I must admit, I may be the wrong person to be reviewing the 2-disc special edition of DEBBIE DOES DALLAS: I have been a part of Media Blasters’ Raincoat Theater branch since it began, having helped out on their debut releases (Henri Pachard’s BABYLON PINK and Cecil Howard’s NEON NIGHTS) and on their follow-up special edition of Gerard Damiano’s THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES. However, rest assured there is no bias in this here review: I didn’t work on this disc, due to my disinterest in the film itself. Released on home video in several different incarnations, this is definitely the best available version for fans of classic smut, but still feels half-empty for anyone looking for a definitive story of the movie and the people who made it. That said, this won the AVN Award for Best Classic DVD Release of 2007, making it the second year in a row that Raincoat/Media Blasters won in this category.
Wholesome blonde girl next door Debbie is anxious to try out for the Dallas Cowgirls cheerleader squad, but feels she would have a better chance of landing a position on the team if her friends got to come, too (huh?). She and her equally wholesome cheerleader friends decide to get part-time jobs to raise money for the trip, but when those don’t end up paying the bills the girls decide to use their feminine wiles to raise some extra cash.
Director Jim Clark could never have expected this to be the film he was known for, let alone a nationwide phenomenon recognizable in households in the 21st century. DEBBIE DOES DALLAS is an overwhelmingly average Golden Age effort that somehow became a blockbuster on home video after a decent theatrical showing. Controversial lawsuits on behalf of the real-life Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and Pratt College, where part of the film was shot illegally, aided in giving the film mainstream exposure. Additionally, insinuations that the female characters were meant to be underage girls (though I’ve always thought they were meant to be in college) brought some heat onto the producers and distributors. The film’s history is filled with mobsters, dirty old men, and huge wads of cash, but the film is hardly worth all the attention it has gathered over the years. Even the British documentary DEBBIE DOES DALLAS EXPOSED has a hard time finding anything really titillating or revealing to say about the film and why it was so popular. It’s tough to figure out who would like the film 30 years after it was made (save, of course, those who like it for nostalgia purposes): fans of professionally-made adult films won’t enjoy the bad acting, average production values, and barely-there script, and horndogs anxious for good old-fashioned, pulse-pounding poontang will be let down by the mostly unenthusiastic sex scenes. The three sexiest moments in the film are of the oral persuasion, with Herschel Savage at the receiving end of two of them (Kasey Rodgers in the shower, and Merle Michaels in the library), and mega-Afro’d Peter Lerman (also in Clark’s GOOD GIRLS OF GODIVA HIGH popping Michaels’ cherry) laying back to be serviced by Georgette Saunders in a sauna. Both Rodgers and Michaels can’t get enough of Savage’s appendage, and Saunders appears to like a challenge, and all prove they are the only women who really throw themselves into the sex. The remaining starlets have some interesting career histories among them, but are overall sadly pretty boring to watch.
Red-headed cutie patootie Kasey Rodgers wouldn’t do many other films, though fans will recognize her in Shaun Costello’s grinder DIRTY SUSAN, Damiano’s disappointing PEOPLE, and at her most beautiful in BLONDE IN BLACK SILK giving head to Jake Teague in a helicopter. Her shower group scene with Herschel Savage, underrated David Morris, and bubbly Christie Ford (billed as Misty Winter) is one of few highlights in the film. This was the start of the line for Ford, and she would do far better films from here on (Cecil Howard’s PLATINUM PARADISE, Henri Pachard’s A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND and OCTOBER SILK, Kemal Horulu’s WOMEN IN LOVE). She shares another scene here with Eric Edwards (a recognizable name and reliable sex performer put to dull use by Clark) and Robin Byrd. Byrd does almost nothing in the threesome with Edwards and Ford, and her adult film career is just as poor. Her only noteworthy film appearance is as one of Roger Watkins’ PINK LADIES, alongside bitchy Samantha Fox, ditzy Christine De Shaffer, and sultry Kandi Barbour. She’s better known for her Manhattan public access cable show, where she interviewed more interesting porn stars and strippers. Jim Clark must have loved lithe brunette Georgette Saunders, as she receives two scenes back-to-back, and she has developed a strong cult following over the years, despite a brief three-year career. For follow-up Georgette, I would recommend the aforementioned DIRTY SUSAN (she plays the title character) and Henri Pachard’s superb BABYLON PINK.
