Inside Deep Throat
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Inside Deep Throat

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For as long as man been around sexual images has been a part of life. Pornography has been the dirty little secret in the movie industry. Such adult films have always been on the outskirts of main stream film, the bastard cousin as it were. What most did not want to admit is this is one of the most lucrative aspects of film. Mostly, the audiences for these films where lonely men aptly referred to as the raincoat brigade, sitting in the dark, dirty theaters in the bad part of town. In 1972 something happened that would change that forever, a film oddly called ‘Deep Throat’ was released and neither the adult or regular film industries would ever be the same. Fenton Bailey and

Randy Barbato created the documentary called Inside Deep Throat which provides a detailed consideration of the impact this film would have on the American public, legal system and film industry.

The documentary looks at the inspiration received by Gerard Damiano, a Florida hairdresser who in 1972 set out to make his own adult film. The plot is as simple as it is ridiculous, a young woman, Linda Lovelace, cannot achieve sexual release and seeks medical attention from Doctor Young (Harry Reems). His discovers that her clitoris is located in her throat and, well I’ll leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. The film was made in only six days for a cost of under $25,000. As of now the film has grossed (no pun intended) over $600,000. This puts it in the illustrious ranks of films best money makers. For example, Titanic had a cost to profit ration less than 10:1, Deep Throat holds on to one that sits about 24:1. Where did all that wealth go? That is part of what this documentary delves into.

Damiano had a deal with distributors that he would receive one third of the profits. Accord to his own account he sold those rights for $100,000 to some people that where connected in a Tony Soprano sort of way, prior to Deep Throat crime organizations made a lot of money by running those seedy little theaters in local red light districts. With the advent of Deep Throat they realized that there were mainstream profits to be made. Say what you want about such criminal organizations they do have an eye for making money. Inside Deep Throat also considers the social impact of the film. In 1972 couples and celebrities where openly seen going into theaters to watch the film, pornographic chic became all the rage among the yuppie set and for once the police had to consider decent people when they raided the theaters showing the movie.

The documentary centers on a group of interviews with people who witnessed this sociological change. Many have charged that most of the subjects of these interviews are rather advanced in age; personally I found this a plus. While the makers of this work could have depended on some younger people to interview, the ink on their PhDs still wet, I found it more interesting to hear from the ones in the midst of the sexual revolution at the time Deep Throat was released. This gives is a feel almost like something the History Channel would present.

One interviewee of note was Helen Gurley Brown. While many younger viewers may not immediately recognize the name she was the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine for over thirty years. Her books like Sex and the Single Girl helped to change the attitudes log held for dating and sex. As such she is perfect to comment on the social implications of Deep Throat. She notes that the film took sexual relations thought to be beyond what is normal out of the dark back rooms and into the mainstream where such practices, long engaged in, could be openly discussed. The notorious Larry Flynt also has a lot to say on the matter. As one of the most infamous pornographers of all time, and by many accounts one of the chief supporters of the first amendment, he saw this film as a welcomed slap in the face to the up tight establishment. Wht he did with his magazines was now on the screen for all to see. On the more mainstream side people like Normal Mailer chime in with there defense of the film as an important constitutional issue.

Legal issues where at the heart of the controversy of this film. Then President Richard Nixon was appalled by the very notation of the film. He set in motion an unprecedented attack on a cheap, poorly made film. A valid scientific study that showed no correlation between viewing pornography and violence sex crimes was replaced with one that had less in the way of credentials but made the point desired by the administration. Charles Keating Jr.l and his Citizens for Decent Literature lead the charge against the film and police departments in city after city would raid the mainstream theaters showing the film and confiscate the copies. Ironically, this is the same Keating who was at the center of the Savings and Loan failure scandal of the early eighties.

The last major focus of the documentary is the affect the film had on the principle players who where in it. Lovelace declared that she was basically raped for her scenes in the film. Her life was forever ruined by this film smashing any hopes of becoming a real actress. Reems fell into alcoholism and despair eventually becoming a Born Again Christian and now works in real estate. While everyone else appeared to make money off this film the ones in it found it to be an albatross forever around their necks.

Thanks in large part to Michael Moore and a little film about penguins, the documentary has been moved up from the Oscar award that most people hit the kitchen during the presentation to a major public draw. Bailey and Barbato don’t follow the documentary as entertainment format but instead provide a serious work that looks at the far ranging effect one little stag film had on America. Universal now presents the film in two forms, an R rated and NC-17 rated versions. Realistically, most will opt for the NC-17 one but for those out there looking for some puerile viewing go elsewhere; this is a serious sociological study whose only real nudity is a brief clip of Ms Lovelace demonstrating her talent. The technical specifications of the film are above those usually employed for such a film. The 1.85:1 anamorphic video is usually clear, older film clips the exception. The Dolby 5.1 audio is actually over kill here, most of the speakers are silent with the sound centered in the front. There is about thirty minutes of extras such as ‘The Last Word for Now’ featuring comments by such notables as Bill Maher, Erica Jong, Hugh Hefner and Wes Craven discussing American changing attitudes towards sex. ‘Quincy House: Poison Ivy League’ looks at two college students who where arrested for screening Deep Throat in their dorm. There is also a commentary track by the directors that adds a little to how they gathered the material and decided what to show. While not for everyone this will be of interest to those that wonder how American changed in its view of sexual expression over the last thirty years.

Posted 9/23/05

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