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Case Number 11411

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Stories From The Road, Sturgis 2006

Screaming Eagle Films // 2006 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ian Visser (Retired) // May 17th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge Ian Visser rides his bicycle with three hockey cards stuck in the spokes. Born to be wild!

The Charge

Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.

Opening Statement

Get your motor running and head out on the highway! Sturgis, South Dakota is our destination, and there's no other place like it.

Facts of the Case

There is only one reason why you would know about the small town of Sturgis: each August it is descended upon by thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts. They've been coming since 1938, when a small motorcycle race and stunt show was first held by local racers. In the subsequent 66 years (minus 1944 and 45, when war-related fuel restrictions were in place) the Sturgis Rally has grown into one of the largest motorcycle events in the world.

Over the course of the event, Sturgis is swamped with visitors and the streets become a veritable showcase of bikes, from the mundane to the amazing. For the riders of American motorcycles, Sturgis is like Mecca, the one place you must visit in your lifetime. But what is the legend, and what is the reality? On hand to find out, Screaming Eagle Productions presents Stories from the Road, Sturgis 2006.

The Evidence

My dad is a long-time Harley-Davidson rider and has mentioned the famed Sturgis Rally in the past. I was amazed, however, to discover how massive the event truly is. When a town's population explodes from 6,400 people to over 500,000 for almost ten days, you know there is something going on. Over the course of the event, visitors will ride the South Dakota hills, swap stories and memories, do a little bike shopping, and perhaps engage in the imbibing of spirits.

Stories From the Road, Sturgis 2006 chronicles the 2006 Sturgis Rally in a series of individual segments. A topic is examined, coupled with interviews or historic footage and photographs. Sturgis weddings, garbage collection, policing, local history, the famous hill climb, and more are all examined. Each segment ends with a "factoid" that details related trivia or facts. The segments are only a few minutes long, but each one is informative and stays focused on its topic. Some segments could stand to be a bit more informative (such as those dealing with the actual history of the rally), but Screaming Eagle has done its homework and managed to unearth many nuggets of interest for Sturgis fans.

Stories from the Road, Sturgis 2006 is billed as a more-restrained example of Sturgis-related DVDs. Never having seen these alternative offerings, I can only assume that they focus on the freaks and weirdoes of the event, along with the naughtier bits of behavior fueled by testosterone, exhaust fumes, and Jack Daniels. As it stands, Stories from the Road, Sturgis 2006 seems almost family-friendly. There are a couple of instances of bad language, but for the most part this effort concentrates on the fun and camaraderie of the event. If anyone is trying to convince their significant other that Sturgis is worth the trip, this is the DVD to use.

If there is an element that Stories from the Road, Sturgis 2006 neglects, it is the impact that the rally has had on the town of Sturgis itself. Almost everyone interviewed laments the growing commercialization of the event and the subsequent changes that have been wrought. Mention is made that many Sturgis businesses are closed for the other 51 weeks of the year, and that out-of-towners hold local leases and rent out town storefronts to vendors at incredibly high rates. It would have been enlightening to examine these issues in depth, or interview local citizens to get their opinions on the rally and its impact. Everyone loves a good party, but someone has to stay behind to clean up.

On the technical side, there is both good news and bad. Shot on digital video, the 1.78:1 widescreen image leaves something to be desired. Interview segments tend to be quite grainy, and many shots use only natural light and suffer for it. It isn't unwatchable by any means, but this is still an independent undertaking and the presentation reflects it. On the audio side, however, Stories from the Road, Sturgis 2006 delivers the goods. I wasn't expecting much, but the sound is loud and rich, and I jumped a bit when off-screen bikes roared to life. The rock music pounds along in a lively fashion and both the interview dialogue and narration are easily understood. For a lower-budget documentary, this revelation was a pleasant surprise.

Unfortunately the DVD contains no special features. Considering the entire film only runs 75 minutes, it would have been nice to get some extended interviews or outtakes.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Where are all the bikes? Commercialized or not, Sturgis is (and has always been) all about the rolling iron. Stories From the Road, Sturgis 2006 may show us a wider view of the event, but those enthusiasts looking for a fix of screaming machines are bound to be disappointed by the lack of featured rides.

Closing Statement

If you can overlook the presentation issues, Stories From the Road, Sturgis 2006 offers a perspective of the 2006 Sturgis Rally that is more than just bikes, boobs, and beer. Screaming Eagle is commended for going beyond the superficial elements of the event and taking a deeper look at the people and places involved.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Stories from the Road, Sturgis 2006 is set free to ride the open highways.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 70
Audio: 85
Extras: 0
Story: 85
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Screaming Eagle Films
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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