Inside Deep Throat Movie Review

There are relatively few moments in American history that you could correctly refer to as a turning point for the culture, but one of them was almost definitely the moment in 1972 when the Manhattan elite flocked in droves to see the hardcore porn film Deep Throat at a seedy Times Square theater. Cultural upheaval on the scale caused by this eruption of pornography into the mainstream is of course catnip for documentarians and Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Their Inside Deep Throat has good fun with its subject, even if it ultimately raises more questions than it answers.

The object at the center of the controversy that would rage through the '70s and into the '80s was a porno shot on the cheap in Florida for less than $25,000. It starred a 19-year-old Linda Lovelace, an actress of sorts who had a talent for fellatio which impressed the filmmakers to no end, and Harry Reems, who was originally just the production assistant, but filled in when the male star turned out not to be up to the challenge. An almost unbelievably silly piece of work (even its director, the affable Gerard Damiano, later admits it wasn't a very good film), Deep Throat achieved notoriety both for the famous act by Lovelace (included uncut in the documentary, the sole reason for its NC-17 rating) and for the fact that it was the rare porno at the time which didn't pretend to be showing sex for "educational" purposes but as an end in and of itself.

Deep Throat played to a packed house in Times Square for a while before many outside the usual dirty old man demographic were aware of it, but then a piece in the New York Times about it, called "Porn Chic," came out, and uptown was abuzz. Then, as the film spread across the country, the moral scolds stepped in, banning it in 23 states - an act that was akin to throwing gasoline on a fire. As it continued to rack up the receipts (which the documentary estimates ultimately at a pretty unbelievable $600 million), the director and stars feasted on their notoriety, which didn't unfortunately result in money or other work. While Lovelace, Reems and Damiano were frozen out financially - it's pretty clear that Damiano's two partners in Deep Throat, who later bought him out, were Mafia, who sent bagmen to every theater showing the film to collect their take, in cash, every day, money that was never seen again - they also weren't able to further their careers in the movie business, with Reems almost jailed for obscenity.

The cavalcade of talking heads that the filmmakers trot out to discuss the ramifications of Deep Throat's impact on the society is truly impressive, but yet a little like an omnibus edition of a '70s talk show. There's Norman Mailer and Hugh Hefner, going on about the liberation of sex, John Waters on the cultish, deliciously nastiness of it all, and the once ubiquitous Dick Cavett with his usual dry litany of name-dropping anecdotes. The overall tone is, not surprisingly, one of celebratory fun, the few naysayers (Charles Keating and the like) who pop in to denounce Deep Throat are summarily ridiculed, and rightly so. But some issues are left unresolved, especially the filmmakers' contention that anti-porn feminists who came out in the '80s against porn as a tool of the patriarchy, and used a newly converted Lovelace as their spokesmodel, were just as vile and censor-prone as the Moral Majority types of earlier years who wanted to throw Reems in jail. It's a problematic subject, given Lovelace's deep downward spiral (she died in a car crash in 2002) compared with the men, Damiano and Reems today both seeming quite genial and well-adjusted.

Inside Deep Throat moves like a bullet, though, running through its subjects with punch-drunk glee and stitching it all together with a pounding K-Tel Super Hits of the Seventies soundtrack. While it may be just another fantasy of the halcyon free sex era that was supposedly so relentlessly crushed by today's soulless porn industry (the same thesis taken in Boogie Nights), this is still a potent chronicle of a tumultuous time.

The DVD includes commentary track plus a copious number of extra interviews and pieces of bonus footage.


Comments

Inside Deep Throat Rating

" Good "

Rating: NC-17, 2005

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