by Joel Smith & r & Inside Deep Throat & r & When Deep Throat premiered at a seedy theater in New York's Times Square in June 1972, nobody had seen anything like it. It was raw, crude, funny and somehow chic.
But, really, nobody had seen anything like it because the overwhelming majority of Americans had never seen any kind of pornographic movie. And yet this hour-long trifle about a woman who can only be sexually satisfied by performing fellatio became a mainstream hit, a pop cultural icon, drawing the kinds of people (read: grandmothers, New Yorker readers) no one could imagine at a dirty theater.
How did that happen?
Filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato may have created a critically acclaimed NC-17 documentary, but ultimately they fail to answer their own question.
Narrator Dennis Hopper sets the political stage, showing how the movie became the whipping boy for a government eager to make a moral example, and how the film's popularity only increased with each new prosecution or ban attempt (the movie cost $25,000 to make; the government's free publicity ultimately netted it $600 million). But what it fails to explain is why this film in particular became the government's target. Why not some other blue movie?
A third of the film is taken up with a discussion of how Deep Throat was made (and there's no shortage of lascivious elbow-poking here). The middle third is a narrow examination of the movie's context and impact, featuring superficial interviews with figures like Hugh Hefner, Alan Dershowitz and Dick Cavett (who admits he never saw the film). Here, the filmmakers ignore feminist arguments against the film and, more important, claims made by star Linda Lovelace years later that she had a gun to her head throughout production.
Most galling, though, is the way, in the final third of the film, Bailey and Barbato seem to give Deep Throat credit for the entirety of the so-called "sexual revolution." As if Playboy, "free love," and Tom Jones never existed.
Inside Deep Throat ultimately collapses in a litany of self-importance and over-simplified, moralistic fabulism, with the pro-porn argument looking every bit as judgmental as the one made by the backwards conservatives the film so loves to skewer.