Deep Jaws – 1976 / Director: Perry Dell

If the public don’t buy ‘The Night Mount Rushmore Broke Wind’, then Uranus is wiped out!

When Linda Lovelace gargled on Harry Reems’ semen in 1972, hardcore porn, the last taboo for cinema, emerged from the back-room stag loop and into legitimate theatres. Deep Throat was followed by Behind the Green Door, Debbie Does Dallas,The Devil in Mrs. Jones and many others and, for a time, it seemed that explicit movies has gained a kind of respectability. Linda Lovelace, John Holmes and Marilyn Chambers were fêted by the media and, for a time, it looked as though these new, plot-driven, well made skin flicks would merge with the mainstream. As it happened, porno-chic didn’t last too long and, with the rise of the VCR, porno moved from the theatres to the living room. The conservative administrations of the 80s did their best to ruin the industry, and the Traci Lords scandal (where some of the most popular films of the time were revealed to be, technically, child pornography), almost put an end to it all. The industry scraped by and, with the rise of the internet, is as popular as ever. The massive amounts of footage available for free, however, has hit the filmmakers though, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next decade.

My first exposure to the delights of hardcore coincided with the ‘Golden Age’ of pornography. 1980′s Rocking With Seka was obtained via a pirated copy on a Maxell C-180. Sex scenes aside, the actual film was fairly well made, easily the quality of a made-for-TV movie (but, to be honest, the exposition scenes were viewed on fast-forwards). These semi-acceptable stroke films had a major impact upon the sexploitation industry. Who’d want to pay to watch sleazy softcore like Satan Was a Lady when for the same price, you could see Harry Reems ejaculating over Georgina Spelvin? Beneath its veneer of a sex comedy, Deep Jaws attempts to portray the tensions within the film industry caused by the growing popularity of hardcore. Uranus Studios are struggling because of these new, explicit films. then, in a piece of head-screwing plotting, they are awarded a million dollar contract (from the Secretary of State, Dr. Pissinger!) to make a movie about the space race, or something. Keen to re-establish themselves, a quick scheme is thought up to hive off some of the money in order to make a hardcore film. “You know my principles!” says the boss, but he soon relents. Because of the popularity of a certain fish-based film, the think-tank comes up with a ‘subdaster movie’ (I think I heard it right) called Deep Jaws, featuring a homosexual shark and mer-men.

The rest of the running time is taken up by the A-Team-style attempts of the studio to fashion a porn film from nothing. To be fair, the resulting humour is a bit hit-and-miss, but the whole insane enthusiasm keeps you watching. The opening scene, with a clumsy fumble in a projection booth, sets the tone. You know exactly what is about to happen, but the way-over-the-top mugging and a starlet who bears an uncanny resemblance to Rising Damp‘s Frances de la Tour, keeps the interest. There’s plenty of full-frontal nudity, both male and female, but the men stay flaccid throughout, and a totally-unconvincing sex scene comes along every few minutes. A couple of familiar faces pop up. Candy Samples appears in all her slightly over-the-hill glory and Buck Flower has a small, er, role. To be honest, Deep Jaws could have, ironically, made a brilliant hardcore sex comedy. Many of the extras look as though they would have been well up for it, and the film’s greatest weakness  could have been overcome. The sex scenes are pretty dire: an upside-down oral sex session with a gorgeous redhead; an interracial threesome with two nurses, a film executive and a rectal thermometer; and a moustachioed lethario in the company of two prostitutes and a large bottle of Spanish Fly. Any one of these could have been a classic, but the constraints of softcore mean we get awkward camera angles and brief glimpses of an organ that should be standing to attention, but isn’t.

Instead, we don’t get much more that we’d see in a Confessions film. There is a great deal more nudity, including several open leg shots (which brim with 70s hairiness) and stronger language, but Deep Jaws is a bit of a missed opportunity. What could have been perhaps the best of the Golden Age sex comedies instead is a simulated oral sex-filled, albeit very funny in parts, minor feature. The issues of the arrival of hardcore aren’t really addressed, and the film seems content to be little more than a parade of naked flesh (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) and corny jokes. The head of the studio’s son, however, sports a fetching collection of retro Marvel Comics T-shirts, though. Dell had previously made The Dicktator in 1974, which is an equally entertaining film, featuring a sex serum and various dic(k)tators around the globe. They’re best viewed as a double bill, and were actually released as such on a DVD.