When Canonsburg resident Brooks Cantrell produced and edited the independent film "Stanton's Magic Dick" for the recent Howard Stern Film Festival, he hoped it would get a reaction from viewers.
So far, he's gotten at least one: He has been banned for life from Hollywood Video rental stores.
Cantrell, who attends classes at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, was slapped with the ban after giving a DVD of his film to a clerk at the chain's Bethel Park store. He and his wife had talked to the clerk in the past, he says, and she asked to see some of his work. He told her "Stanton" was a comedy with adult situations, he reports.
He never heard from the clerk, he says, but he did receive a June 7 letter from a Hollywood Entertainment Corporation paralegal, Kim Howard. "It has come to our attention that you recently gave a Hollywood employee a sexually explicit DVD and requested that she view it and provide her opinion on the content," wrote Howard, director of legal administration. "Your actions were completely unsolicited and are inappropriate and offensive. Hollywood demands that you cease and desist entering any Hollywood store for any purpose in the future. If you enter any Hollywood store or attempt to contact our store employees after the date of this letter, we will take appropriate action against you."
Calls to the Bethel Park store were referred to the company's media-relations office in Wilsonville, Ore. Neither that call, nor a message left for Howard, were returned.
Cantrell says he and his film crew wanted to capture the same sense of humor that Stern exhibits on his satellite radio and In Demand Cable shows. The movie is about mild-mannered Stanton, who has an affair with a co-worker and discovers that his penis has magical powers. Stanton improves his cell-phone reception, fills his empty wallet, turns water into wine, and brings a dead dog back to life ... all by having sex with each object.
There is no nudity, and the sex is off-camera. "Stanton" is less graphic than the title scen in American Pie ... a film whose sequels are all stocked on Hollywood Video shelves.
Cantrell's film was not a finalist in the Stern contest. Judged by celebrities, from Stern himself to movie reviewer Richard Roeper and actor Richard Belzer, the winning entry was a fictional tale showing Stern becoming the King of All Media at an early age by using a ham radio. Many of the entries, including the finalists, used various sex acts in their plots, but none employed graphic depictions.
"I was upset when I got the letter, because it made it sound like the film was a porno," says Cantrell. "I don't mind criticism, but this is crazy. I've tried to talk to them about the whole situation, but they haven't responded."
There's also the little matter of the videos he's already rented.
"I'd also love to return their movies to them," he says, "but that's a little tough ..."