Review of The Stiff Nights Story: The Great Deception of Erections – only merits a single star at best.
Here’s some valuable advice: when creating a documentary about a deceitful business selling erectile dysfunction pills, don’t let it be as lackluster as The Great Erection Deception: The Stiff Nights Story. It’s clear why the filmmakers were drawn to this topic – anything related to erections sells well. As a brief summary, it’s quite compelling: a Mormon named Kelly Harvey and a mysterious vegan named Erb Avore discover an herbal alternative to Viagra and quickly capitalize on its success by hiring 200 employees to package capsules filled with “extract of golden speargrass.” They also rake in large sums of money from sales. Unfortunately, it is later revealed that their supplier was not entirely truthful and the supposed “extract of golden speargrass” is actually sildenafil, the main ingredient in Viagra.
Unfortunately, the story becomes insignificant when Kelly and Erb continue to sell their Stiff Nights pills without proper regulation, resulting in their deception being discovered by the FDA. Harvey is sentenced to three years in jail while Erb goes missing and cannot be found by the FDA or the program creators. The only death that led to a family’s lawsuit is not directly linked to Stiff Nights, but rather a similar pill that was released after Harvey’s time. Harvey expresses some remorse for his actions, admitting that he never saw himself as a criminal and could have made better choices. He now works as a pizza delivery person as a convicted felon, but his family has forgiven him completely and remains intact. However, despite the reveal that the pills contained sildenafil, which many skeptics would have predicted due to the questionable effectiveness of herbal supplements for enhancing sexual function, the potential climaxes of the story fall flat.
The documentary “The Great Erection Deception” includes a detailed history of Viagra, so the audience can recognize the active ingredient. It also features scenes of former porn star Buck Angel at a sex industry expo and a testimonial from a user of herbal supplements. However, these scenes seem forced and do not add much substance to the film. Even the story of the filmmaker, Kelly, being unwittingly involved in a drug deal with a Mexican cartel lacks depth and falls flat. Kelly’s portrayal throughout the documentary is more stereotypical Mormon rather than the charming con artist that would make for a compelling subject on camera.
There are indications throughout this documentary of the potential it could have had. Jeff Abraham, the CEO of a company referred to as a “sexual wellness brand” in my advance copy and a quick Google search reveals it specializes in “scientifically-backed” male enhancement products (with their most popular being a spray that delays premature ejaculation), is eager to condemn all herbal imitations and shut down the sale of “gas station pills”. He exclaims, “It’s like the new wild west!” but it is unclear whether he is truly concerned for men’s well-being or his own profits.
In contrast to this location, where Viagra can be purchased without a prescription, there remains a large market for alternative options in the US. These products are readily available in places where men can shop discreetly. It is unclear whether the appeal of these alternatives lies in their promise of a “natural” erection or the difficulty of obtaining Viagra through official healthcare channels. In an interview with Charles Mendoza III, who admits to using these alternatives recreationally, he expresses concerns about potential allergic reactions to pharmaceutical drugs. However, the lack of regulation and unknown ingredients in these alternative products is not addressed. The film also fails to delve into the concept of “natural” and other similar terms, such as “organic” and “holistic”, which are often used in marketing these products. The significance of erectile dysfunction and the high cost that men are willing to pay to treat it is also not examined. Instead, the film relies on cheesy puns and a forced voiceover that adds little substance. The only redeeming aspect is the use of a clever “privates investigator” to search for a missing individual named Erb.
The documentary “The Stiff Nights Story: The Great Erection Deception” is currently airing on ITVX.