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Inside Deep Throat
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by David Cornelius

"Interesting, but forgettable."
3 stars

Even those who think of Mark Felt, Woodward and Bernstein, and Watergate know what “Deep Throat” really is. It is that rare porn film that not only made its way into the popular subconscious, it stayed there. Millions of people who have never seen a single frame of this film know exactly what it is; for the young, they’ll hear about this infamous movie without having a clue what its title means. Today, you could say that the title is more known than the film itself.

Most startling about the film is how it got there. It’s difficult to believe, in this age of DVDs and broadband, that for a brief moment in our nation’s history, going to the theater and watching a porno was actually a red hot trend. It wasn’t just the raincoat crowd, but everyday America, standing in line, buying a ticket, and sitting down to rub elbows with your neighbor as you watched hardcore sex on the big screen.

“Inside Deep Throat,” a documentary from filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, examines how “Deep Throat” became more than just another disposable porn flick, managing to cross into the mainstream and give birth to the “porn chic” trend of the early 1970s.

The film itself - “Inside Deep Throat,” that is - plays out on the level of a DVD bonus feature, or, perhaps, a VH1 special; the facts are, for the most part, presented all too matter-of-factly via talking heads and an abundance of clips. It’s all little more than a “Behind the Music,” only with Dennis Hopper providing the voiceover narration. (The only time the filmmakers leave their basic “book report” style behind and really get interesting on their own is when they let the cameras roll on an aging Florida theater manager and his wife, who’s prone to yelling at her husband from across the room, mid-interview. The footage of this couple is far more interesting than that of anyone involved in the film’s production.)

Despite a bland presentation, the story of “Deep Throat” is intriguing enough to keep the documentary going. We learn that the filmmakers, despite churning out what they’re quick to call “the most profitable film ever made” (the claim of a $600 million box office gross is highly dubious, something the documentary conveniently opts not to investigate), didn’t make a dime off the profits - porn distribution was controlled by the mob, quick to force less than favorable deals on both production and distribution ends. We follow the film’s unprecedented rise to fame. We examine star and future anti-porn crusader Linda Lovelace’s claims that she was an unwilling participant (and, perhaps a bit tastelessly, we watch as the filmmakers paint her as a hypocrite later in life). We witness the government’s various attempts to stifle pornography in general and “Deep Throat” in particular, leading up to actor Harry Reems becoming the first artist in America to be charged with a crime related to the actual art.

Whether or not “Deep Throat” is “art” is, thankfully, something this documentary questions - or, more appropriately, allows its interviewees to question. The film’s ultimate goal is not to defend pornography, but to defend free speech. Granted, Bailey and Barbato don’t dig deep enough to invite a full study of pornography as a whole (its relationship with its makers, its consumers, society itself), but they do find enough ancillary arguments through their investigation of “Deep Throat” to make a decent - if far from strong - case for porn as an example of free speech and sexual awakening. (Most interesting here is the side note in which Richard Nixon disowns a study on it simply because the results weren’t what he wanted, calling for a second, less scientific study to replace it.) That said, most of the arguments presented here lack the follow-through of a solid documentary. This is a film content to present history without truly examining it.

Yet it remains something worth watching. Clunky and forgettable as a documentary, “Inside Deep Throat” succeeds entirely thanks to its subject matter. The impact - both the short-lived porn trend and the film’s ultimate undying infamy - is of such interest that “Inside Deep Throat” becomes worth a look merely by its having chosen a compelling story to follow. It’s little more than the equivalent of a fascinating made-for-cable retrospective. But it’s still fascinating.

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originally posted: 09/21/05 04:39:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/05/16 Charles Tatum Standard documentary 4 stars
9/18/07 Jason Merrill The reviewer didn't like it because it's not the movie he would make. It was wonderful! 4 stars
9/02/07 j.thompson great fun,a breakthrough in social adventure 4 stars
9/26/05 a. kurlovs very well made documentary - funny, informative. 4 stars
2/04/05 mott the drupal needs more money shots 3 stars
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  11-Feb-2005 (NC-17)
  DVD: 20-Sep-2005



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