Katt Shea was in My Tutor, Preppies, Hollywood Hot Tubs and Barbarian Queen before working with Andy Ruben to make The Patriot for Roger Corman. She’d go on to direct several films and even earn a four-day retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, where Poison Ivy debuted. You can check out her movies Dance of the Damned, Stripped to Kill II: Live Girls, Streets, Last Exit to Earth, The Rage: Carrie 2, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase and Rescued by Ruby.
While working undercover, Cody (Kay Lenz) and her partner Sergeant Heineman (Greg Evigan) are too late to save Angel (Michelle Foreman), a dancer who has been thrown off a bridge and set on fire. Of course, this means that Cody must become Sunny, dancing at the Rock Bottom for its owner Ray (Norman Fell).
As she gains the trust of the dancers, they’re all being killed one by one. Cody keeps dancing at the club, defying the orders of her superiors, sure she can catch the killer. Is it Pocket, the one handed creep? Is it Angel’s lover Roxanne (Pia Kamakahi)? And how does Roxanne’s brother Eric fit in?
In a New York Times article, Shea explained how she was inspired by a trip to a strip club: “I didn’t want to go because I felt it was humiliating to women. But I finally got myself there. I sat down and began watching these acts and they’re performing as if they really cared.”
So — spoiler: Roxanne is dead. Eric is Roxanne, taking over her life as he was sure Angel would take his sister away. You can imagine that this is incredibly problematic, as they say, but it’s also a Roger Corman movie. In fact, Corman was convinced that only a woman could be a convincing woman on stage. Shea surprised him and showed him up by fooling him. She would later explain: “He [Corman] turned every shade. He was purple by the end.”
Also, as this is a Corman movie, all the songs that are danced to in this film were added in post-production. They had been filmed with popular songs, but those songs had to be replaced in post, because clearing licensing would be too expensive.
Shea worked with real exotic dancers, teaching them to act. Debra Lamb was one of them and she has been in plenty of movies since this, including Deathrow Gameshow, All Strippers Must Die! and Point Break, often displaying her fire-eating skills. Shea works as an acting teacher to this day, with students including Christina Applegate, Alison Lohman, Sophia Lillis and Drew Barrymore.
She also claims that this was the first movie to show pole dancing.
It would not be the last.