Inside Deep Throat
February 15th, 2005
Some of the larger questions about the subject and the era are left to hang in the air, but “Inside Deep Throat” remains an engrossing journey into a bizarre moment in American culture. Filled with interesting interviews and unbelievable archival media, “Throat” paints quite a portrait of porno-chic and the early 1970s.
While an actual seismic event wasn’t recorded back in 1972, the release of the pornographic film “Deep Throat” had an Earth-shaking impact on American laws and morals when it managed to wiggle its way out of a single sleazy Times Square theater and into the consciousness of the country. With “Inside Deep Throat,” filmmakers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey (both of the unspeakably bad 2003 “Party Monster” bio-pic) quest to explore the wacky and tragic history behind this landmark slice of blue cinema.
The picture’s opening minutes present a stupefying fact: “Deep Throat” was a film made in six days, for $25,000, which has grossed over 600 million since. The sheer size of that detail sends “Inside” off on a dizzying note. How did this little dirty movie become so popular? How did a tugs-at-our-skirt nation like ours allow it happen? Barbato and Fenton have a joyous time running around the country capturing interviews and unearthing old footage in an attempt to answer these questions, but they often come up short of the juice. Instead, the NC-17 rated “Inside” is a needlessly busy motion picture in visual terms, entertaining as heck, but lacking the focus the subject deserves. What story are the filmmakers telling? “Inside” runs from the “Throat” origins to exhibition insanity to porno mob ties to the film’s challenging of obscenity laws to the production’s afterlife and star Linda Lovelace’s declaration of war on the film. That’s too much to cover in a 90-minute feature, with Barbato and Fenton only making small, bite-sized passes at each bit of “Throat” iconography.
Although the footage never quite gels into historical analysis, the material presented here is captivating, and often unexpectedly comical. While the filmmakers push way too hard on the conservative America button (unlike the similarly-themed “Kinsey”), there is amazement in watching how much this tiny porno film upset the moral majority, even provoking the Nixon administration to spend taxpayer money on a study probing the effects of pornography on the brain. The interviews are just as fascinating. The filmmakers deserve a large amount of credit for finding individuals connected to the film, like 76-year-old director Gerard Damino, and letting them recall their history with the film with minimal intrusion. We also see exhibitors, film personalities (John Waters, Wes Craven), sex experts (Dr. Ruth, a frightening Helen Gurley Brown), other porn stars, and even archival footage of Lovelace herself, who died in 2002 after years of denouncing her tempestuous “Deep Throat” legacy. The jewel interview of “Inside” is Harry Reems, the “comical” male talent of the film, and the only actor of “Throat” who was convicted of obscenity charges (later dismissed). Unfortunately, Barbato and Fenton do not have much to ask Reems (now a born-again Christian, Reems appears willing to discuss his involvement with the industry), and his perspective is sorely lacking in some of the hazier areas of the “Throat” aftermath.
What “Inside Deep Throat” lacks in historical storytelling finesse, it makes up for by striving to capture a rare moment in American history when pornography captured the nation’s attention in ways that are completely unthinkable today. Not all of the questions are answered, but the trip down memory lane is extraordinary.
My rating: B