Blonde cutie Merle Michaels is one of the top underrated actresses of the Golden Age. Like Ford, this is a poor start, though her gutsy oral scene with Herschel Savage in the library is one of the film’s only moments of pure sexual lust, and Jake Teague’s follow-up spanking of her is amusing. Her career and performances would become more promising as the years went on. See my little Merle at her best in BABYLON PINK, AFTERNOON DELIGHTS, JACK ‘N’ JILL, A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND, FOXTROT, FASCINATION, and BLONDE IN BLACK SILK. My personal favorite is OUTLAW LADIES, with Merle as a shy secretary who sleeps with her married boss to help her withering self-esteem. Michaels is the real break-out star of DEBBIE DOES DALLAS, not the overrated Bambi Woods (more on her later). Large-breasted Rikki O’Neal plays one of the car wash girls (the other, Jenny Cole, who lets David Pierce pierce her bum, looks uncomfortable and never did another film). O’Neal was put to good use in Chuck Vincent’s JACK ‘N’ JILL as Annie Sprinkle’s lesbian lover who assists her in performing obscene phone calls, and as an athletic sexpot who takes on George Payne and Herschel Savage in a sex marathon in TIGRESSES. She does almost nothing in DEBBIE!
The most tragic starlet of the film is Arcadia Lake, who rivals Merle Michaels in terms of career success. Lake met her long-time paramour Eric Edwards while working on this film, though they share no scenes together, and her oral-only scene shows her as inexperienced and hesitant. The gorgeous and alluring Lake would become a regular in New York adult features, and while she’s never credited with much acting talent, proved she was a fine actress as Merle Michaels’ roommate in BABYLON PINK, the lovesick lead in HONEY THROAT, a horny teenager in BLONDE IN BLACK SILK, a mysterious nymphomaniac in NEON NIGHTS, and a heartbroken swinger in ROBIN’S NEST. Lake would trek with Edwards to California and the two remained a popular and loving couple until heroin use tore them apart, nearly destroying Edwards in the process. In a tragic ending to this incredible romance, Lake died of a heroin overdose in 1990. Poor Eric Edwards, such a good-looking sweetheart of a guy, and a natural romantic, would have no more success with his next porn star romance with Renee Summers.
Starlet Bambi Woods was plucked out of obscurity to play the titular ‘Debbie’, and acts completely fried during most of her scenes in DEBBIE. Her climactic sex scene with Robert Kerman has some good camera angles, but her deer-in-the-headlights look through most of it is disorienting and far from erotic. Check out Blue Underground’s MIDNIGHT BLUE VOL. 2 DVD for an interview with a dazed Woods, who admits that she didn’t care for her sex scene with Kerman and claims she would probably not do another film (producers must have shelled out a ton of cash for her comeback in DEBBIE DOES DALLAS 2 in 1981). Woods disappeared and for some unexplainable reason, her cult reputation skyrocketed, leading journalists and fans on a wild goose chase to find her. Whether she succumbed to a drug overdose or is living a happily married life in seclusion, I have to wonder why everyone wants to find her today. To many, perhaps she remains the ultimate girl next door fantasy, and she is indeed an adorable, healthy all-American blonde beauty. But it appears that the film did her more harm than good, so it’s probably best to leave her whereabouts a mystery.
