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Inside Deep Throat (2005)  Print E-mail
Theatrical Movie Reviews Theatrical
Written by Bill Warren   
Friday, 11 February 2005

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When “Deep Throat” was released in 1972, it became a media and cultural sensation—a hard-core porn movie that just about everyone wanted to see. It cost only $25,000 to make, but grossed over $900,000,000, making it the most profitable movie in history. But those profits weren’t passed along to Gerard Damaiano, the hairdresser who directed it, nor to stars Harry Reems and Linda Lovelace, she of the infamously deep throat.

The surprising fame of “Deep Throat” was only partly due to the movie, which is really just a standard porn of the day, with somewhat better photography. It came along as America was still going through the sexual revolution of the late 1960s, prompted by the advent of the birth control pill, homosexuality emerging out of the shadows, the Viet Nam war, Nixon’s troubled presidency, etc. Woodward & Bernstein helped by labeling their All the President’s Men informant “Deep Throat.”

“Inside Deep Throat” is a well-made documentary about the movie, those who made it and its lasting cultural impact. Narrated by Dennis Hopper, the movie was directed and produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, who’ve done a lot of documentaries on a dizzying array of subjects. And one of the producers was Brian Grazer, Ron Howard’s long-time partner in Imagine Entertainment. It’s surprising to see the name of the producer of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” on a movie that includes explicit scenes of Linda Lovelace giving Harry Reems the blow job of his life. Note: the movie is rated NC-17; most moviegoers aren’t aware that there is an upper limit to what even that rating allows, so while we do see a couple of shots of Lovelace fellating Reems, the other sexual footage isn’t as explicit.

The directors have rounded up an impressive array of interview subjects who look at the movie from a dazzling variety of viewpoints, from feminism to historical to value as simple pornography. (This, unsurprisingly, is detailed by Al Goldstein of Screw magazine fame. He gave “Deep Throat” ten on the peter meter.) Somewhat surprisingly, horror director Wes Craven turns up, unabashedly admitting that his earlier, anonymous, movie career was in hardcore. Both Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner appear, with Hef being the more cogent of the two. Bill Maher appears briefly and Dick Cavett, who’s very funny, more often. Norman Mailer, not unexpectedly, has a few pithy comments, such as admitting as pointing that, after all, “Deep Throat” was a comedy about sex, and “we’ll sell our souls for a giggle.”

Some of the most interesting scenes involve Gerard Damaiano, now retired in Florida, dressed in tucked-in aloha shirts and old-man pants with the waistline just below his ribs. He turns out to be an interesting old codger, and a young one too—we even see home movies of him working in his New York beauty parlor pre-“Deep Throat.” Harry Reems, even handsomer now than he was then, is also interesting and surprisingly intelligent—you thought he had only one talent, right? He talks about the complete collapse of his eyeblink of a movie career, his descent into alcoholism and drugs. He’s clearly recovered now, exuberant and happy. Linda Lovelace appeared in a few more porn films, then wrote a famous book about her virtual enslavement by her lover. She’d just gotten back on her feet, relatively speaking, when she was killed in a car wreck in 2002. Her sister Barbara Boreman is clearly still angry and bitter about her younger sister’s experiences.

Another cranky old coot, whose name I missed, was the producer of “Deep Throat;” he’s very funny (and for some reason, keeps his left hand planted on his ear) as he says Reems “would get an erection at the sound of a camera motor.”

The movie is phenomenally well researched; when an interview subject mentions that Lovelace had a cat she called Adolf Hitler because of the mustache-like marking on its upper lip, we see a photo of the cat. The movie traces Reems’ astonishing conviction for simply appearing in “Deep Throat,” and both the defense and prosecuting attorneys are interviewed. Georgina Spelvin, herself a porn star, offers very intelligent, thoughtful comments on the events. Even Peter Bart, editor of Variety, is heard from, as are producer Tony Bill and New York Times journalist Ralph Blumenthal, whose contemporary article on “Porn Chic” was highly influential.

“Boogie Nights” was right: as home video came in, porno theaters, which had been verging on respectability, soon faded away. And as the mob re-established its control of the porn business, the quality faded, too. Most of that nine hundred million bucks went into the pockets of guys with bent noses. Terry Sommers was a Florida distributor who looked to make money from “Deep Throat,” but explains that every night at each of his theaters, some guy showed up to collect half the day’s profits, in cash. Amusingly, Sommers’ wife, seated in the background, keeps warning him that maybe the mob will see “Inside Deep Throat” and come after him—more than 30 years later. But we also see that these two still love each other, and the directors afford them a lot of amused, affectionate footage.

The movie gradually becomes increasingly relevant; right now, we have the most conservative president of the 20th century, one who is openly allied with the religious right. Those who believe in open freedom of expression will always be in conflict with those who hated pornography. They don’t realize that explicit sexual scenes are not innately corrupting or harmful (though certainly not recommended for children), but rather that the danger arises from the censorious attitudes toward such material. Though “Deep Throat” was released back in 1972, “Inside Deep Throat” could hardly be more timely.







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