When you see Roger Corman’s name attached to a movie titled Stripped to Kill, you have a pretty good idea what to expect. Yet even by the legendary producer’s standards, this 1987 film has a lot of nudity! I didn’t pull out a stopwatch, but I’m guessing more than a third of its runtime is dedicated to watching strippers strut their stuff.
To investigate the recent murder of a stripper named Angel (Michelle Foreman), detective Cody Sheehan (Kay Lenz) goes undercover, posing as Sunny, an amateur stripper. Cody lands a job at the Rock Bottom, a dingy dive owned and operated by Ray (Normal Fell). The dead girl worked at this very club, and before long another of the Rock Bottom’s dancers is also murdered.
As Cody’s partner, Heneman (Greg Evigan), continues the investigation on the outside, with suspicions falling on “Mr. Pocket” (Peter Scranton), one of the club’s creepy regulars, Cody befriends Roxanne (Pia Kamakahi), Angel’s lover, who herself may be hiding a secret or two.
Kay Lenz delivers an exceptional performance as the undercover cop turned stripper, as does Evigan as her partner. The two have a definite chemistry, even if the film has no idea how to handle their relationship (they go from antagonistic one minute to cozy and familiar the next). There is an underlying sexual energy between the two that occasionally rises to the surface, only to retreat again for no real reason.
The dancers at the Rock Bottom, including Athena Worthey as Zeena, Caryle Byron as Cinnamon, and Debbie Nassar as Dazzle, are also quite good, both when on-stage (their acts are damn creative) and backstage, while Pia Kamakahi shines in what proves to be a very difficult role. As for the violence, Stripped to Kill isn’t overly bloody, but the killings it does show are fairly intense, especially Angel’s (she is pushed off a bridge, and as she lays bleeding on the concrete the killer douses her with gasoline).
Unfortunately, the film’s story is often forced into the background by the strip routines. We get one during the opening credits, and at what seems like 5-minute intervals from that point forward. Even the tense finale, when Cody is on the run from the killer, has a few moments with a stripper edited into it.
Flashy and sexy, Stripped to Kill has its charms (from an ‘80s perspective, anyway. Audience members with modern sensibilities will likely cringe at some of what transpires). I recommend a viewing, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself wondering if you are watching a crime / thriller or a strip show that occasionally pauses to try and tell a story.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10