Debbie Does Dallas
U.S.A. | 1978
Directed by Jim Clark
Starring
Bambi Woods
Misty Winter
Robert Kerman
Color
| 84 Minutes | XXX
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC
| 2-disc set)
Raincoat Theater
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Review by
B.L
 
5
    9   10 = Highest Rating  
One of the most famous hardcore sex films of all time finally gets a proper DVD release. Does the movie live up to almost three decades of hype?
    Well, no. How could it? No matter... This is the porn your dad grew up watching. Or, if you're a middle-aged geezer like me, the porn you grew up watching or wanted to watch. Debbie Does Dallas may not be a particularly well-made sex romp, but as a time capsule of 1970s American porn at the very dawn of the home video age it is perhaps without peer.
    This is from "back in the day" when feature-length pornos had plots and scripted stories. The hardcore action in Debbie Does Dallas doesn't kick off until ten minutes into the film, something practically unheard of nowadays. This isn't to say there's a meaningful story here; what passes for the plot is actually pretty stupid and juvenile, the kind you'd see in a lame R-rated sexploitation pic at the drive-in. It's really just a wafer thin excuse for the sex scenes, but with enough padding in between to fashion a non-hardcore cut of the film for play in markets where porn was verboten. (The ridiculously neutered softcore version is available for comparison in this new DVD set; see below.) High school senior Debbie (Bambi Woods) has won a coveted slot on pro football's Texas Cowgirls cheerleading squad but doesn't have the money for the trip to Dallas. Her parents disapprove and won't help her financially. Luckily for Debbie her girlfriends are willing to pitch in and help. These plucky gals will do just about anything for cash, even if means extending sexual favors to a succession of horny men (and in one case, a kinky married couple). They'll have to work fast, though, as they only have two weeks to raise the necessary funds all while keeping their (nonpaying) boyfriends satisfied in the interim. Debbie's job at a sporting goods store reaps unexpected benefits when the lecherous manager (Robert Kerman of Babylon Pink and Cannibal Holocaust, billed as "Richard Balla") offers to pay handsomely if she'll put out for him. Initially resistant, she finally gives in. Touchdown!
    Since this is porn from the '70s, don't expect the performers to look like the tanned, fit and perfectly coifed models seen in today's fare. Incredible as it seems now, the actors in Debbie were paid next to nothing for their services, if they were paid at all. According to Robin Byrd, who appears as the horny Mrs. Hardwick, nobody was in it for the money... They participated just for the sex! (I suspect this isn't true across the board, but I can certainly believe it of the less-than-handsome guys in the cast.) Frankly, some of the women aren't all that attractive the flab, zits, caesarian scars and excessive body hair (by current standards) would instantly disqualify them from working in modern porn. This adds a degree of realism, however, that simply isn't found with the silicone-enhanced fantasy women of modern smut... While they aren't knockouts, these ladies would at least be attainable by any guy who wasn't a total dweeb. I should note that this realism doesn't extend to the non-sex portions of Debbie, since the acting is pretty awful when it isn't laughably amateurish; Bambi Woods is particularly atrocious in this regard. (Kerman was the only professional thesp in the cast.)
    There are seven sex scenes in the film (three of which feature oral acts only), for the most part filmed with an unimaginative 'plant the camera and shoot' technique. This will all seem rather routine, or even quaint, to anyone who's been exposed to the modern stuff to any great degree. (Lovers of "extreme" porn will be severely disappointed.) Some of the knob-slobberin' action can be fairly stimulating, though, especially when it involves the nicer-looking ladies with genuine skill. One gal doesn't miss a beat even after getting an eyeful of splooge courtesy of well-endowed porn vet Herschel Savage.
    Debbie's notoriety and "classic" status stem purely from its existence at a particular time. A high-profile lawsuit by the Dallas Cowboys football team, ultimately dismissed, gave the film massive free publicity; its move from grindhouse theaters to videotape actually helped expand the then-fledgling home video market. (Ever wonder why Betamax lost out to the VHS format? Because the porn industry adopted the latter.) Like the notorious Deep Throat (1972), it's one of the tiny handful of pornographic films that everybody knew about even if they'd never seen it or had any intention of doing so.

This new two-disc edition of Debbie Does Dallas, released by Media Blasters label Raincoat Theater, should satisfy any connoisseur of classic porn. The 84-minute hardcore version of the film, contained on Disc 1, looks and sounds amazingly good for a zero-budget fuck flick made nearly 30 years ago. The open-matte, fullframe transfer was taken from elements in generally fine condition, boasting rich colors and minimal print damage. Since it isn't matted for theatrical projection there's a lot of unnecessary space at the top of the frame in many scenes; the cameraman's sneakered foot makes a humorous cameo appearance in an overhead shot during the shower sequence. (None of the carnal action, it should be noted, is affected by this.) Three audio options are offered (not counting the commentaries; see below): 5.1 Surround, which is best for enjoying the groovy score; the original mono, and even a Spanish-language dub! (In which Kerman's character is called "Señor Gomez".) These vary in quality volume on the Spanish track, for example, trends low but are in the main quite satisfactory, without any significant defects. For completists, the censored cable TV version of the film is available on Disc 2. This runs only 63 minutes, shorn of nearly everything that makes the pic watchable in the first place. (Oral sex scenes are laughable, zoomed in to keep erect penises out of the frame.) A/V quality is significantly inferior in comparison to the uncut Debbie, as it appears to have been mastered from a VHS dupe. (Who'd want to watch the watered-down version anyway?)
    Some entertaining extras are on hand, despite the fact that many of the folks who participated in the film are either reluctant to relive the experience or simply unknown billed under false names, they remain untraceable in their anonymity. (Some, of course, have since died.) Two audio commentaries accompany the hardcore version on the first disc. One of these is with porn film historian Phillip C. Bernstene, who fields questions from Adam Trash. It's a somewhat dry affair, since Bernstene's personal connection to the film is marginal (he was involved with distribution in some regions of the country) and he speaks in a slow monotone; nonetheless he imparts some intriguing factoids about Debbie's various legal troubles, innovative marketing (it was one of the first hardcore pics on home video, with $99 tapes sometimes sold directly in theater lobbies), and impact on the porn industry in general. The other commentary features Robin Byrd, joined by Richard York of Media Blasters. Byrd may only appear in one of the film's scenes but still has plenty to say, much of it quite amusing. She talks fondly of the performers she knew personally, such as Eric Edwards and Arcadia Lake, but doesn't hold back from dishing on everybody else. ("That is not a pretty dick.") She's blunt, brassy and often very funny.
    Byrd also appears in a 37-minute interview featurette located on the second disc. Not much of her porn career is discussed; instead she focuses on her long-running sex-oriented cable access show broadcast in New York City, and how she fought to keep it on the air. (Based on the brief clips we see of the program, it would seem a direct progenitor of Playboy TV's Night Calls.) Disc 2 also contains a photo gallery and the hardcore theatrical trailer for Debbie, while explicit trailers for "classic" titles Babylon Pink, Neon Nights, Devil in Miss Jones and Insatiable can be found on Disc 1.
12/09/06

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