In 1972, a seemingly typical shoestring budget pornographic film was made in a Florida hotel, "Deep Throat," starring Linda Lovelace. This film would surpass the wildest expectation of everyone involved to become one of the most successful independent films of all time. It caught the public imagination which met the spirit of the times, even as the self appointed guardians of public morality struggled to suppress it, and created, for a brief moment, a possible future where sexuality in film had a bold artistic potential. This film covers the story of the making of this controversial film, its stunning success, its hysterical opposition along with its dark side of mob influence and allegations of the on set mistreatment of the film's star. In short, the combined events would redefine the popular appeal of pornography, even as more cynical developments would lead it down other paths. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
The film discusses how Deep Throat (1972) was actually distributed to theaters. Prints would be hand-delivered and employees would count heads of moviegoers and then collect the cash profits from the theaters. This process was known as sending "checkers and sweepers". See more »
Early in the film, an unseen projectionist starts the film and we can see the projected image through the projection room window. He carelessly allows the leader to show on the screen. A frame marked "FOOT" is shown. Unless he is running the film backwards, this is wrong. The beginning of a film is marked "HEAD". See more »
To get the obvious out of the way, yes, the movie's rated NC-17. Yes, it earns it's rating, in part by graphically showing us how DEEP THROAT got it's name.
I have real misgivings about this movie, although ultimately I'll recommend it to those interested in the period or artistic subcultures more generally. It is very well made, with a lot of interesting archival footage. (I especially liked an interview on what sounded like "60 Minutes" with Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and Harry Reems stuck there right between them.) This is a fascinating story, assuming you like the subject generally. And the filmmakers have dug out all sorts of interesting people, including Gerald Damiano himself (improbably whiling away his twilight years in what looks like Florida) and Harry Reems (who I think comes across really well.) My misgivings basically stem from this: the filmmakers want to simultaneously idealize a moment in time and, at the same time, draw political conclusions from the story. I don't think you can do that; I think that's a contradiction in terms. As such, the movie often comes across as very dishonest. Some of the dishonesty seems unconscious: if you're going to idealize the early Seventies adult film scene as brave busters of restrictive social mores, it seems strange to at the same time castigate those who would uphold them, since it's this very act of upholding them which gives your guys their ennobling quality, no? It's as if the filmmakers want to re-fight the DEEP THROAT wars again, without any sense of perspective.
But more seriously, I think the movie shows a lot of bad faith. It's one thing to properly make fun of a ridiculous evangelical prosecutor who spearheaded the DEEP THROAT trial; it's another to make fun of an FBI agent, who after all (as the movie reluctantly admits) was investigating the Mob's connections with DEEP THROAT. It's one thing to celebrate Hollywood's defense of the movie and Reems when he was in trial, but the movie makers rather glibly skate over the fact that Reems's descent into alcoholism was kicked off by his realization that Hollywood wouldn't hire him. As for Linda Lovelace, the movie has convinced me (rather unwillingly, frankly, and I'm not sure they intended to do it themselves) that she was at least pressured into performing in the movie. There's a still of her with bruises that's hard to gainsay.
Most importantly, the movie acknowledges that porno is a huge industry nowadays, but doesn't seem to want that realization to clutter up it's thesis that things are more repressive now. One could argue, after all, that the success of the current adult industry means that Damiano and friends have essentially won. The movie seems to want to say just the opposite, that these guys were doing more artful stuff that isn't represented by current fare, but leaving aside the question of whether that's true or not, the movie begins with a clip of Damiano himself admitting that the movie isn't that good. And the merits of DEEP THROAT seem linked to it's more-busting power, not anything intrinsic in the film itself.
I would have preferred either a straightforward idealization of that adult film era, with Waters, Jong et. al. commenting, or a straightforward examination of DEEP THROAT's sociological impact, which would have meant a more unsparing look at the realities, I fear. As it is, the movie makers try to straddle things too much. Still, if you're interested in the era, adult films or more generally "underground art" you'll probably want to check this out. Has a limited release, but I think will eventually play on HBO.
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