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Movie Review

Inside Deep Throat (18)

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1 of 1 Gerard Damiano
Gerard Damiano

Directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, narrated by Dennis Hopper, starring Gerard Damiano, Harry Reems, Alan Dershowitz, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, John Waters, Camille Paglia and Hugh Hefner.

Watching 'Inside Deep Throat', the title of a recent RTÉ radio series comes to mind, 'What If'. What if Deep Throat hadn't been made? Would another porn movie have taken its place and become both a cause celebre and cultural phenomenon? Would the adult entertainment industry be as big as it is today (467 Hollywood movies were made in 2002 and 11,303 porn movies)? Would star Harry Reems have got the proper acting career he wanted? And what would Watergate source Mark Felt have been nicknamed?

Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (the duo behind such series' as 'Pornography: The Secret History of Civilisation' and 'The Adam and Joe Show')'s documentary doesn't answer these questions, instead it focuses on the story of the movie and the years (the early 1970s) following it, a time of huge change in America, where lines were drawn between various camps and battles - legal, cultural, political, social - were fought.

The facts are these. Gerard Damiano was a hairdresser-turned-porn-director who made 'Deep Throat' for $22,000 in 1972. Money, it transpired, that came from the Mafia. The film made $600m and, given that no tax was ever paid on it, it is reckoned to be the most profitable production in movie history. Its star, Linda Lovelace (née Boreman), who became the first face of the porn industry, received $1,200 for appearing in the film. Her co-star, Harry Reems, was hired as part of the production crew only to became the lead actor when someone failed to turn up, receiving $100 for his on-screen work.

When the mainstream media began to pay attention to 'Deep Throat', the authorities in the US moved to ban it, driving attendance up. Reems was indicted and found guilty of conspiracy to distribute obscenity. Hollywood figures rallied to his side and his conviction was overturned. But his career was destroyed and he became an alcoholic. Lovelace later alleged that she was coerced into appearing in the film by her abusive husband, she lost jobs when her past was discovered and died penniless in a car crash in 2002.

With interviews with the likes of Norman Mailer, Camille Paglia and Alan Dershowitz, Bailey and Barbato do a good job of exploring the significance of 'Deep Throat' and the arguments which still rage today. But in the personal stories their film is found wanting. While there are interviews with Damiano and Reems, the relationship between the viewer and the duo remains a distant one. They recount the story of the film, but we don't hear enough from either about what happened to them afterwards. Reems faced years in jail, destroyed himself with drink and drugs and, in a recent magazine interview, said he spent a year with a gun to his head every night. He then clawed his way back from the abyss and is now an estate agent. It's that human angle that Bailey and Barbato lose in their recounting of the facts.

Given the great additions to the documentary genre in recent years, 'Inside Deep Throat' is ultimately an interesting, but rarely moving, film. Disappointing, yet still worth seeing.

Harry Guerin

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