Throttling Throat

By JANET MASLIN  |  May 12, 2008

I was sitting through all this not out of any particular “prurient interest” (another phrase bandied about extensively during the course of the proceedings) but because there was a chance I might be called to testify about whether or not Throat offends existing standards in the community. That’s one of the three criteria for legal obscenity; if something is offensive and also appeals to prurient interests — and, of course, if it has no redeeming social value — then it can be deemed banworthy. Anyway, in the line of possible witness duty I’d had a chance to see the film, which I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to otherwise. And that, at least, made the experience relatively worthwhile.

Al Goldstein, a notorious self-appointed expert in these matters, had commended Throat’s “raging raunch,” then gone on to praise it “for its wit, wild humor, fine acting and hilarious story.” He also, as film critic for Screw magazine, observed that the picture “contains many new bods for the discerning Screw audience,” and wrapped things up by raving about “the greatest on-screen fellatio since the birth of Christ.” Finally, he awarded Deep Throat an unbeatable score of 100 on Screw’s influential Peter-Meter. Al, needless to say, had gone a little bit overboard, possibly because (as Screw reported) he’d had a little casual run-in with Linda Lovelace, the film’s much-touted starlet.

Anyway, Deep Throat is, for the record, none of these. It lasts for less than an hour and is astonishingly unerotic as these things go, what with its myriad mystiqueless closeups and a score which, in the words of one rock critic, “sounds like they walked into a supermarket with a tape recorder.” It does have its funny moments, a few of them even intentional, as its storybook heroine with the dislocated clitoris searches for what she coyly refers to as “tingles” (“I want to hear bells, bombs, dams bursting, something!”) En route to a revoltingly happy ending, the story has her falling in love with a joke-happy doctor who physically befriends her (and who makes the kind of wisecracks that wouldn’t pass for funny on Saturday morning TV), and then nursing a bunch of “patients” (played by the most extra-looking extras imaginable). “The results,” as the official synopsis put it, “will have you holding onto your crotch with laughter.” Or whatever. Either way, you’re more likely to be holding onto your mouth, suppressing the occasional yawn.

One way or another, Deep Throat didn’t seem to be particularly offensive—and that, given its inflated reputation among closet peter-meters everywhere, is probably one strike against it. It did seem commendable in several aspects, notably Linda Lovelace’s “acting,” (Ms. Lovelace, who made her film debut with an oversized canine; has a natural flair for lewdness even when she’s trying to look presentable) and at the very least it was worth a few good laughs. I would’ve been more than glad to tell all this to the Judge, an elderly and reputedly devout Catholic, if I’d only gotten the chance. But the Defense Attorney, John Crowley, though it best not to call me because the prosecution appeared overeager to get me on the stand. Either they thought I’d make a very easily discreditable witness, he surmised, or — even worse — they wanted to use me to get Judith Crist’s pan of the picture into the court record.

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