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Inside Deep Throat DVD Review

Inside Deep Throat

March 3, 2006

Director: Denton Bailey, Randy Barbato,
Starring: Gerard Damaino, Harry Reems, Lenny Camp, Charles Keating, Al Goldstein, Herb Kassner, William Purcell, Larry Parrish, Linda Lovelace, ,

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DVD Review

Deep Throat (1972) was the first pornographic film to be distributed and presented on a mainstream level. It was made for only $25,000 and went on to gross a conservatively estimated $600 million. The film also ended up being banned in 23 states. The documentary Inside Deep Throat (2005) examines this dirty film as a cultural phenomenon and the people who made it—where they came from and what happened to them as a result of the controversy their movie generated. Along the way we also get pundits ranging from Gore Vidal and Camille Paglia to Hugh Hefner and John Waters chiming in with their two cents on Deep Throat’s cultural significance.

Inside Deep Throat establishes the social and cultural climate of the early ‘70s. Pornos were illegal and most often made with organized crime money. Deep Throat came together pretty fast. Director Gerard Damaino was introduced to “actress” Linda Lovelace and discovered her “talent.” From that he thought up the film’s title, its gimmick, assembled his cast and crew, and away they went. Little did the filmmakers know that the surprise success of their movie would send them on a collision course with the government who felt that censoring pornography was good politics.

Deep Throat debuted in Times Square in New York City just as local officials were starting up a highly publicized clean-up of these kinds of movies. It was a high profile movie and therefore an easy target. Busting it was a symbol that the government was supposedly doing its job. While Deep Throat was being prosecuted in court, its ticket sales doubled and Ralph Blumenthal’s article in The New York Times gave it mainstream legitimacy. The film’s box office soared as curious suburbanites and celebrities went to see it.

At times, the documentary feels like it’s riding the coattails of Boogie Nights (1997), even going so far as to using some of the songs from its soundtrack. It also traces the fictional film’s rise and fall narrative arc. But this is inevitable considering the subject matter. Boogie Nights was a pastiche of many stories from the porn industry.

The strongest part of the documentary depicts the aftermath of all the trials with one of the film’s stars, Harry Reems homeless, destitute and caught up in the depths of alcoholism and drug addiction. Linda Lovelace retired from the biz and became a housewife and a feminist. Many of the cast and crew were relegated to obscurity (Damaino), harassed ruthlessly (Reems) or died tragically (Lovelace). Inside Deep Throat is a slick looking documentary that clocks in at a compact 90 minutes. It wears its obvious bias on its sleeve, championing Deep Throat as a dirty movie that became an important cinematic milestone. But this is tinged with a melancholic tone that permeates the entire documentary. This all makes for some pretty compelling drama but ends up leaving a dirty residual that makes one want to have a shower afterwards.

Special Features:

There are 14 deleted scenes that feature a lot of footage of how Deep Throat was received in several cities all over the United States, including Binghampton (the conservative birthplace of IBM), Beverly Hills (where the jury sitting on the film’s trial ended up going to collectively see the movie in a theatre!) and a public screening at Harvard University that was rife with protests and arrests. There is also more footage of Linda’s life after Deep Throat and the stigma that she had to endure years after (including losing jobs once people found out who she was).

Also included is an audio commentary with documentary filmmakers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey. They are proud of their film’s NC-17 rating (earned because they show an explicit clip from Deep Throat) and that they were able to still distribute the film through a major studio. The two men describe the climate in the United States as sexually schizophrenic—sex is everywhere and yet still taboo officially—making the story of Deep Throat more relevant than ever before. They also offer their impressions of some of the subjects they interviewed. These guys clearly did a lot of research and speak intelligently about the era Deep Throat came out of and its legacy for better or for worse.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 85%

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