I am slowly making my way through Porn’s Great Films. It took me the longest time to see “The Devil in Miss Jones” (loved it) and I have yet to see “Deep Throat.” Today I watched a 30th-anniversary edition of “Debbie Does Dallas” that is great on its own but made that much more valuable by a candid and intriguing audio commentary by Herschel Savage.
Studio: VCX/School Day Films
Director: Jim Clark
Starring: Bambi Woods, Georgette Sanders, Herschel Savage, Richard Balla, Robyn Byrd, Arcadia Lake, Kasey Rodgers, Sherri Tart, Merril Townsend, Misty Winter, Jack Teague
Debbie Benton and her high school friends raise money for her travel expenses to audition for the Texas Cowgirls, clearly a reference to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. At first they take odd jobs, but soon realize they can command more cash by offering sexual favors.
“Listen girls,” Debbie says. “There’s money to be had—fast money. And we don’t have to do anything more than we do with our boyfriends. And they certainly have fun, don’t they?”
Shot guerilla style in and around Brooklyn City College in July, 1977 (Herschel Savage, credited as Paul Hughs and Bill Barry, says he helped secure the location and that most of the high school football players were his buddies from the neighborhood), “Debbie” never actually goes to Dallas, or does anyone therein, which is just something I’d assumed based on the title, which conforms to porn standards in being 66 percent misleading.
But don’t fault the film — especially this edition of it. Because in “Debbie” we see Golden Age porn at its most representative and edifying.
We need, first, to get past the hair and the unfamiliar-to-today’s-porn-consumer body types. As Savage says in his unrestrained commentary, “they were the hot girls of the time.” But he also waxes nostalgic about his 25-year-old’s luck: “Can you imagine being in a shower with those naked girls servicing you?”
As the squad seeks cash, it’s interesting to see the development of the porn shorthand.
A nervous husband offers to pay two pneumatic teens $10 to see them naked, then an additional $25 to “kiss [you] all over.
“How can I be sure you won’t tell anyone?” he asks.
“This is just between you and us,” they reply.
That question is never asked in today’s porn scenarios; it’s understood, thereby cutting out two full sentences of tricky dialogue and emotional complexity.
Like today, Golden Age porn featured great performances alongside not-so-great ones. While it’s often difficult to understand what Bambi Woods is saying, for example, pervert librarian Mr. Biddle (Jack Teague, toting some E.M. Forster and a secret) delivers a hammy performance reminiscent of Victor Spinetti.
There is something vital about seeing those real-life locations and hearing 70’s New York accents, especially Savage’s. As he watches his younger self get a blowjob from Donna (Merril Townsend), Savage notes his red Speedos and guesses “I was at a gay bar the night before.”
Mr. Biddle surprises Tim (Savage) being blown in the stacks and sends him away.
This leads the contemporary Savage to talk about porn acting. “Hadn’t ‘Mean Streets’ just come out (in 1974)? (Porn directors) were always telling us to go over the top. I realize I should have done less. We were caricatures, not characters.”
But then, noting the “flop sweat” of his younger self, Savage utters a line worthy of the price of admission:
“If you’re gonna get a blowjob,” he says, “don’t be a coward about it.”
There’s also some honest-to-God porno music, as well as a pre-Traci Lords disinhibition about discussing young girls.
Underpantsless Lisa (Georgette Sanders) is described as “16” by the older rakes who pay her to service them in a sauna. Describing her services, Lisa says “We’re good girls, but whatever we can’t give you, we make up in enthusiasm.”
Of course, all Debbie’s teammates, even 16-year-old Lisa, go all the way.
“Well, we’re good girls,” Lisa says, “but whatever we can’t give you, we make up in enthusiasm.”
“Don’t let it scare ya, honey,” she is told. “You’ll have the time of your life.”
Nebbishy perv Mr. Greenfeld (Richard Bolla) finally succeeds in getting past Debbie’s goalposts, and the movie ends with her falling asleep (in ecstasy? Exhaustion?), so we never see her get to Dallas. I wonder if the sequel, “Debbie Does New Orleans,” also never makes it out of Brooklyn.
I talked with David Sutton about his production of the bonus features, including the Herschel Savage interview (there is also an interview with New York cable access staple Robin Byrd, who played the proto-“Couples Seduce Teens” predator Mrs. Hardwick).
“I think we came up with probably the most honest time-capsule look into porn in the 70’s and 80’s ever made,” he says, and it is certainly piece of history worth owning.
- Buy “Debbie Does Dallas—30th Anniversary Edition” here