STRIPORAMA

NR
Reviews

The low-budget oddity was rediscovered a few years ago and released on home-video. Now, for the first time in decades, Striporama is getting a theatrical release, albeit without its last five minutes of footage (which are missing).

The story, such as it is, concerns an attempt by New York's 'Council for Culture' to collect different art forms for a time capsule. The conservative Council, however, refuses to include burlesque films in the vessel for future generations to see. Outraged by the news, three burlesque comics (Jack Diamond, Mandy Kay and Charles Harris) impersonate gangsters and storm the Council meeting. They show the committee a series of film clips to prove that burlesque is worthy of being included in the capsule. Finally, after watching the acts, the Council members agree burlesque should be seen.

This short feature doesn't give the true flavor of burlesque, since it cleans up the comedy (no leering or dirty jokes) and sanitizes the stripping (no nudity). But the performers are genuine burlesque stars of the day, and they offer viewers some idea of how the form once sparkled. Sadly, much of the material is so poor (apart from being so tame) that one might end up agreeing with the fictional Council's initial decision to ban burlesque from the time capsule.

At least there are a few compensations. Most notably, Striporama features the only color footage of cult icon Bettie Page in a speaking role (the dark-haired beauty takes a joyous bubble bath in a harem sketch). Another highlight is Cinderella's Love Lesson, an interpolated short subject starring Lili St. Cyr, another graceful strip artist from the Golden Age.

Much else about Striporama is so-bad-it's-good and, therefore, worth a look (even most feminists will be amused, not angered): from Rosita Royce's dance with her trained doves, to Marinette and Andre's faux-French Apache dance, to Mr. America playing the harmonica while balancing a blonde woman on his shoulders. In the downright bad category, there are the comic routines of Diamond, Kay and Harris (a jungle sketch, a carnival sketch and the harem sketch).

Striporama is notably stagy and low-budget (like an Ed Wood-directed musical) and the print contains many sound and editing glitches. But thanks to Cheapo Films, this rare time capsule of bowdlerized burlesque survives.

--Eric Monder