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Inside Deep Throat

 
 
November 2005 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Deep Throat + Inside Deep Throat
cast: Linda Lovelace, Harry Reems, Dolly Sharp, Bill Harrison, and William Love

writer and director: Jerry Gerard

82 minutes (18) 1972 widescreen ratio 16:9
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 2/10
reviewed by Andrew Darlington
SPOILER ALERT!
'Classic porn', is that an oxymoron - like 'military intelligence'? Can there ever be such a beast? Sure, when it comes to bringing low-cost start-up projects to an early break-even point, and hence into quick-profit, Russ Meyer wisely claimed there's no cheaper and more efficacious 'special effect' than bare breasts. He knew a thing or two about sexploitation. Of course, by the time Linda Lovelace came along things had gained a little more momentum. For real celebrity-porn only arrived with the groundbreaking Deep Throat (1972). And briefly, in the time-space following censorship liberalisation in certain American states, 'adult'-content film not only achieved mainstream movie theatre status, but assumed a kind of grubby celebrity-chic too... before home video gave its audience a more personal, more intimately hands-on experience. Meanwhile, in the intervening window of opportunity, Deep Throat achieves full market penetration. And as a result, Linda became modern filth's first international superstar, its first household name, her celebrity status reaching such levels that she even gets to introduce Elton John live on-stage at his 1972 L.A. Forum concert. So this is the most famous, infamous, notorious, seen or unseen porn epic of all time. Just about. With Linda starring as every sticky-fingered adolescent male's fantasy-date, and the genre's most visible, greatest, and most visibly tortured icon. Now, finally, it's got legal status here too. Was it worth the wait?

The legitimising pre-credit mission statement quotes Sigmund Freud's Three Contributions To The Theory Of Sex, but doesn't get far beyond its 'oral' phase. There may also be some kind of subcultural cross-references hidden in its use of the Ode To Joy disco-mix - pretentiously, to Beethoven, and just perhaps to Alex's Ludwig Van of the moog-drenched A Clockwork Orange score. But soon it's obvious that production values, script, plot - you name it, struggle to achieve the most basic mediocrity, with wobble-cam cinema vérité tracking-shots of tedious longueurs: Linda driving her car, Linda walking the mall, Linda wet-shaving her pussy, all spaced between simulated sex-bouts. All the while, she's more darkly attractive than beautiful, conveying a kind of screwed-up formality in place of anything remotely resembling acting ability, barely faking-it. Her expression mid-point between loved-up bliss, and self-immolation... And comedy? Mum is receiving vigorous head from her boyfriend - "mind if I smoke while you're eating?" she enquires helpfully. His reply is muffled and inaudible. Linda's total script amounts to no more than five pages. But there are songs too in amongst the comic-jaunty martial drums and soft vibraphone accompaniment, one urging Take A Break From The Norm, followed by an odd cover of Mickey and Sylvia's 1950s' vamp-hit Love Is Strange. Then, from strange to stranger, "I'd Like To Teach The World To Screw" soundtracks the Coco-Cola douche scene, a knowing product placement lifted from its then-current TV ad campaign. There's even a woefully inept title song written by Gerry Damiano, which ineptly plunders the rhyme-thesaurus for "don't row a boat, don't get your goat, that's all she wrote... Deep Throat"! He's later 'pressured' out of the team for a derisory $25,000 when the movie's cash-potential becomes apparent.

What passes for the 'plot' concerns Linda's troubling inability to achieve orgasm... "Sex, I just don't enjoy it," she tearfully confides to Mum, so Mum helpfully organises a sexual-healing gang-bang for her with numbered guests, "fourteen, not counting the ones that went twice." But still no joy, "no bells ringing, dams bursting, rockets exploding, no more than just a lot of little tingles." So 'Dr Young' carries out a physical examination that first fails to discover her clitoris - "no wonder you hear no bells, you have no tinkler," then goes on to locate the missing bud in the depths of her oesophagus. Chivalrously he offers his own penis by way of stimulating it. Cue a split-screen fast-cut fellatio of disconnected body-parts, hairy legs, sections of forehead, glazed eyes and buttocks set to the riddims of sweet-strumpet cannibalism, all of them moving into a crescendo intercut with orgasm-coded fireworks and space-shot launches. She's naturally grateful. So repeatedly grateful that soon he can't keep up with her consuming passion. Until finally, recruited as his 'sex-therapist', she meets wealthy Wilber who wants to marry her. Problem, "the man that I marry must have a nine-inch cock" she protests, one sufficiently endowed to reach that elusive clit. "I'm only four inches away from happiness," he grumbles disconsolately. But fortunately, Dr Young is able to remedy that deficiency too. Result happiness, and end-credits wishing 'deep throat to you all...'

