|A FilmExposed Film Review
Dir: Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, USA, 2005, 90 mins
Cast: Gerard Damiano, Linda Lovelace, Harry Reems, Dennis Hopper (narrator)
You will have heard of the film, even if you've never seen it. Deep Throat was released in 1972 to become, thanks to a combination of luck, art, timing and political pressure, a cultural keystone and allegedly the most profitable film of all time - $600m and counting. Was it any good? Damiano, the film's director, gives the answer in his own words here: 'No.' But was it significant? You bet.
Bailey and Barbato's documentary claims to tell the story of 'Deep Throat, the film, the stars, the controversy'. And it more or less succeeds, despite being a mish-mash of documentary techniques with two separate beginnings and occasional lapses into self-indulgent graphics.
Most of the revelations you could have figured out for yourself. Deep Throat was produced cheaply and went on to make a lot of money. But thanks to Mob involvement, the stars and the director never saw any of it. It was the subject of much conservative hand-wringing and legal action. And it gave birth to a huge industry. (Perhaps the most disturbing images in the film are of what looks like an aircraft hangar full of dinner suited attendees at the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas - the modern porn industry's annual bash. This many people didn't turn out to defend free speech.)
The documentary itself comes down on the liberal side of the fence, unsurprisingly. It doesn't flinch from showing the graphic mechanics of Deep Throat star Lovelace's remarkable capability. (The film, Damiano reveals, was almost entitled The Sword Swallower.) And it does feature some very amusing jokes. Describing how he wrote the script during a car journey, Damiano says, 'I had the whole thing in my head.' And the reaction of the hard bitten NYPD cops to the film they'd been told to close down? 'It was ... stunning!'
But Bailey and Barbato are clearly not Errol Morris, and their film sometimes lacks penetrating insight into what is a very penetrating subject. It might have been more interesting if they'd taken the advice of the other 'Deep Throat' and followed the money. The Mob siphoned off huge bags of cash from cinemas exhibiting Deep Throat via a system of 'checkers' and 'sweepers', exacting violent revenge on those who didn't pay up. Where this money went is the missing third of the story. For all the impassioned appeals to freedom of expression and sexual enlightenment, there is little acknowledgement that Deep Throat may have payrolled an enormous volume of organised crime. Instead the law is portrayed solely as the suppressor of free speech. In fact when a statue of Justice appears on screen, her blindfold in this context makes her look like a character in a bondage movie.
So Inside Deep Throat tells two thirds of the story, exploring the penniless filmmakers and the swinging moral compass of the US during the Watergate era. Had it investigated the remaining issue of what happened to the money, maybe the whole would be easier to swallow.