At first looking like another schlocky babe-on-the-rampage movie, STEEL AND LACE ends up as a most entertaining sci-fi horror item, more satisfying in some ways than its big-budget counterpart EVE OF DESTRUCTION.
The film opens with a trial scene in which a sleazy yuppie, Daniel Emerson (Michael Cerveris), is acquited for the rape of Gaily Morton (Clare Wren), a beautiful pianist, thanks largely to the testimony of his group of friends. Still shattered by the assault, and unable to deal with this turn of
events, Gaily commits suicide, to the horror of her scientist brother Albert (Bruce Davison). Five years later, Daniel has made his friends partners in his firm, which specializes in forcing homeowners out of their property to make way for developments. After leaving a meeting, one of the group,
Craig (John J. York), has a car breakdown; he's picked up by a gorgeous woman who takes him to a hotel, where she reveals herself as Gaily and kills him with a mechanical device that extrudes from her chest.
Investigating the murder is Detective Clifford Dunn (David Naughton), who is shocked at its viciousness. He is approached by his old girlfriend Alison (Stacy Haiduk), an artist who is working on a project updating her old work as a courtroom sketcher; one of her subjects is Gaily's rape trial.
While Dunn and Alison are rekindling their relationship, Toby (Scott Burkholder), another of Daniel's circle, is decapitated by Gaily in disguise. The news unnerves Daniel's remaining friends, Norman (Brian Backer) and Oscar (Paul Lieber). Meanwhile, it is revealed that Gaily is now actually a
robot, programmed by Albert to exact revenge upon her defilers. Alison, however, suspects that Daniel is murdering his own confidants to fully cover his tracks, and goes to interview Albert about the murders, but he brusquely throws her out.
Determined to break the case herself despite Dunn's warnings, Alison goes to Daniel's offices, just as Gaily (disguised as a secretary) is killing Oscar. While Alison is discovering the body, Gaily is spotted in the parking lot by Alison's agent, Duncan (Nick Tate), who is himself killed. But
after all the carnage she's caused, Gaily's old human feelings are starting to surface, though Albert does his best to repress them. Despite threats from Daniel, Norman tries to get away in a helicopter, but is attacked and decapitated by Gaily; she then confronts Alison on a fire escape, but
won't heed Albert's commands to drop her off the side. But she does bring Alison back to Albert's van.
As they head for Gaily's fateful meeting with Daniel, the bound Alison tells Gaily more about her previous life as a human. Gaily goes into Daniel's office, where he ineffectively shoots her and realizes what she really is before fleeing for the roof. In the van, Alison frees herself and knocks
out Albert, leaving Gaily under self-guided control. When Alison runs to the roof, she is grabbed and held hostage by Daniel; Albert appears, commanding Gaily to kill them both, but she spares her newfound friend and immolates Daniel. Dunn, who has realized where Alison's gone, appears on the
roof, and Albert tries to shoot him. Instead, Dunn fires and injures Albert, and Gaily, realizing they are both doomed, grabs her brother and jumps off the roof.
Although it contains the requisite number of gruesome scenes, STEEL AND LACE has been handled with more intelligence than usual and treats its characters with respect--except, of course, for the villains. Despite the formula premise, director Ernest Farino (debuting at the helm after years as an
optical effects creator) and screenwriters Joseph Dougherty and Dave Edison have crafted a film that doesn't always follow the expected path.
In her new cyborg packaging, Gaily may mete out violent justice, but she's not just another avenging bitch. And unlike many revenge films, STEEL AND LACE doesn't come out completely condoning vengeance; even given her prior fate, Gaily questions the acts she's being programmed to carry out, and
Albert is presented as not necessarily justified in what he is doing. That doesn't mean that the film doesn't relish its graphic deaths (with strong makeup effects by Jerry Macaluso and Roy Knyrim), but Farino imbues the murder scenes with a black sense of humor to keep them from becoming too
distasteful, without descending into jokiness.
In addition to the generally effective, straight-faced lead performances, there are a couple of amusing supporting turns. Brian Backer, the nerdy "Rat" from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, is ironically cast as one of Daniel's weasly buddies, and there's a scene-stealing bit by David L. Lander
(Squiggy on TV's "Laverne and Shirley") as an eccentric medical examiner (is there any other kind in movies these days?). With an underplaying of its science fiction elements that makes them play realistically and a satisfying conclusion, STEEL AND LACE proves to be an above-average B-movie.
(Excessive violence, profanity, sexual situations, nudity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: At first looking like another schlocky babe-on-the-rampage movie, STEEL AND LACE ends up as a most entertaining sci-fi horror item, more satisfying in some ways than its big-budget counterpart EVE OF DESTRUCTION. The film opens with a trial scene in whic… (more)