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American Stag
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by William Goss

"Spanks For The Memories"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 FLORIDA FILM FESTIVAL: Before seeing 'American Stag,' I had been under the impression that a “stag film” was merely a nature documentary chronicling the life and behavior of a male deer. Boy, was I wrong.

Appearing soon after the creation of film and peaking particularly throughout the forties and fifties, the stag film was almost a diluted division of pornographic movies, footage of ordinary and occasionally unattractive people fumbling around and bumping uglies with half-assed, wait, make that quarter-assed acting ability and pathetic narratives. While no one expects exceptional quality from their adult entertainment, this was bottom-of-the-barrel material that still drew enough public industry to drive the industry underground and enough private curiosity to prompt clandestine screenings to take place across the country. Beggars couldn’t afford to be choosers, especially at the risk of a police arrest and public embarrassment. The onset of technology, though, eventually eliminated the trend, as home video allowed men to enjoy such fare without the company of several strangers in a smoke-filled room, and the combination of cable and the Internet allowed even greater accessibility to the taboo that still thrives today. I mean, I presume it does. A friend of a friend told me so.

Director Benjamin Meade has amassed an impressive private collection of archive footage, providing plenty of prime material for one to observe, whether it be international or even animated in content. Some stag films depicted some of the first interracial “relationships” depicted onscreen, while others may or may not star Hollywood legends, such as Barbara Streisand and Marilyn Monroe. At times, the musical accompaniment seems questionable, but the movie moves along at a reasonable pace, displaying a wealth of footage without relying too heavily on it (come on, it’s just not that hot after a while). Combined with several interviews including Adam Carolla, Melvin Van Peebles, Tommy Chong, Chris Gore, Barbara Hammer, and many others, Meade constructs a documentary that thoroughly chronicles a lost period of smut and its social implications, even if it seems to survive today solely as a memory of a naughty novelty, a vague imprint of forbidden filth forgotten.

Although its subject matter is inevitably tame by modern standards, 'American Stag' is nonetheless an informative and entertaining portrait of an era erased, a succinct time capsule of a period when filth could foster the slightest sense of community, even if you weren’t necessarily proud of it. Ah, those were the days.

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originally posted: 05/08/06 18:20:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2006 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2006 Austin Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2007 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/11/06 Zaina Ali I found the music added an eerie dimension that greatly appealed to me. 4 stars
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  DVD: 17-Jun-2008



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