Inside Deep Throat (2005) / Documentary
MPAA Rated: NC-17 for pervasive sexuality, graphic images of sex, and strong sexual language
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Dennis Hopper (narrator), Gerard Damiano, Harry Reems, Alan Dershowitz, John Waters, Camille Paglia, Larry Flynt, Gore Vidal, Hugh Hefner, Dick Cavett, Erica Jong, Al Goldstein, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Georgina Spelvin, Norman Mailer, Bill Maher, Charles Keating, Xaviera Hollander
Director: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
Screenplay: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
Review published August 30, 2005
I was a bit hesitant to see Inside Deep Throat, mostly because I really don't consider the legendary pornographic film on which it centers to be a very good film. Thankfully, even the makers of this documentary seem to think so as well, and in fact, even the original film's director, Gerard Daminano (The Devil in Miss Jones, The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue), doesn't consider it a very good film either. Instead, this documentary by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (Party Monster, The Eyes of Tammy Faye) concentrates solely on the social impact the film made back in the 1970s, and how it became the lightning rod for those with a moral or political axe to grind.
According to this movie, Deep Throat is the most successful film of all time, costing about $25,000 and grossing about $650 million, although I would gather that, if that statistic is accurate, most of the money came from the home video market worldwide. Although no one making it thought it would amount to much, the provocative title and unique (for its time) sex act had many people abuzz, and soon the controversy surrounding the film took on a life of its own. It would be the first porn movie to see mainstream moviegoers venture out to the adult theaters, and would be the scapegoat for all of the ills of the porn industry, causing many with an agenda to stop the tide of filth by exerting great legal pressure to stamp it out.
Inside Deep Throat ties the film in with the wave of sexual liberation that permeated much of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and while it makes a good case for the film's importance in the light of social history, perhaps it does overplay its card now and then. I'm not old enough to have seen the tumult the film caused, but I am old enough to recall the controversy surrounding the 2 Live Crew's "As Nasty as They Wanna Be" in the late 1980s, and while the threat government mandated censorship caused many to rally around the x-rated rap act, I also don't want to see the album celebrated as important or artistically resonant in and of itself.
Inside Deep Throat is successful because it understands the limited merit of the actual movie it is based upon, never really purporting that it is a work of political or artistic significance, although some of the talking heads interviewed do emphasize that Deep Throat pushed forward a newfound feeling of sexual liberation for women. Based on the interview with Damiano himself, perhaps even this view is reaching a bit -- he saw what marvels Linda Lovelace could do orally and built a goofy plot around the act. He wasn't trying to challenge the status quo -- he just wanted to make a movie and perhaps a few bucks.
The documentary also covers the careers of the films stars, Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems (Deadly Weapons), and discusses the downfall of the porn industry as a serious filmmaking business. While I can't say that most of the films made in the 1970s were great when compared to mainstream movies, they do have a lot more creativity and artistic integrity than the onslaught of cheaply made straight-to-video porn made today. While American society would be forever changed by the battle of morality vs. freedom of sexual expression as instigated by Deep Throat and its brethren, in the end, the popularity of the VCR and easy access to adult material made it all a moot issue.
Inside Deep Throat is a lively documentary, well-packaged and presented with lots of humor and energy, so even those who haven't seen the controversial porn film will probably find it an entertaining viewing. Although most of the graphic sex has been edited out, there is one key sequence in which the "deep throat" act is shown (from the movie), which in itself merits the NC-17 rating -- this is NOT safe for children or adults offended by graphic sex. For those with open minds, it should at least stimulate you enough (mentally, not physically) to reassess the burgeoning porn industry of the early 1970s. Whether you deem it worthwhile or the country's shame, it nevertheless got us talking and thinking about what kind of society we want to live in. Should we have freedom of expression or freedom from expression? Who knew Deep Throat would be worthy of "deep thought" as well?
©2005 Vince Leo