My notes on the British B film Strip Tease Murder
I once tagged this – purely on the strength of its title – as the backlist film I most wanted to see. Evidently the Gods of DVD were listening, because it was eventually released along with other titles from the vast British B library of the Danziger Brothers. Sadly, it’s no Cover Girl Killer – but it offers an hour of almost surreally genteel sleaze. Most of the film takes place in the Flamingo Club, presumably in Soho, where alcoholic, loud-check-suited comic Bert Black (John Hewer) provides dreadful patter between turns and polite patrons sit in nicely-arranged chairs while lithe dancers strip down to G-strings and pasties in decorous routines. Bert wears a battered funny hat, and is always harping on about his former top-of-the-bill status, but the fatherly club manager (Michael Peake) keeps gently reminding him he’s only on to give the girls time to get changed.
The plot kicks off when ‘thirty if she’s a day’ Rita (Ann Lynn) is so ticked off that her gangster boyfriend Branco (bald, glowering Kenneth J. Warren) has dumped her for younger, blonder, brassier, if peculiarly-accented Angelin (Vanda Hudson) that she tries to blackmail him about his dope ring. Most gang bosses would hire a cosh-boy or a gunman to take out the tart, but Branco calls in batty boffin Perkel (Peter Elliott), who wants to perform a human experiment on his remote-control zapper device (which uses the then-new and exciting technology of transistors, prompting several references to Sputnik). In the dressing room, Rita and Angelin have a sadly mild hair-pulling fight over Branco. Rita gets sacked, so Diana (Jean Muir), who is secretly married to Bert, goes on in her place and is electrocuted – everyone (including the useless plods) says it must be an accident, but Bert goes off the booze and turns ‘tec to track down the murderers, aided by stage door-keeper Lou (Leon Cortez). Meanwhile, Rita and wicked waiter Rocco (Carl Duering) are still trying to muscle in on the dope racket and kill Branco simply – without needing to hire a mad scientist – to get hold of his black book of drugs contacts. Perkel is lured back to the club on the pretence of giving a demonstration to interested parties, and nabbed as he is about to repeat his experiment with an unwilling Rita, who has had the deadly microphone sellotaped to her hand by the stern hero. After it’s all over, Bert admits he doesn’t feel all that much better.
Paul Tabori’s script would be utterly conventional if it wasn’t for its very minor science fiction content, and director Ernest Morris does it almost all in long, dull master shots. Furthermore, Hewer is a boring hero, the appealing Muir dies before she can do more than a) her act and b) show off her cute bobbed hairstyle, and the talented, interesting Ann Lynn should have been given more scheming, shrewish rottenness scenes. The obscure Elliott, who has a bit as a blacked-up Indian professor in Night of the Demon, is probably man of the match as the amoral, dotty, bland professor, who works up his human bug-zapper device in a Highgate lock-up. Perkel excites Lou the doorman’s suspicions by showing up as a flat-capped electrician to tamper with the microphone in the afternoon and again as a patron in evening dress to perform the experimental murder in the evening – though Lou forgets to mention this during the perfunctory investigation (just another routine stripper electrocution). Naturally, Perkel still wants to be paid, even though he’s offed the wrong ecdysiast.
David Flint Who’s releasing this, Kim?
David Hyman It’s released by Pegasus Entertainment – See http://www.amazon.co.uk/Strip-Tease-Murder…/dp/B003EMATQG
Kim Newman These releases – see also Return of a Stranger – are so obscure I couldn’t find a PR for them, and ordered them off Amazon. They’ll be in a future Empire column I’m devoting to British stuff, but I thought the full write-ups might be of use here. I first clocked the title while looking up Ann Lynn’s credits after noting how much she figures in the BFI’s Flipside releases. There are a few more titles from the Danzigers coming out. I imagine you’ll be able to pick them all up very cheaply soon.
Kim Newman … and I didn’t know it had any SF elements either, and it’s vague as to whether the mad scientist uses something like an electrical ray-gun or something more like a taser. Bill Warren doesn’t mention it in his book on 1950s sf films – though it might not have had the US release which would have earned it a slot.
David Flint It’s fascinating – and great – that so much obscure British stuff is now emerging on DVD. I wonder how many people are buying these films?
Kim Newman I assume sales are tiny. They seem a bit pricey for what they are, but I assume they’ll percolate down to the pound shops eventually and find their proper level. I should say the Strip Tease Murder disc has an annoying transfer glitch which shows what look like the edges of sprocket holes at the top of the image (though a screen-fit setting on my TV got rid of it). So, not upto Flipside standards.
Steve Kirkham Crikey even more British obscurities coming to DVD. Gotta love it. Not sure who buys this stuff but one of my clients – Odeon Entertainment – do a lot of this stuff also and they seem to be doing OK with them. Course biggest problem is always getting decent masters (or having the budget to correct them)
John C Kerr I think the time is right for a Butchers box set – all those wonderfully cheap’n’cheerful black-and-whites that ITV used to show as filler around 3am…
Steve Kirkham Speaking of obscure Brit films I just picked up a copy of Olivia Newton-John in Toomorrow. Don’t expect that to get an official release any time soon…
Carl Ford Yes, there’s some wonderful British 60s crime thrillers out there on DVD! I’m particularly drawn to those “children in peril” flicks such as “Don’t Talk to Strange Men” and “Tomorrow at Ten”. Have you covered these, Kim?
Steve Kirkham I did the sleeves for those two movies Carl… Odeon do quite a few great “little” British thrillers. Working on Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly at the moment (which if you haven’t seen is a real curio from director Freddie Francis)
Kim Newman Carl – I’ll look out for those. I find these hour-long, oddly undramatic little films endlessly watchable – it’s things like the amateur detective complaining about his feet because he had to tail a suspect to Highgate and couldn’t find a cab or the endless scenes in caffs, pubs and clubs where drab little people do drab little things.
Nicolas Granger-Taylor Ordered this on Amazon – looking forward to seeing soon. Saw “Cover Girl Killer” the other night: good sleazy fun; a low-budget, less sophisticated – but still very creepy – precursor to “Peeping Tom”.
Another little oddity worth seeing in this Danziger DVD collection is THE PURSUERS, starring Francis Matthews as a Nazi-hunting agent tracking down sniveling former SS weasel Cyril Shaps.