Joe Sarno’s Deep Throat Sex Comedy Collection

Joe Sarno’s Deep Throat Sex Comedy Collection

At the height of the early-’60s sexploitation era, director Joe Sarno took advantage of the genre’s creative freedom to make beautifully photographed, emotionally chilly studies of romantic ennui. So long as he kept the nudity front and center, his financial backers were willing to let him go as arty as he wanted. All that changed in the ’70s when Deep Throat helped popularize hardcore pornography, making Sarno’s boundary-pushing softcore efforts instantly passé. But the Deep Throat phenomenon intersected with Sarno in 1973, when he was hired to write and direct an R-rated sequel to the most famous X-rated movie of all time.

Deep Throat’s Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems returned for Deep Throat II, joined by porn stars Jamie Gillis, Andrea True, and Marc Stevens, among others. Lovelace plays a nurse drafted by the American government to spy on the Soviets. The acting is terrible and the “wacky” comedy excruciating, but the biggest problem with Deep Throat II is that it’s such a blatant, ill-conceived cash grab. Even though the title Deep Throat had become a household name, there were still communities that wanted nothing to do with it. The R-rated sequel was pitched to a wider market, but Sarno’s producers still met resistance from the heartland—and annoyance from pornhounds, who had no interest in watching Lovelace and Reems not have sex. Rumors have persisted for years that the porn-averse Sarno intentionally left gaps in the movie for someone else to fill with hardcore sex scenes if needed, and while Sarno insists that’s untrue, Deep Throat II definitely seems to be missing something—besides entertainment value, of course.

Sarno fares better with the comedy A Touch Of Genie, an actual hardcore film included on the double-DVD Joe Sarno’s Deep Throat Sex Comedy Collection—albeit in its softcore cut. Douglas Stone plays a skinny geek granted five wishes after he inserts his penis into a magic jar. Stone chooses to live out five sex fantasies, in the body of famous porn stars like Reems and Stevens. The excised hardcore footage makes A Touch Of Genie play choppily, but it’s still a good portrait of the mid-’70s New York sleaze scene, and it features an especially wacked-out lead character in Stone, a porn connoisseur who claims to watch X-rated movies for their social importance, not because he’s a big ol’ horndog.

Even more interesting (if not exactly better) than Genie is The Switch, or How To Alter Your Ego, a Jekyll/Hyde farce that’s been transferred to DVD from a murky European print with burned-in Swedish subtitles. Mary Mendum plays a repressed scientist who cooks up a perfume that arouses everyone around her. The comic elements of The Switch are ham-fisted and the pace is super-slow, but the sex scenes are classic Sarno—particularly an epic orgy sequence in which a band of ordinary-looking folks and sexpots cavort in the background at a swinging house party while the heroine, still clothed, stares deeply into the eyes of the man she adores. Those kinds of moments, simultaneously erotic and grounded in character, once set Sarno’s films apart. Not schlock like Deep Throat II, which threatened to reduce him to a footnote.

Key features: Interviews with Sarno and Genie star Douglas Stone, a Sarno trailer gallery, and a chatty, insider-y commentary track on Deep Throat II with actor Richard Livermore and a pair of trash-cinema experts. 

Grades: Deep Throat II: F; A Touch Of Genie: C+; The Switch, Or How To Alter Your Ego: C+

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