Film Review: Debbie Does Dallas (1978)

in #aaalast month

(source:Wikimedia Commons)

1970s are often seen as the most interesting and most fruitful decade in the history of cinema, and this is reflected in that period being seen as the golden age for particular genres. That includes pornographic films, which were more or less legalised in USA and most Western countries during Sexual Revolution, and soon even embraced by influential segments of mainstream public as an expression of new freedoms and radical break with conservative past. Golden Age of Pornography thus represented period in which some ambitious porn film makers tried to erase boundaries between their genre and mainstream, while the titles of certain pornographic films entered general vocabularies. The last film to achieve that was Debbie Does Dallas, 1978 hardcore sex comedy directed by Jim Clark.

The protagonist, played by Bambi Woods, is Debbie Benton, captain of high school cheerleading team who has just been accepted for try out for Texas Cowgirls, famous professional football cheerleading team. Her parents, however, won’t pay for the trip to Dallas, but her teammates step in to help her. They form company called Teen Services and provide assistance to local businesses in order to raise money to the trip. Girls soon discover that they can raise even more money if they provide sexual services, and, finally, that includes even Debbie who discovers that Mr. Greenfield (played by Robert Kerman, credited as “Richard Balla”) always dreamed of being football quarterback and making love to the captain of a cheerleading team.

Like almost all pornographic films, even those with reputation of genre classics, Debbie Does Dallas has a weak plot that serves as nothing more than an excuse for sex scenes. Those scenes are unremarkable and probably mild in comparison what goes for average pornography today, but they feature dedicated performers that, despite their mostly plain looks, give this film certain realistic quality. This includes even Bambi Woods whose lack of serious acting talent is compensated with “girl next door” looks which this film puts to good use. The best acting job in this rather cheap and hastily edited film is made by Kerman who later built something of a mainstream career in Italian adventure films, including Cannibal Holocaust.

Debbie Does Dallas would have probably be forgotten if not for controversies created by unlicensed location shooting as real colleges and lawsuit made by Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, real life organisation that didn’t look kindly at “America’s Sweethearts” being associated with a porn icon. Those controversies, as well as playing with average American male’s fantasies about cheerleaders, served film very well, leading to a series of sequels, endless remakes, phrase “Debbie does Dallas” entering vocabulary and even popular stage musical based on the film. Film maintained popularity also thanks to its star abruptly ending her career and retiring from public, which created one of the greatest unresolved mysteries of American show business. Debbie Does Dallas is, on the other hand, also known as one of the first big adult hits at the emerging home video market. Ironically, it was that new video technology that brought the end to the Golden Age of Pornography by allowing consumers of to privately enjoy cheaply made videos privately instead of publicly embarrassing themselves by going to theatres under pretence of watching art. Those who watch Debbie Does Dallas today, if they lower their expectations enough, could enjoy short and mildly entertaining piece of cinema history which inadvertently marked the beginning of the end of an era.

RATING: 5/10 (++)

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