even bespectacled toadies with social phobias can score with hot blonde strippers. I mean, they might bleed to death before the ambulance arrives, but still.

Ably directed by short-change sexploitation expert Dan Golden, Stripteaser is an economical, stripped-down (no pun intended) psycho-thriller anchored by Rick Dean's gloriously unhinged performance as excitable schizo-stalker Neil. You literally have no idea what he's going to say or do from one minute to the next. It's an alarming and awe-inspiring bit of kamikaze acting. Of course, the title - changed from the original "Zippo's Clown Palace" to Stripteaser to cash in on the hype around Demi Moore's clunker Striptease, which was released shortly after - is a bit misleading.

Sure, stripping does happen - Ford joylessly gyrates through a couple numbers, top-heavy z-queen Nikki Fritz expertly works the pole, and big-eyed pixie Ann-Marie Holman is forced to dance fully nude for Neil's sick kicks - but it's not really about strippers or stripping, it's about a violent nutball and his kidnapping and murder spree.

Still, a very original and gripping piece of late-night scuzz. Recommended!

PS: Whatever happened to Ann-Marie Holman?

- Ken McIntyre

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