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INSIDE DEEP THROAT (NC17) (2005)

Imagine Entertainment/Universal

Official Site

Directors: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato

Producers: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Brian Grazer

Written by: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato

Cast: Dennis Hopper (narrator), and dozens of folks you’ve heard of

Rating:


It may seem hard to believe, but right up there with gangsters in The Godfather and southern belles in Gone With The Wind, one of the most profitable films of all time features a hapless heroine who discovers her clitoris is located in the back of her throat. The 1972 porno Deep Throat recounts one woman’s quest for sexual satisfaction when encumbered with this anatomical anomaly.

Made for the ridiculously low amount of $25,000, Deep Throat’s producers had modest ambitions. In the early 1970s, porn theaters were dark, dirty places habituated only by the “raincoat brigade” and at best it was hoped the film would recoup its production costs and make a tiny profit. But something odd and unexpected happened. A mediocre film with unremarkable acting, cinematography, and direction somehow went on to become a mega-hit, breaking box office records and attracting a mainstream audience of both men and women alike. Celebrities the likes of Johnny Carson and Jack Nicholson stood in line at the theater and touted the film’s genius. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein even nicknamed their White House informant “Deep Throat,” giving both pornographic and political notoriety to the Watergate scandal that would eventually take down the Nixon administration.

With the backdrop of the Sexual Revolution, directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (whose prior work includes The Eyes Of Tammy Faye and Party Monster) focus on the remarkable cultural implications of what was an otherwise unassuming porn flick. And there is much here to remark upon. Inside Deep Throat shines in its recollection of the early 1970s, a decade that seemed amazingly innocent although replete with cheesiness and brimming sexuality. At its best Bailey and Barbato subtly capture what is ultimately the conflicted legacy of both Deep Throat and a sexually frustrated generation. Their documentary is marked by an unmistakable romanticism toward “classic porn,” particularly in the wake of more recent times, when porn stars like Jenna Jameson top The New York Times bestsellers list with How to Make Love Like a Porn Star. But Inside Deep Throat is not just a nostalgic look at the good old days when porn films had a plot and a sense of humor. Bailey and Barbato also recall when there existed a great hope that filmmaking and the ethos of a new libertine sexuality would merge to create something wonderful and daring that could cross over to mainstream cinema. They effectively show how this never happens. The great dream for porn is derailed and the movement morphs into plotless shorts featuring close-ups of genitalia. Its successors are now naked young starlets who possess not a clue about the hopes and aspirations of their pornographic predecessors.

There is something else fascinating about Inside Deep Throat. It succeeds not only in explaining the bizarre cultural phenomenon of the film, but also the many tragedies it spawned. None of the key participants went on to lead happy and productive lives. Foremost was the film’s star, Linda Lovelace. She would later unite with anti-pornography groups alleging she was forced to make Deep Throat against her will and had only been compensated a few thousand dollars for her performance in the film. Lovelace would spend the remainder of her short life intermittently on welfare and working a series of low-paying secretarial jobs. She died in a car accident in Denver in April of 2002. The film’s director, Gerard Damiano, also comes across like a bride abandoned at the altar. He seems happy and comfortable enough puttering around his south Florida home, but becomes palpably edgy when asked to elaborate about how the Mob allegedly bought him out of the picture, screwing him out of millions of dollars. The closest thing to emerge as a Deep Throat success story is the film’s male star, Harry Reems. Today he sells real estate in Park City, Utah and professes to be a born-again Christian. But even for Reems the legacy of making pornos nearly ruined him. He was doggedly pursued by the feds for promoting obscenity and narrowly escaped a five-year prison sentence. After the success of Deep Throat he was unable to find work in “legitimate” film and discovered the only steady work he could get was in the industry he desperately wanted to escape. This sad realization led him on a long downward spiral with the bottle; at his lowest he was living next to a dumpster in Southern California before he was able to get sober and turn himself around.

This all makes for great storytelling but overall Inside Deep Throat comes up short on analysis. In fairness though, how could any documentary debate the merits of the Sexual Revolution when, in some circles, a debate rages as to whether or not America ever had one? And what of the great crossover audiences who eagerly filled the theater seats alongside their husbands and boyfriends? Nowhere has it ever been documented that women got a whole lot of enjoyment out of accompanying their dates to a porno theater to watch Lovelace fellate. And they certainly didn’t stick around to make porn the billion-dollar industry that it is today. There really isn’t anything too penetrating about Inside Deep Throat, but it is a rollicking, light-hearted look back at a time when sex seemed not so complicated at all.

—Nancy Semin

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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