The film credits legendary fetish photographer Eric Kroll as its "Visual Stylist".
Narrated by lead character Chet (Matt Jones), Michael Simmons' AMERICAN FETISH feels from the outset like a classic noir.
In a deliberate drawl, Chet tells us how his mother was a stripper and his father was an "artist". Together they would make hardcore films - and it was these that eventually got the father locked up, for a hideous crime that Chet does not believe he committed.
Now an adult and running the Nylon club that his father bought back in the 1950s, Chet keeps the place ticking over in the style that daddy would've wanted: women dance half-naked to thumping music while bouncers stand by ready to beat the shit out of anyone foolhardy enough to touch the models.
In the backroom, the girls make out in slow-motion while Chet's right-hand-man TJ keeps them sweet.
So, why does Chet sit at the bar looking so glum each night? Per his narration, there are two reasons.
The first is that he still believes his father languishes in a padded cell because he was framed. He feels a need to clear the old man's innocence.
The second reason is the constant presence of corrupt cop Stockman, who extorts Chet on a regular basis as part of a very underhand protection racket which extends to him taking the girls out into the back alley nightly for unwanted abuse.
When an old man dies of a heart attack in the club (well, the girl dancing on his lap would set my pulse racing too), the event opens up Chet to even closer scrutiny from the local law enforcement. His response is to retreat from the club and visit his father's old place with family friend Zack (Zachary Marsala), in the hope of finally unearthing something concrete to clear dad's name.
A wallet with old telephone numbers is an interesting find. But not as much as the projector and old reels of 8mm film that uncovers. Zack suggests that this must be a "blue movie", and that they should sell it on. But Chet wants to at least watch it first.
At first, the filmed footage seems innocuous enough: 1950s scenes of models done up in fetish gear in the dressing room of the Nylon club. They're cavorting in a manner that must've seemed darn cheeky at that time - smoking, cat-fighting, toe-sucking ...
Something about the footage compels Chet to keep going back to it, watching further into it and eventually witnessing something that could answer the mystery surrounding his father's fate and a double-murder committed many moons ago ...
With the regular earnest narration, jazzy lounge music and blue filtered lighting, AMERICAN FETISH is very stylised in an agreeably noirish manner. The intentionally dark visuals lend the film emotional gravity and everything is lit and coloured in a fashion that, if nothing else, ensures the film is an aesthetic treat.
Performances are middling, a little muted if I'm honest, save for the welcome appearances of Breanne Benson and Jacqui Holland doing what they do best ... with zest.
As the plot thickens and becomes more and more embroiled in a world of bondage and S&M fetishism, the film tends to mix passages of storyline with stylish vignettes that come across as more pretentious than erotic. Still, there is a clearly an audience for this type of thing (masked women spanking each other; grown men being ushered into huge cages by their dominatrix, etc) - and Simmons shoots it all expertly.
A hint of David Lynch here, a smattering of "The Red Shoe Diaries" there: AMERICAN FETISH is a tough film to weigh up due to its refusal to settle into being either a soft-core folly or sombre detective story. It tries to fuse both, but comes across as an awkward middle ground between the two.
Having said that, it frequently looks great (despite the odd CSI-style camerawork and editing style) and Simmons shows the potential to become a great director of dark erotica - if the material gets better (Simmons also wrote this) and he reins in his tendency for pop video visuals.
AMERICAN FETISH is presented here on this screener in a non-anamorphic 1.85: transfer. The press release that accompanied this disc states that the eventual product will be 16x9 enhanced.
As such, it's clear that this review disc is not necessarily indicative of the Unearthed Films DVD that will be in stores. Still, for what it's worth, the transfer here boasted strong colours and good solid blacks. Images were a tad soft, but smooth.
English audio was consistent and clean throughout
There were no menus on this disc although the film could be navigated through remotely by way of 19 chapters.
Again referring to the press release, the retail disc will apparently also contain a Behind The Scenes featurette and a stills gallery. Both of which could be interesting.
If you check out the website www.americanfetishfilm.com, there's a nice offer where you can buy the DVD at a discount rate and get instant access to 9 bonus fetish videos ...
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Unearthed|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|