Dark Sky Films // 1975 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // August 20th, 2008
Vote for Linda! Swallow your pride!
"As the chosen candidate of the newly christened Upright Party, Linda
sets off on a cross country trip to lay her campaign strategy,
arouse the national spirit, get the pollsters behind her, and
go down in history as the First Woman to occupy the Oval Office."
-- From the DVD Case (emphasis added)
It's an election year -- 1976, to be exact -- and the American people are tired of the boring, generic candidates for president. An ad hoc convention of special interest groups meets to try to find an alternate candidate, but after 141 days, they cannot agree on anyone. When someone jokingly mentions that the only people this group would agree on are Jesus Christ or Linda Lovelace (!), everyone's ears prick up.
Yes, Linda Lovelace, beloved star of the heartwarming classic Deep Throat, a woman who's already shown America everything she's got.
Yes, Linda Lovelace, who's proved she's ready to service her country.
Yes, Linda Lovelace, perhaps the one person who can get this country to come together.
They approach the lovely Lovelace, and she accepts the nomination of the Upright Party. Thus begins a grueling campaign trek across the country, in which Linda gets to meet the many and varied citizens of our glorious republic.
It's grueling, alright...for them and for us.
Once upon a time, Linda Lovelace was so well known, she was essentially a brand.
Through happenstance, manipulation, and an odd -- and, to some, enviable -- talent, she found herself, in 1972, the star of Deep Throat, the first "mainstream" porn film and perhaps the most controversial film of all time. It was certainly one of the most successful, its $25,000 cost -- at the time, huge for a porno -- bringing in a return estimated between $500 million and $1 billion, with virtually all of the money going to organized crime.
Deep Throat was the movie to see, and Linda Lovelace, a plain-faced girl from the Bronx, was suddenly the most unlikely of celebrities, consorting with the rich and famous, the subject of magazine articles and photo spreads, as well as a number of books.
But "Linda Lovelace" was a fad with no follow up. She never performed in another hardcore porn movie, though outtakes from Deep Throat and some old stag loops were re-edited into new films. Bad men, bad drugs, and bad choices led to bad things for poor Linda, and she eventually wrote a book, Ordeal, in which she claimed to have been an abuse victim and unwilling participant in the smut that brought her so much fame. She was later involved in feminism, and along with the infamous Hustler Magazine "Meat Grinder" cover of June 1978, Linda Lovelace became a potent symbol in the war against pornography.
But before all that, there was Linda Lovelace for President, a good-natured, if tasteless, little D-movie made as a last-gasp effort to wring a few bucks out of the Lovelace legacy.
Produced by exploitation auteur Arthur Marks, the film is peopled with comics and entertainers so far down the fame chain that they can't even be called "bananas," though we do get an appearance by Scatman Crothers, which, unsurprisingly, is the highlight here.
Set up as a road movie, it's basically a series of episodes that play like skits from an old variety show. The gags fly fast and furious, and for every one that hits, another 50 fall flat. Unironically, writer Jack Margolis used to work on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Maybe the jokes in this film were leftovers from that series, the jokes that weren't deemed worthy of the talents of Ruth Buzzi and Alan Sues and were therefore discarded.
An opening tag tells us, "This picture is intended to offend everybody...regardless of race -- creed -- or color." In other words, writer Jack Margolis wasn't going to bother coming up with jokes or situations that were funny and fresh when he could just fall back on tried and true knee-slappers like a black guy in KKK robes, incestuous hillbillies, an exaggeratedly limp-wristed gay guy in hot pants, and lots and lots of Asian jokes directed at a "Confucius say"-spouting Chinese character named Chow Ming (played by Caucasian comic Joey Forman in Fu Manchu makeup). It's only offensive because it's so dumb.
And then, there's Linda. Cleaned up, made up, and far more presentable than in her porn days, she's an almost appealing presence. Although she's the nominal star, she doesn't really get all that much screen time, and when she is on-screen, she's frequently naked and faking sex acts (badly). She couldn't act or deliver a simple line if her life depended on it, but she has a nice smile and seems pleasant enough. Actually, maybe I was a bit hasty with that "can't act" thing; by all accounts, she was very difficult to work with and not at all happy with the film. Maybe "seems pleasant" took more of an effort than I realized.
Dark Sky gives us an acceptable release. The transfer's a tad ragged -- good colors, some print damage -- the audio is decent, and there are nice, bright yellow subtitles. There is only one extra on this disc, but it's excellent. "Deep Vote: The Oral History of Linda Lovelace for President" is an interview with Producer Arthur Marks. Witty, engaging, and open, Marks has vivid and detailed memories of making this film and kind words for almost everyone involved -- except his star.
Yes, this is a puerile and inane movie, but it's a puerile and inane movie that was made in the mid-'70s. In addition to then-current references to Mark Spitz, Smokey the Bear, and Marjoe, there are a few jokes that require a little prior knowledge; for instance, a Tarzan riff about a child being abandoned by his parents, Lord and Lady Sustroke; white smoke being used to signal a decision on a candidate; an awful W.C. Fields imitation; and references to the dwindling population of Hatfields and McCoys.
Comedy at its finest? Hardly.
But it just seems that the bar then was set a wee bit higher than what passes for "low-brow" humor in the current crop of dumb-down comedies. Compared to the cinematic waterboarding that is Meet the Spartans, for instance, Linda Lovelace for President is downright Shavian.
Were she alive today, Linda Lovelace would no doubt be a reality TV fixture. She would likely have followed the Corey Feldman trajectory, starting out as part of a group show, like The Surreal Life, and then graduating to her own program. Who knows? Maybe Bravo or VH1 could have dredged up her Deep Throat co-star, Harry Reems, and he and Linda could have been the '70s porn-star alternative to The Two Coreys.
Alas, poor Lovelace -- née Boreman, married, unhappily, to men named Traynor and Marchiano -- died in 2002 from injuries she'd sustained in a car accident. She'd also suffered for years with serious health problems and was near broke.
Although she'd disavowed the whole "Lovelace" persona and everything that went with it, a year before her death, she dusted it off and posed for a men's magazine. This earned her the distinction of being Hustler Magazine's "Asshole of the Month" for March 2001.
Of course, she'd long since ticked off the porn industry and had alienated her feminist supporters as well when she started showing up at conventions and autographing Deep Throat tapes and discs and other memorabilia.
By all accounts, hers was not a happy life.
Linda Lovelace for President is by no means a good movie. It's wretched and terrible, a retro late-night Cinemax horrorshow.
But knowing the story of Linda Lovelace, and really, how profoundly sad that story is, there is something poignant about watching a film in which everyone thinks she's pretty and sweet, in which she's beloved and admired, and in which she's in on the joke and enjoying it.
Yeah, it's guilty, Guilty as the day is long, but it's weirdly watchable, too. A veritable compendium of '70s shame, this one is at least worth a rental.
Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Dark Sky Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1975
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* "Deep Vote: The Oral History of Linda Lovelace for President"
* DVD Verdict Review - Inside Deep Throat
* Joe Bob Briggs on Linda Lovelace