So, can there ever be such a beast as 'classic porn', or is that just an oxymoron? This glaringly inadequate movie - losing some of its giddy low-fi clarity in its transfer from analogue to digital, already seems like a relic from another age. But then - I guess, it is. It may well have been part of the demystifying democratisation of cinema, something to be found between Andy Warhol's aimless flies-on-the-walls, Ed Wood's contrived penury, Russ Meyer's mischievously single-minded fetishism, and Doris Wishman's commercial opportunism. But there's less authenticity here than there is a kind of bruised artifice, more mannequin-on-autopilot acting than frantic visceral thrill. More that's air-freshener cleansed than explicit, in fact - to tell it like it is (as they used to say), no erections, no money-shots either. More happens in the imagination than is made disconcertingly vivid for the eye. The Dr Young character is Harry Reems - a nom-de-porn chosen by Herbert Streicher (born in New York City in 1947). He'd originally been hired as lighting director, but finds himself standing in for the absent male-lead, for which he's paid $800 for his role in a movie that eventually generates $600 million. He elaborates this shady-story in the entertaining Inside Deep Throat (directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato), the 2005 docu-sequel from Universal Pictures. It details his part in the subsequent trial brought against the movie in March 1976, in which he finds himself confronting a right-wing 'stacked deck' of judge, prosecutor and D.A., all of them Richard Nixon appointees. Yet this Memphis obscenity trial becomes an instant trendy liberal cause celebré. Shirley MacLaine, Julie Newmar and Stephen Sondheim host fund-raising benefits on behalf of its 'First Amendment: Freedom of Expression' defence. Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson take it further, they're not only prepared to put up hard cash, but also to take the courtroom stand in its support. For Harry, the stress of all this uninvited fame tips him over into a drink, drugs, and debasement cycle that leads to disease and institutionalisation that nearly kills him, until - hallelujah - he's born-again in July 1989.

Linda's progress is even more extreme. Her autobiography Ordeal (W.H. Allen, 1981), is ghost-written with Mike McGrady and published with the prominent support of feminists such as Gloria Steinem. It opens "my name is not Linda Lovelace," and tells how the former Linda Boreman meets Charles 'Chuck' Traynor (ironically when she's aged 21 and recuperating from pranging her Opel Cadet on the Taconic State Parkway, NY). His Jaguar XKE, and his easy way with money attract her. Traynor cynically recognises her exploitable low-esteem, her anxiety to gain approval, and her malleable suggestibility. So he instigates her release from her emotionally dysfunctional parents, and tutors her in oral 'deep-throat' technique. She claims the subsequent porn-career he forces her into is only performed under duress, as Traynor draws her into gang-rape, prostitution, and movies, and that each on-screen sex act equates rape. At his instigation she's auditioned by Xaviera Hollander, but is deemed 'too skinny' to join the Happy Hooker's celebrity whore-stable. When she finds herself suffering from an anal infection following a brutal assault he's arranged for her at the hands of an over-enthusiastic dominatrix, he ensures she pays for medication and treatment by sucking-off the doctor after each examination, in his surgery. Later, when director Lou Perry expresses doubts about Linda's ability to carry the Deep Throat movie it's Traynor's idea for her to convince Perry by sucking him off each morning of the 12-day shooting schedule, in his office, as he's sitting on the desk shuffling his papers. As the movie's reputation grows he urges her to suck-off Al Goldstein, the Screw magazine interviewer to demonstrate her 'sword-swallowing' proficiency, and hence get a more positive review. Later there's sex in a jacuzzi with Hugh Heffner, and blowjobs with a bi-sexual Sammy Davis Jr (who, like Bill Clinton, doesn't equate oral sex with infidelity!). She's never allowed to refuse. "I found it easier to suck a man's cock than to let him put his thing inside me," she concedes, "and sucking cock made me feel more comfortable than being fucked." But "I want to state this as clearly as I can. There was no pleasure. There was no love, no affection, no normal sex with anyone from the day I met Chuck Traynor until the day I finally got away. I did not had (sic) a single orgasm for six or seven years. I never had any enjoyment from any of it at all." Harry Reems doesn't directly contradict her tale, but tells The Observer (22nd May 2005) that, "I was there full time. If I wasn't acting in it, I was the lighting director" and "there was no evidence of beatings or brutality, or guns being held on her on the set." Of course, there are other, less immediately apparent forms of psychological coercion. "There was always a gun pointed at my head. Even when no gun could be seen, there was a gun pointed at my head," she writes. By the time she wrote her book she was into denial - it was a more judgemental time, unlike the easy guilt-free porn-to-mainstream transition achieved by - say, Abi Titmus or Paris Hilton, Linda was traumatised by her celebrity. She'd also fallen under the influence of a bizarre concoction of born-again Christians and hard-line feminists with their own agendas. Nevertheless, her story makes for harrowing reading. Later, Linda's anti-porn stance softens sufficiently for her to do a softcore lingerie-spread for Leg Show magazine. She dies from injuries sustained in a 2002 auto-wreck soon after. Ironically, within three years of her death Deep Throat is finally granted a licence for limited UK cinema screenings... and now this sad DVD.
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