‘Deep Throat’ Turns 50

A month of celebrations for the movie that took porn mainstream

June 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of, without question, the most culturally significant pop culture moment of the 20th century. I’m referring to the release of the hardcore pornographic film Deep Throat. No, not Mark Felt–his nickname as the Watergate informant actually derives from the movie, despite the fact that people have largely forgotten Deep Throat itself. Well, some people. Pretty much anyone who was around in the 70s had at least heard of the movie. It was impossible not to. They produced the shoestring film on a $25,000 budget on loan from the mafia, yet its exploded into one of the best-selling movies of its era, and, because of how cheaply they made it, is indisputably one of the most profitable movies of all time.

Damiano Films is running this month’s celebrations in New York City. There will be a June 10th screening and panel at the Roxy of the 16mm version, a restored 4K version at the Slipper Room on June 12th, a full month of porno chic at the Museum of Sex with memorabilia of the film on display, and then it’s on to the Il Cinema Ritrovato Festival, where Deep Throat will take its place among other classic films that define the history of cinema.

It’s hard not to marvel at the sheer absurdity of all of this–a 4K version of a hardcore pornographic film that is not, shall we say…airbrushed. Should you be bold enough to actually try and watch Deep Throat, that’s one of the immediate standout qualities, is just how every character has either a goofy 70s haircut or a goofy 70s moustache, and oftentimes both. The sex scenes actually look like sex scenes, played out with the same overindulgent loving detail one might expect from a slasher film that loves its blood.

That much hasn’t changed over the last 50 years. But what has changed is the sense of humor. The film overdubs its first extended bout with cunninglingus with a comically cheerful pop song about bubbles. Director Gerard Damiano inserts weird sex jokes like this all over the place, the presentation always absurd enough that nothing feels especially fetishistic. I’m sure that…someone out there probably gets off on the idea of putting wine inside a woman’s vagina, then taking it out again and drinking the wine. But that bit really does play off like a joke, not like Damiano was trying to cater to a weirdly specific fringe audience.

In an era that has almost entirely balkanized the pornographic film industry, Deep Throat is a film for a mainstream audience. Just on a conceptual level, it’s hard for us in the modern day to really wrap our heads around that, in part because the backlash against Deep Throat and the porno chic trend it inspired created a massively corporate media landscape where the creation of another Deep Throat simply became impossible. In a twisted way, Deep Throat’s main lingering influence has been this reactionary backlash rather than the sex positivity featured so heavily in the film itself.

It’s all just so blasé. After a long, pointless drive through the credits (as was the style at the time), Linda Lovelace walks in on her roommate receiving oral sex. Linda Lovelace complains only to the extent that she’s bummed she can’t get an orgasm. She loves sex but it’s just a tingle, not an explosion. Further sexual experimentation doesn’t work. It’s only when she meets a quirky yet serious sex doctor that Linda Lovelace discovers that…well…they call the movie Deep Throat for a reason.  Lovelace later explains she can only marry a man with a nine inch cock for reasons related to her orgasm problems. Just go ahead and take a wild guess.

I don’t think anyone can really say with much confidence that Deep Throat is actually a good movie. Even Damiano himself was long skeptical of the movie’s artistic value. And that’s nothing to say of Linda Lovelace’s own experiences and personal problems, although much like the whole idea of pornography in the abstract, it’s hard to pin down how much of that you can blame on porn itself. Deep Throat nevertheless remains as endearingly weird a novelty today as it was 50 years ago–my memories of it  aresurprisingly pleasant despite the fact that while I was actually watching the thing I couldn’t really bring myself to look at the screen for more than a few seconds at a time during the, ahem, more hardcore bits.

 You May Also Like

William Schwartz

William Schwartz is a reporter and film critic based in Seoul, South Korea. He writes primarily for HanCinema, the world's largest and most popular English language database for South Korean television dramas and films.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.