Attempting to piece together the story of the stag movie can be compared to channel-surfing in a foreign hotel room. Books about the movies in general are almost as old as the movies themselves; books about erotic movies only marginally less so. The earliest volume in most collections to treat the subject, German author Curt Moreck’s Sittengeschichte des Kinos (History of Cinema Customs), was published in 1926 and remains so highly regarded that its dna can be traced in almost every subsequent history of the big screen ever printed.But Moreck treats stag films in just one disdainful chapter, an approach echoed by the French-language publications by Ado Kyrou and Lo Duca that followed in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Neither is the English language any more forthcoming. With the barely deserved exception of a rash of exploitation paperbacks published in the late 1960s and early 1970s (The Stag Film Report, Girls Who Do Stag Movies, Stag Films ’69), just one book — Al Di Lauro and Gerald Rabkin’s Dirty Movies: An Illustrated History of the Stag Film, 1915-1970 — can claim to offer an authoritative discussion of the field.Prior to that, one needed to locate a single issue of Playboy, from November 1967, to learn anything on the subject, and the bare facts laid out by Part 17 of Arthur Knight and Hollis Alpert’s mammoth serialized article The History of Sex in Cinema remain largely the same today as they were back then.With but a handful of exceptions from the late 1960s (by which time the landscape had so shifted that stags already seemed oldfashioned), the people who made these films left no footprints. We do not know the names of the filmmakers nor, for the most part, of their stars or distributors. We do not know when or where the films were shot. We cannot even say with any certainty precisely who they were made for.Inevitably, urban legend has filled in many of those gaps. Throughout the time I spent researching and writing this book, I lost count of the number of occasions upon which I was informed, in grandly disapproving tones, that my subject matter was synonymous with organized crime, a world in which hapless junkies, hookers and street people were coerced into acting out some other sicko’s most degenerate fantasies for the price of a fix and, maybe, one less black eye than usual. And how did they know this?“Oh, I read it somewhere.”Which they very likely did. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, an entire generation of pulp magazines grew up around a world of super sensationalized “true-life” adventures, with war, crime and sex at the top of the pile. Stags were a natural component of this universe, a seamless combination of two of those talismans (all but two American states, Illinois and North Carolina, declared it illegal to even own a stag film until 1968) and a faithful standby for those months when the editors ran out of harrowing escapes from piranha-filled Nazi death cages and the like. Plus, because nobody seemed to know who was making the films, nobody knew who wasn’t.Enter the sadistic crime boss and his nymphomaniac moll, and a white slave trade that journeyed directly from the heart of Middle America to a soiled mattress in a tenement slum. There, evil-eyed mobsters lurked behind scorching lights and the unblinking camera
stared with pitiless evil, while syphilitic studs pounded their diseased...
Dave Thompson (Author)
Dave Thompson is the author of more than 80 books, including Cream: The World's First Supergroup, Go Phish, Moonage Daydream, Never Fade Away, and Smoke on the Water. In 1998, he was ranked one of rock's five foremost authors in Mojo magazine. He lives in London and Delaware.