“Sex, sex, sex all day long; there is no more.”
Although I wouldn’t want to make any great claims in terms of its artistic value, it would be difficult to deny that Deep Throat (1972) is the most important adult film of all time. For a start, it’s one of the most financially successfully films of all time – adult or otherwise. It made a household name of its female star and led to the criminal prosecution of her male counterpart. Most significantly of all, it was the first feature-length, narrative film to boast explicit, unsimulated sexual activity, and in doing so, it created a genre. Of course, increasingly frank depictions of human sexuality had appeared throughout the sixties and it’s reasonable to assume the emergence of cinematic hardcore was only a matter of time, but the fact remains that Deep Throat was the breakthrough.
The first sequel actually appeared in 1974, courtesy of director Joe Sarno. Featuring both of the original leads, it curiously appears to have been shot ‘soft’ – which may be the reason it’s since faded into total obscurity. Even more curiously, another Deep Throat II appeared in 1987, this time directed by Larry Revene. Anyway, whatever the merits of these may be – and I haven’t actually seen either – it seems unlikely they’re as interesting as Damiano’s sequel to the film that made him famous, Throat: 12 Years After.
“You know, people drift apart by inches; day by day.”
Opening with spectacular (and presumably ‘borrowed’) aerial footage of New York, the first of the city’s inhabitants to cross our path is Walter (George Payne), a middle-aged man apparently troubled by his conscience. It transpires that Walter is tired of the nine-to-five plight and tried by a sexless marriage, but nevertheless conflicted about his imminent appointment with a prostitute (Sharon Mitchell). Switching to the suburbs, we meet Marsha (Micelle Maren) – a pretty, domesticated young woman who apparently bakes fabulous buns. Sadly, she’s also sexually unfulfilled, ashamed of her own carnal urges and unable to even undress in front of her husband. A sympathetic electrician (Eric Edwards) is somehow easier to relate to . . .
Half an hour in, ‘Throat’ appears to be an anthology along the lines of Damiano’s earlier Odyssey – a series of thematically-related sexual vignettes. Walter and Marsha are unable to express their sexuality with their partners but manage to find warmth in the arms of strangers, and these first encounters are genuinely warm, regardless of the fact that one is with a prostitute. But the film acquires another dimension with its third sex scene, when the writer/ director reveals that Walter and Marsha are actually married to one another.
The second half proceeds along similar lines to the first: We see Louise (Sharon Kane) and her partner (Jerry Butler) sipping champagne on a yacht, before sharing a bath and retiring to bed. It’s only as the action progresses that their relationship becomes clear – he is a prostitute and she is his client. Thereafter we meet the last of film’s four major characters, Andy (Joey Silvera), who’s apparently something of a hedonist. We see him take his secretary to a sex club and indulge himself fully, only later realising that he is in fact married to Louise.
“I loved to fuck – even before it was fashionable.”
Decidedly deeper than Deep Throat, this is clearly not your ‘run of the mill’ sequel. None of the characters from the original appear, and more significantly, the tone is entirely different. Whereas Deep Throat is a zany comedy, Throat is quite serious, but while it may not be immediately obvious, there is a connection: It’s worth remembering that the premise of the original is that Ms Lovelace is unable to achieve orgasm through penetrative sex. Although this is not a unique predicament, it proves sufficiently vexing for her to seek medical advice, and despite the diagnosis of a preposterous physical anomaly, some experimentation reveals an alternative path to sexual satisfaction (via ‘deep throat’ fellatio). Thus the sequel comes into focus: Neither of our couples follow the traditional route to marital bliss, but both are apparently happy and healthy. “Different strokes for different folks, eh?”
On a thematic level, this appears to be an endorsement of liberation and experimentation. Of course the same could be said about the original, but while Deep Throat concerns a woman’s struggle for sexual satisfaction, the resolution of that struggle doesn’t look particularly enlightened thirty-five years later. Throat, on the other hand, is a more mature film, a film with which Damiano subtly pushes the boundaries of the genre he helped to create. One is quickly struck by the humanity of it all – by the apparent sincerity with which characters communicate – and this is particularly evident with regard to the prostitutes. Jerry Butler’s character, for example, speaks openly to Louise about his fears of not being able to ‘get it up’; and Sharon Mitchell’s character – who initially adopts the stereotypical demeanour of a whore – drops the attitude in response to her client’s openness. It might not sound like a major innovation but it is very deliberate. This is a film that uses verbal and visual puns to highlight its own difference; a film that takes obvious delight in confounding the audience’s expectations. Indeed, Damiano foregoes external ejaculation – the genre’s omnipresent symbol of sexual satisfaction – on more than one occasion.
It almost goes without saying that this surpasses the original in terms of technique, although I’d describe the direction as accomplished rather than anything else. There are some unusual angles and slow-motion effects during the orgy sequence, but this is not a visual feast like, say, The Story of Joanna. The performances of the cast are generally quite good, with Jerry Butler easily the pick of the bunch. In fact, the only thing that really lets the film down is the appallingly-earnest MOR score. Incidentally, Marc Stevens, Annie Sprinkle and Damiano all have cameos herein.
In the end Throat stands as both a testament to it’s author’s creativity and an undeniably post-modern affair. It’s more referential than reverential, as evidenced by the scene in which our leads sit down to watch the original on video. It’s also wittier than most of the director’s other major works, with the impish progress of the narrative being but one example. Of course, it’s no less time-bound than the original – with its sex clubs and casual attitude towards swinging – but far superior from a qualitative point of view. It’s just a shame that the genre had already passed its creative peak by 1984, and there was nothing Damiano or anyone else would be able to do to arrest the decline.