Day 591: A Difficult Film To Swallow

originally published August 13, 2013

Alright, I’m going to step right off the edge of the curb here and admit it: a couple days ago, I watched the seminal porno film, Deep Throat. Why did I do this? What could drive me to devote sixty-one minutes of my time to this piece of lurid – albeit historic – smut? Allow me to explain:

  • I needed a topic for today’s article.
  • I have spent the last three years studying film in university, and I wanted to see if an intelligent deconstructive approach could be applied to a porno.
  • It’s a piece of cinematic history; this much is undeniable.
  • My wife suggested it. You don’t say no when your wife suggests you throw on Deep Throat.

Now, to be perfectly clear, neither my wife nor myself were even remotely aroused by this film. On the contrary, we were astonished to the point of boisterous laughter by how almost perfectly awful this film is. I confess, I’ve never been a ‘porn guy’ – they simply don’t make adult films that cater to my very specific fetishistic interests. Unless your movie has a lot of mashed potatoes, strobe lights, a UPS truck, and the theme song to One Day At A Time, my juices just ain’t flowin’.

But despite my lack of experience with the nuances of the genre, I can say with certainty that this film is incalculably terrible.

That’s Linda Lovelace, who plays ‘herself’ in the film. I’m going to run through the plot to the best of my ability, using enough euphemisms that my lovely mother will be able to read this article without blushing.

Linda has a problem. Despite her living a lifestyle that includes doing nothing besides having promiscuous, unprotected sex, she has yet to experience the “bells and fireworks” (two metaphors that are milked so thoroughly in this movie, Tibetan monks wouldn’t miss the hint). She visits a doctor, who determines that the head office for her pleasure division is located in the neighborhood of her throat instead of between her legs, and her only solution is to “re-route the mail”, if you know what I’m saying. Linda does this with a number of hairy white guys, before finding the love of her life: Wilbur, a whiny twerp with a fetish for dominating women by using the world’s smallest gun.

There are a number of twists and turns along the way, none of which include mentioning how Linda isn’t transformed into a quivering mess every time she eats. I would figure that to be the number one distraction of having a throat-clitoris.

The film includes a scene in which Coca-Cola is consumed through a straw from a shotglass which has been placed in one of Linda’s more unmentionable (and highly impractical) locations, and a number-calling orgy which culminates in the unexplained appearance of a rather effeminate man in a blue leisure suit who enters with the line, “What’s a joint like you doing in a girl like this?”

The guy is never seen again in the film, which is at times ludicrously hard to follow, especially when you’re trying to discern one hairy man-ass from another. In this sense the film is a little like Gosford Park, but with dicks.

Nothing about his movie is good. From the boom-mike shadows to the windy outdoor shots that sound as though they were recorded beside a running jet engine, to the Mamet-esque dialogue snippets like, “We’ve got the problem solved, we just need to find the solution.” It’s nonsensical and ultimately about as erotic as watching televised darts. So why is Deep Throat even worth mentioning?

For starters, it was the first pornographic film to be shown in mainstream theatres. Well, some mainstream theatres anyway. It also featured something that almost resembles a plot, as well as character development. Prior to Deep Throat, adult films tended to cut directly to the chase.

The movie takes a legitimate shot at comedy. It misses the mark by a nautical mile, but at least the effort is there. And let’s not forget that W. Mark Felt, the man who spilled secrets of the Watergate break-in to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, was assigned the pseudonym ‘Deep Throat’. As terrible as the movie may be (and it is), it got people talking, and what it did for the porn industry is tantamount to what Elvis did for rock ‘n roll.

As I’m sure we’ll all learn from the upcoming film Lovelace, a bio-pic about Linda starring Amanda Seyfried, the film’s star later railed against this movie and the porn industry, claiming nearly every sexual act in the movie was done with a gun to her head, under threat of her own personal safety by Chuck Traynor, her then-husband who kept Linda’s $1250 fee for the film. This much I’d heard before. What surprised me is that Chuck may not have been the only one involved with this film who was packing heat.

Louis “Butchie” Peraino was the producer of the film, listed under the pseudonym ‘Lou Perry’. He didn’t put up the money for the budget though – that came from Lou’s father, Anthony Peraino, also known as “Big Tony”. Big Tony was a made man, part of New York’s Colombo crime family.

Box office numbers for the film are just a tetch unreliable. Some claims have put it as high as $600 million, which would make Deep Throat one of the highest-grossing films of all time. The truth is probably a little lower though, since many of the theatres that screened the film were mafia-owned, and may have been boasting higher revenues in order to launder a little money.

Big Tony also gets credit for the film’s music, which is truly one of the most astounding aspects of the Deep Throat experience. This was before the wah-wah pedal and poorly-recorded alto sax funk grooves had become the standard for nondiegetic humping music. Instead the movie features a strange mix of psychedelic rock (including an unusual cover of Mickey & Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange”), a parody of “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” (with the title’s infinitive verse replaced with “to screw”), and a disturbing amount of bubble-blowing sounds. All over the place, like some ill-conceived motif. And the title song – you’ve got to hear it to believe it. Don’t worry, that link is as clean as you’ll find on Youtube.

While American prosecutors were never able to declare the movie officially obscene, the United Kingdom successfully banned it – well, I’m sure a few copies slipped over the border – until 2000 when it was given an R18 rating. Over in the Netherlands, the complete uncut film was shown on television in 2008, because the Netherlands is awesome.

Six sequels followed, including two which were titled Deep Throat II, and three directed by Ron Jeremy. I haven’t seen any of the sequels, and don’t plan to.

Yes, this movie is a piece of cinematic history, albeit one which will likely never get taught in an academic sense. It’s an abomination in every way, apart from its historical significance. Do yourself a favor, stay away, find something on the internet which appeals to your carnal tastes. Unless you want a cheap laugh at a terrible flick – in that case, crank up the bubbles and have a blast.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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