American Fetish (2009) – By Cary Conley

Sammy was the owner of a strip club and a peddler of "blue films," silent 8 MM pornographic film loops. Sammy directed these illegal blue films back in the fifties, and his films were very popular since he chose to record various fetishes. He also enjoyed playing a game of cat-and-mouse with the cops until one day he manages to capture a murder on film. He is eventually caught and imprisoned for the murder. Once he passes away, his son Chet inherits the debt-ridden club and all of his possessions. Initially curious about these dated stag loops and hoping that the old films might be worth some money that could help bail out the club, Chet tries to locate them. But the old film loops are mysteriously missing. Sammy had told Chet that the police had the films, but the police claim they were burned after the trial.

As Chet begins to delve into the mystery of the missing loops, he also begins to suspect that his father may have been innocent. Sammy always claimed he was set up and Chet wants to clear his father’s name, but he must find the films first. As he digs deeper into his father’s possessions, he also digs into his father’s mysterious past. As Chet begins to locate the ancient film loops, he uncovers many revelations about his father as well as about himself. But will he be able to locate the critical piece of evidence that will either exonerate his father or doom Chet to always being branded as the "son of a murderer?" Were the murders actually filmed? And if so, does that film actually still exist?

As Chet continues to explore his father’s past, he enters a world of submission and bondage and uncovers a link to his father’s old films and devil worship while discovering that, like his father, he not only enjoys these BDSM fantasies, but has a knack for filming them.

With this film, director Michael Simmons has created a modern-day film noir with all the classic trappings of that genre. Each scene is bathed in shadow and the story is narrated much like a forties detective potboiler would have been. Even sections of the score sound very much like an old film noir. The result is a very atmospheric film with a couple of significant differences from the black-and-white noirs of the forties. One obvious difference is that this film is in color. Simmons has crafted a beautiful film full of bright, garish color, used to particularly good effect in the bar scenes and during the footage of the old film loops. And, of course, the second major difference is the amount of eroticism on display here.

As befits a film with this title, there are numerous fetishes on display, from various types of bondage to S&M and even shoe fetishes. But while Simmons could have opted to sink into pornographic territory, instead he shows tremendous restraint and chooses to go a more artistic route. The result is a surprisingly tame film with very little nudity. But that doesn’t mean the film isn’t erotic. There are several fetish scenes that I thought were quite erotic and artfully done without ever crossing the boundary into bad taste. The musical score was well-done and effective and heightened the eroticism of certain scenes.

But while there was a great deal to like about Simmons’ movie, there are some flaws that, unfortunately, lessened the enjoyment of the film for me. First, I felt the picture was too dark. While many scenes were eerily effective because of the use of shadows, others were so dark and murky I had a difficult time discerning what characters were on screen and what was happening. There were a couple of scenes that I felt would have been more erotic if the viewer could see a little of what was happening on screen. Secondly, the acting wasn’t as strong as it could have been. I had trouble believing in the characters because I felt the delivery was a bit wooden. But the fatal flaw was in the story itself. It was a bit too convoluted for my taste. I never felt entirely involved with the story and felt that the story was more than a bit disjointed. While I liked the irony of the ending, I was frustrated by my constant confusion as to what exactly was happening to each character in the film.

Ultimately, "American Fetish" is a slightly provocative and interesting film, but suffers from a murky picture, weak acting, and a confusing storyline. It is mildly erotic, but if you want to watch a film for the BDSM content, try "Flower and Snake," or "Wife to be Sacrificed"–both excellent Japanese examples of this type of film.