Ron Ormond's The Exotic Ones AKA The Monster And The Stripper opens with what I affectionately call the “point and look montage.“ It’s a common trope in both low-budget and blockbuster films. In The Exotic Ones, the montage begins with a man in a bad wig paddling in his canoe through the swamps of Louisiana. After a wide-angle establishing shot the close-ups begin. First, a pensive tight shot of his face as if he is focusing on something off in the distance. Then some stock footage of an alligator or a crane in flight. Then another pensive look and then some more stock footage of a squirrel or a hawk. It’s a clumsy but tried and true way to eat up some screen time and establish a location. The montage ends when our poor canoe enthusiast is pulled into the water by a grotesque and swampy hand.
The “point and look montage” is followed by yet another “point and look montage” which makes for a comic, and probably unintentional, juxtaposition. The second “point and look” montage is in a strip club. In the swamp, we had an individual person pointing and looking at a variety of animals. In the strip club, we have the stripper looking out at the variety of weird patrons in her audience.
After introducing the monster’s hand at the beginning of the film we do not see or hear about monsters or swamps for the next hour. We are too busy watching an endless procession of strippers perform. The plot is what happens between strippers. “Plot” is really too strong a word it’s mostly just dialogue about cocaine, prostitution, and casting couches.
The stripteases themselves are more athletic than erotic. There is a lot of very vigorous wiggling. Everything is bouncing and jiggling so quickly you’re more likely to get a headache than a woody, but I’m sure there is a website somewhere for people who appreciate speed stripping.
It all takes place at Nemo’s, a strip joint in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Nemo is a slimy gangster with connections to the mob. Apparently Bourbon Street isn’t doing so well and Nemo is constantly on the prowl for new talent, or anything that will bring patrons into his establishment.
Eventually, he decides to send some fellows to the swamp to catch the mysterious “Swamp Thing” that everyone isn’t talking about. He hopes to display it at the bar as a curiosity. I’m not sure if DC Comics had to pay Ron Ormond money but Ormond’s film came out before The Swamp Thing comic. While we are on the subject of copyright infringement when Ormond’s swamp vocalizes he sounds an awful lot like Warner Brothers’ Tasmanian Devil.
The hunting scenes in the swamp are scored with a snare drum, xylophone, and tom-toms. They do not manage to conjure any tension unless by tension you mean annoyance. When in the swamp we revert back to the “point and look” montages except now they include shots of the Swamp Thing.
As the film drones on they periodically cut back to Nemo’s where the strip show must go on. They begin running out of strippers so they start mixing in variety acts. We are treated to some soul singing, and balloon dancing? but it’s the extended medley of non-hits played as a duet for dueling harmonicas that is the hardest to bear.
There is an impressive amount of gore in the film. In the tradition of Herschell Gordon Lewis, most of the Swamp Thing’s murders involve real organs and carcasses. There is a questionable chicken scene. I’m not sure what happened but it’s clear the live chicken was not happy about it. Of course, the monster is brought to the bar where he promptly escapes and chaos ensues. I won’t tell you how it ends but it is uniquely anti-climatic. It’s as though they just got tired of making the film and stopped.
Ron Ormond made The Exotic Ones in 1968. Two years later he would renounce it and all the other movies he had made. This change of heart was the result of having survived a plane crash. Ormond emerged from the wreckage born again.
Once healed he made several insane Christian films under the tutelage of Pastor Estus W. Pirkle. Pirkle was an old school, fire and brimstone preacher, spreading a mean spirited and abusive gospel to anyone who would listen. Together they made super low-budget, strident, bloody, preachy films that could easily make the most devout Christian cringe. I highly recommend them, but suggest the addition of an alcoholic lubricant to ease their passing. Imagine a Chick Tract turned into an hour and a half long movie.
Then there is the matter of Sleepy LaBeef. Mr. LaBeef is the actor who plays the Swamp Thing. As if his monicker wasn’t enough he was also known as The Rockabilly Giant. He stood six foot six and got the name “Sleepy” because he had a lazy eye. He toured 300 days a year playing a mix of blues, boogie-woogie, and rockabilly. You can find him on YouTube. The music isn’t terrible, he has a very deep resonant voice. If you listen to one of his songs and want to hear more you are in luck. He released 30 albums before he died in 2019, but before you go ordering a cd you might want to avoid the one with the rebel flag on it that says “Let’s turn back the years.” People might get a little uncomfortable leafing through your collection. You might want to go with the red one below where he looks like a portly Christofer Hitchens.
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