Synopsis: Here it is! Fave of burley buffs, and strip’s first color flick, Striporama features some of Grind-Heavens biggest, brightest stars along with America’s favorite pin-up girl, BETTIE PAGE, in the first of her three legendary burlesque features! (Bettie also appeared, of course, in IRVING KLAW’s Varitease and Teaserama.)
Although this ultra-rare 35mm print of Striporama is missing its last few minutes, it’s not missing any of the gals. (What we don’t see is the Council deciding to entomb the time capsule with a dedicatory speech which includes a tribute to burlesque. Big deal.)
Sexy strippers, corny skits, Lili St. Cyr, and Miss Page — “The Most Exotic Stars in One Great Show!”
— David Cary, A Bit of Burlesque, A Brief History of It’s Times and Stars
eyelights: Bettie Page. its pretty ladies. its variety show format.
eyesores: its lackluster comedy routines. its contrived “plot”.
Honestly, I probably would never have steered anywhere near a picture called ‘Striporama’ if not for Bettie Page. Though I adore seeing the female form in various stages of undress (who wouldn’t?), the title is far too lurid for my taste.
But Bettie Page is a great motivator.
This 1953 motion picture by Jerold Intrater is essentially a showcase of burlesque with a wrap-around “plot”; it features a variety of established and up-and-coming burlesque stars doing sexy numbers – linked together by comedy routines.
What’s interesting about this feature film, aside for being the big screen debut of Bettie, is that it’s become so difficult to find on home video – even though other similar films, such as ‘Varietease’ and ‘Teaserama’, are readily available.
I had a devil of a time tracking one down.
‘Striporama’ has been released through the years, but it’s not an easy find now, for some reason. And it’s only available in an incomplete form, with its last 8 minutes missing; there currently isn’t a full print of it in known existence.
So it just ends abruptly.
Further to that, the source material is of extremely subpar quality: the picture is poppy and scratchy, fluttering and warping as it plays, and the audio track sometimes gets buried in buzzy feedback. It could easily irritate some viewers.
The plot as it is, consists of the four male members of a New York City Council for Culture discussing for consideration the content of a time capsule they’re putting together, agreeing unanimously that burlesque would have to be excluded.
When the news breaks in the media (i.e. on the front page of newspaper inserts), three men decide to hijack the Council meeting at gunpoint to show the councilors some footage of burlesque routines to convince them to overturn their decision.
Cue the show.
Aside for its bookends, ‘Striporama’ plays a little like a compilation, alternating mostly between crummy comedy and PG-13 sexiness; unlike a proper burlesque or variety show, it doesn’t introduce its performers and their routines.
The only exception is a non sequitur number by “Mister America”, who is introduced by a barker in front of a painted circus set and who proceeds to play the harmonica with a blonde propped on his shoulders and lift weights with his teeth.
Sadly, even that bit culminates in a bad gag.
The sexy bits consist of a woman showing off various outfits while dancing, another stripping in shadows against a lit window backdrop, a woman dancing in an elegant pink dress, covered in doves, another getting dressed for a date, …etc.
The most interesting of the lot finds a number of streetwalkers on a Parisian cobblestoned street set, parading to accordion music. Then one of them gets into an argument with her pimp or maybe her boyfriend over some money.
What made this one interesting is that they expressed the fight in a dance routine, with the pair throwing each other around the set to the music. They were actually pretty skilled and I liked the uniqueness of it, though not its misogyny.
There’s also the opening bit in which a bunch of women in bikinis one-by-one walk onto a salon set carrying the letters that will eventually form the word “Burlesque”. It served as a title card for the reel that the three men showed the Council.
It’s pure eye-candy, and nothing more.
But I wasn’t complaining.
Obviously, the real highlights for me were Bettie Page’s two appearances.
The first is at the very beginning and is part of the “plot”. It begins as a comedy routine about two roommates getting ready for bed, discussing the portrait of Page on their door, hoping that they will dream about her that night.
They are woken up to the sound of her calls, as she appears to them in their room in nothing more than a bikini, asking them to caress her. As they snuggle up with her, they are woken up by one of their buddies who finds the two men hugging.
Bettie, though, is a welcome sight for that whole 40 seconds. Interestingly, she has always regretted speaking in this picture, as she disliked her voice. Despite her reservations, she sounds lovely and it was truly a treat to finally hear her.
The other number is also part of a comedy routine: a Sheik offers a man who’s saved his life one of his four daughters’ hand in marriage. In turn, three very attractive women do these sexy dance numbers to entice him into choosing them.
He’s uncertain, so the Sheik offers his fourth daughter, whom he says is by far the greatest of them all. The man proceeds to imagine Bettie Page doing little stepettes before being undressed by servants to then frolic in a bubble bath.
Naturally, it’s all in his imagination, and the fourth daughter is nothing like this at all.
The comedy routine isn’t excellent, but the girls are fine. And Bettie Page once again shows why she was so captivating; she has a sparkle that the others simply didn’t. Though her dance moves were rudimentary, her star power was in abundance.
But is it enough of a reason to watch this picture?
I guess it depends on whether or not one is a fan of burlesque – or at the very least, of Bettie Page. After all, ‘Striporama’ isn’t grand entertainment: it’s done on the cheap, with poorly-painted sets and pretty rudimentary embellishments.
Having said this, for some, this is a piece of history: it’s one of a few showcases of burlesque from that era, and it’s the first (and only spoken) appearance by Bettie Page. It’s a damned shame that it’s near-impossible to find and incomplete.
I hope that, someday, a full print will be found and remastered.
I’d love to see that.
Date of viewing: Sept 7, 2017