Cinema Signal:

Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Videos

. "Inside Deep Throat"

A documentary about a film is bound to take on the aspects of that film and, in the case of one that's a monumental success from the porno world, the documentary about it is pornographic, as well. It will tend to draw its audience from those who may have attended the original or would have liked to. Since we're talking here about a film that made $600 million in 1972 dollars, there could be a significant payoff for any film with "Deep Throat" in the title.

Any claim that this is educational and, therefore, less exploitative, has my sympathy and my partial agreement. Lots of pornography tries to legitimize itself with some bogus references to scientific, medical, psychological or other medical practices. Pornography has even been presented as the subject of a scientific study but, in film, it's hard to find a skin flick capable of, even, serious study.

Of course, that's because that's not the intent of pornography. This documentary, while it covers its subject in all its aspects and nuances, can claim not to be pornographic because it lacks the tell tale signs -- the explicit sex scene every 5, 7 or 10 minutes. (In real pornography, you can't keep the audience waiting).

"Inside Deep Throat" fully documents the film, its originators, its cast and crew, the legal and political figures who came down on it (all right... pun intended), and the after-effects of the lucky individuals who had anything to do with it at all. The lead icon who comes to mind first, of course, is the seductive and copiously capable Linda Lovelace, its star and homespun porno queen. It's as much her straightforward charm as her impressive control of her sphincter muscle that contributed so greatly to the revenue phenomenon.

Her co-star Harry Reems and his side of the equation and its consequences are fully documented, as is the ordinariness of the talent and the puffed-up importance given to it.

Behind the scenes players have a big role, most notably in the form of its producer Gerard Damiano who takes great pride in the fact that he made a film with a story hook -- not just the usual formulaic porno. He actually did create a "concept" movie even though it consisted of a clitoris somehow moving into regions of the lower throat.

An insider, production manager Ron, adds his inimitable sense of aggrandizement to the enterprise, his "act" adding considerably to the humor of the documentary (no simple talking head, here). Outside commentators include porno pundits of all stripes including, but not limited to the likes of Norman Mailer, Alan Dershowitz, "Dr." Ruth Westheimer, Gore Vidal and John Waters. For the prosecution, there's Larry Parrish.

But its success as a 1972 release is not limited to its monstrous boxoffice take. Having been made for a total budget of $25,000, it's the most financially successful indie film yet. (Legit producers, eat your heart out). When you hitch your wagon to an engine of revenue, as this documentary does, high boxoffice mileage becomes a promising possibility -- a realization not lost on the makers and distributors. Hey, when it comes to a $600 mil bombshell, you can't just leave it alone!

Yet another measure of success might be the societal issue it's huge following made of it -- producing such changes as a softening in moral attitudes, greater receptivity to things sexual, and a wider awareness of the de facto acceptance of the slimier side of the film industry's product. One might also discern the original as a followup to the original Kinsey Report (see "Kinsey").

The participants are here given a chance to express all their pride, commiserations, regrets, hurts and anger. There's also a nice sprinkling of humor amidst it all, lots of irony, and clips of the film that, in one instance, produced audible gasps in the audience. For pretty good reason.

The documentary flavor and accomplishment is justified by its thorough coverage of the subject which reveals, for example, how Linda Lovelace's attitude toward her fellationic exploit went from pride in being an actress in the limelight to a condemner of the film. How she made her bed and had to sleep for the rest of her life in it (she died in 2002 in a car accident), even as her nervy naivete and enthusiasm waned and her wider awareness and broader education grew under the tutelage of advisors (like her new best friend, Gloria Steinem--who seems always ready to appear at the side of defenseless ladies in headlines and news interviews, as with Paula Jones), defenders and attackers. Lovelace's interview clips reveal that she was, by no means, unintelligent.

So, is this review porno because we're talking about scenes of prurient, illicit sex? My answer to that woudl be... it's in the eye of the beholder.

Whatever one's judgement on that score, this co-directed, co-written documentary by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, whatever their hopes for boxoffice returns, is inclusive, balanced and well crafted -- worthy of a major studio release. If the subject matter doesn't turn you off then come. The entertainment and historical value will give you a few laughs while expanding... your knowledge of film history.

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                           ~~  Jules Brenner  

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