In 10 Words or Less
The dark side of the famous adult film
Likes: Classic porn
Many people recognize the title Debbie Does Dallas, but as it moves further and further away into hardcore history, the movie itself becomes more legend than memory, fading into a cute little sex romp. This documentary tells a different story, showing the film's long-term effects on the cast and crew, and the sordid story behind its production and distribution.
The story is a bit disjointed, jumping around from a where-are-they-now follow-up, including a disappearing star, to an undercover crime story to a somewhat underwhelming story about the film itself. Because of that, the pacing can get a bit laborious, especially when it gets mired in the story of a pair of investigators tracking the money behind the film's production. It could just be the people involved, but it's not the most enthralling bit of the tale.
More interesting is the catching-up that's done with the actors from the film, who are now well into middle-age. The diverse paths their lives have taken are exactly what the story needed to rise above, though none of the men look negatively on it. The women, on the other hand, either refuse to be involved or are somewhat boring to hear from, as seen in the interview with adult star Robyn Byrd, who actually puts a limit on her available time.
Making a movie about a porno flick and not including some of the film, especially when the porno flick is so famous and not actually seen (unlike the Pam Anderson/Tommy Lee tape), is almost impossible. Of course, include the film, and you now no longer have a documentary about porn, but porn itself. So the creators smartly presented the footage by offering distorted views of the more graphic moments. By doing this, the movie takes on an artistic feel that raises its sophistication level.
Though for the most part interesting, the film takes the topic a bit too seriously, sounding way more like a Geraldo report than a documentary about a porno. Sure, you can do an investigative documentary about the adult film industry, but you don't have to make it into Woodward and Bernstein. A lighter touch, like that seen in the actors' interviews, would have given this disjointed documentary more balance and made it more entertaining.
Presented as part of the Sundance Documentary Collection, Debbie Does Dallas Uncovered is a one-disc release, packaged in a standard keepcase, with a Docurama catalog. The disc features the standard Docurama menu style, which is static and full-frame, without much flash. There are no audio options, and no subtitles, though the disc does feature closed captioning and a scene selection menus that have still previews and titles for each chapter.
The full-frame, letterboxed video on this disc is good and solid for its source, while the footage from the original movie has the grain and noise you'd expect. The color is good, but the film has a soft look, and the level of detail isn't very high. On the positive side, there doesn't seem to be any dirt or damage in the transfer, and a minimum of digital artifacts.
The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 track of a stereo mix, and it sounds very clean. There's no attempt at any kind of dynamic presentation, but the soundtrack is put togther well.
The only real extra is the short film Diary of a Porn Virgin, which runs almost 50 minutes. The piece follows a pair of British women, one an executive in her late 30s, the other a young Muslim, who give up their jobs to work in the burgeoning English porn industry, as well as the story of one wannabe guy. To be truthful, they seem more like prostitutes than porn stars, but there are cameras involved. Their industry is a lot less glamorous (and lucrative) than the American version, but it's all presented in a matter-of-fact way that belies the unusual subject. Though the girls are essentially the focus, including the one's ridiculously naive point of view, the guys and their on-set troubles are the best part.
A promotional screen for Docurama and a quartet of documentary trailers fill out the package.
The Bottom Line
How do you make a documentary about a pornographic legend, while keeping it classy and keeping it from being titillating? Focus on the less glamorous side of the business. It worked for Boogie Nights and it works for Debbie Does Dallas Uncovered, which is a creative and well-produced look behind the scenes of the film, going well beyond what was seen on the porn-theater screen.
If you're looking for a good time, this isn't the right choice, as it's too dark, but it's certainly interesting. The DVD gives the movie a solid presentation and supplements the main film's short length with an appropriate short film that provides a bit more bang for the buck. If you're interested in the story behind the film, this is worth checking out, though the limited content and lack of extras label it as a rental.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.