Deep Throat is a pornography legend. It is considered by many to be one of the most profitable movies of all time, grossing over six hundred million dollars and achieving a mainstream popularity unheard of for a porn flick. During its release the film permeated modern culture, with celebrities and society in general attending screenings and the film becoming the punchline for late-night talk shows as if it was a normal movie. What made a movie about fellatio such an interesting subject?
The old saying “timing is everything” seems to best describe the popularity of Deep Throat. The movie, made for around twenty five thousand dollars, managed to hit theaters just in time for the government’s moral crusade. As a result of being banned and prints being publicly seized, popularity of the movie soared. It became a rallying point for a new sexual revolution, attended by even the pinnacles of society in acts of curiosity and blatant revolution.
Inside Deep Throat opens with footage from an interview with Deep Throat director Gerard Damiano, which seems a logical place to start. Then, unsurprisingly clips from interviews with Larry Flynt, John Waters, Erica Jong, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer are shown, again all logical choices. It was the next clip, from an interview with Dick Cavett that showed me just how varied the audience for the original 1973 porn flick was, and how it affected things.
That’s exactly what Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato set out to show with Inside Deep Throat. The documentary, in a “Behind the Music” fashion, tells the story of Deep Throat, from inspiration and conception, through its highs and lows, and believe me, there are ample examples of both. Nobody expected Gerard Damiano’s porn flick to draw as much attention as it did, nor start any sort of sexual revolution. At the same time, nobody would have expected it to become a solid target for Richard Nixon’s war on obscenity - a movie to be shut down, seized by police and FBI officers, picketed by feminists, and banned in many states. Delving through the history of the film reveals even more then the public always saw though, including mafia connections to the production on the negative side, and Damiano’s dreams of a future where mainstream films and pornography merged.
Bailey and Barbato create a solid documentary that doesn’t glorify or pass judgment on the world of the sex industry or the moral crusade that set out against it. The filmmakers present the history of Deep Throat, nothing less or more. Given the increased tendency for modern day documentaries to serve more as editorials, it’s interesting to see what could be a very jaded or preachy topic present both sides of the story, complete with interviews from the people who were there, in a very honest fashion. Of course that honesty is also what is responsible for the film’s NC-17 rating. This is, after all, a documentary about one of the most publicly known porn films of all time. Frankly, if clips from Deep Throat or other films that are referenced in order to put the documentary in the proper time frame weren’t included I would have been a bit disappointed. Clips of boobs, butts, and other naughty parts aren’t used to titillate however, just to provide context. It’s a move the filmmakers could have foregone to get a better rating, but the movie is better for their inclusion.
Leaving Inside Deep Throat I felt like I had a view of an era I never fully understood, or for that matter was really aware of. The release of Deep Throat today would be along the lines of reality television - it’s something that has shaped our culture, inspiring tons of clones of the original despite naysayers (of course, Linda Lovelace was a lot more pleasant to look at then Richard Hatch’s bare ass). However, Inside Deep Throat does end on a bit of a downer. While what they originally set out to do was create a simple movie, the result took those behind the scenes on a roller-coaster ride that never quite reached its end, abandoning all of them with a sense of melancholy. From the star who almost ended up in jail due to his role in the film, to the filmmaker who was shut out of his own movie and had higher expectations for the future, nobody really ended up where they hoped, leaving you as an audience member a bit sad for them. You don’t quite expect people who made a porn film to end up this deep, which is yet another successful accomplishment for the documentary.
For those who might be offended by Inside Deep Throat’s NC-17 rating, the film has been released on DVD with both its original theatrical rating as well as a cut down rated-R version. I can only imagine what the filmmakers might have cut out to achieve the lower rating, but I haven’t seen it, and I discourage you from seeing it either. The filmmakers had an intent with this film, and it’s a movie about an X-rated flick anyway. If you can’t stomach seeing the real deal, maybe you shouldn’t be watching this documentary.
The bonus materials on this single disc caught me off guard because all of them continued the anamorphic widescreen presentation from the movie. That’s a rarity on DVDs these days. Typically the movie may be anamorphic, but the extras are not. However, there’s a reason these featurettes are presented this way (which I will get to in just a second).
The bonus featurettes spend a lot of time focusing on alternate consequences of theaters showing Deep Throat. Theaters in Harvard, Princeton, and even Tuscon suffered different fates for showing the movie, from picketing to being responsible for another adult star - one of the employees of the Tuscon theater ended up meeting Damiano when she was brought in to testify at a court hearing, resulting in her pairing with the director for a future film. However only the absence of narrator Dennis Hopper keeps these featurettes from being part of Inside Deep Throat.
And that’s when it hit me. The DVD doesn’t contain almost two dozen featurettes about additional aspects of Deep Throat. It contains almost two dozen deleted scenes that have been put together to appear as featurettes on the Bonus Material menu. This becomes more apparent as you get further into the list of Bonus Materials and the “featurettes” start using some of the same footage that did make it into the final cut, showing right where these scenes should have been. No wonder they’re presented in anamorphic widescreen!
There are also two commentary tracks for the movie, although they are not well presented on the menu screen, labeled “Commentary Track” and “Commentary Track with Directors Randy Barbato & Fenton Bailey”. The difference is that the first commentary track is another use of leftover footage, where the directors have cut together soundbytes from interviews they didn’t use in the movie to serve as a commentary on events when the documentary covers them. It’s a creative use of discarded footage, although I can’t say I cared for it very much. The second commentary with the filmmakers themselves is more interesting, with the documentarians explaining why they made this movie and how they went about meeting people.
Inside Deep Throat is the type of documentary that is going to be passed up by some people simply because it’s about a porn film. That’s not quite true though. While it is about the making of a porno, it’s a porn flick that changed society and altered the world around it. That is what Inside Deep Throat is really about, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see what it looks like when society shifts.