Jim Clark (widely known as being former Screw Magazine co-editor Jim Buckley, who disappeared after selling his share of the magazine to Al Goldstein) never made a great film, just a handful of passable ones. His recurring theme was young girls doing dirty things for the benefit of hairy-palmed theatergoers of the 1970s and early 1980s (the prime of the Golden Age). I have a special place in my heart for THE GOOD GIRLS OF GODIVA HIGH, a rip-off of the brilliant, visually inventive LITTLE GIRLS BLUE, because it was one of the earliest adult features I saw way back when on Beta. GODIVA stars another one-shot wonder (Clark specialized in these) named Kitsy Storme, underrated New York starlet Robin Sane, twins Diane and Denise Sloan, handsome but dull stud Rick Iverson, an early appearance by hung Ron Jeremy, and several DEBBIE alumnus (Herschel Savage, Robert Kerman, Merle Michaels, Peter Lerman). The less said about TEENAGE PAJAMA PARTY, the better, but I’ve reviewed it on DVD Drive-In and the best things about it are the cast, including C.J. Laing, Sharon Mitchell, Susaye London, Terri Hall, and one-shot wonders Barbi James and Priscilla Major, and the theft of David Bowie’s “Fame” for the opening credits. Both LITTLE DARLINGS and YOUNG, WILD AND WONDERFUL are just as average as Clark’s two DEBBIE features, but at least YOUNG has an interesting fantasy sequence with Kandi Barbour, Eric Edwards, and his paramour Arcadia Lake, and DARLINGS features Lysa Thatcher in a schoolgirl uniform.
This much can be said for DEBBIE: the brand-spanking-new full frame transfer, from original film elements for the first time on video, actually makes the film much more enjoyable to watch. The clarity of the image is the best DEBBIE has ever looked, and is proof that a great transfer can make a film that much more watchable. Of the two audio options (5.1 and mono), the mono is preferable. You also get a Spanish language track (!), a rarity for adult DVD’s.
The supplements begin with two audio commentaries on disc 1. Unfortunately, neither one is that great. Commentary #1 finds Robin Byrd and moderator Richard York shooting the shit on various topics, most of which are not focused on DEBBIE DOES DALLAS. Since Byrd only has one unmemorable scene in the film and doesn’t actually perform much sex, she only has interesting anecdotes about the candle store scene. She often simply does play-by-play narration or makes wisecracks about the hairstyles and wardrobe, and while she’s in a great mood, doesn’t have much to offer of major interest. York and Byrd both sound in good spirits, though, and of the two commentaries, the Byrd commentary is slightly better as she has some funny comments to make, and the camaraderie between Byrd and York keeps the audience entertained throughout. A second commentary finds moderator “Adam Trash” with VCX accountant/historian Philip Charles Bernstene, otherwise known as Chuck Greene. Because Greene wasn’t involved with production and only worked hands-on with the film when distributing it on video, his commentary is an odd one. He has more to say about dealing with the re-releases of DEEP THROAT and DEVIL IN MISS JONES, and has some interesting tales of partner Dave Friedman, Pussycat chain owner Vince Miranda, and selling videotapes in the theater. Trash asks stories about production and personalities in the film that unfortunately Greene would have no knowledge of. Additionally, Greene admits he had nothing to do with theatrical showings of DEBBIE…so why is he doing a commentary here?? He mentions meeting a few of the people involved, namely cast members and Jim Clark himself, but has nothing revealing to say about them. Greene’s frequent stories about courtroom battles over obscenity and jail time are interesting, but honestly become a little tiring after a while, and the FBI-Mob connections to the adult industry have been covered endlessly before. Some of his historical facts are questionable (TVX never had any of Cecil Howard’s films in their library, for example), but those interested in distribution will find some interesting memories of the Pussycat and other theaters in Los Angeles. Neither commentary does a good job of correctly identifying the actresses or actors on-screen, which is a downer. It’s a pity that production supervisor Dexter Eagle wasn’t contacted for a commentary, as he’s very much among the living, and would have much more to say about filmmaking in the industry of the time, not only about this film, but a number of films he produced, directed, and helped out on during the Golden Age. However, it was a noble effort on Raincoat’s part to offer any extras for this title, with a limited number of possible participants. Trailers for the two Cecil Howard titles, BABYLON PINK and NEON NIGHTS, and previews for two more upcoming Raincoat Theater titles, THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES and INSATIABLE, finish off disc 1.
The second disc houses an odd extra: the softcore cable version of DEBBIE, clocking in at a measly 63 minutes. Because there are no alternate angles, deleted scenes, or cutaway shots unique to this version of the film, its inclusion here is basically a waste, as footage is repeated, slowed down, or digitally zoomed in to block out any offending hardcore footage. The original trailer for DEBBIE appears in fuzzy VHS quality, a nice contrast to the way the feature looks on disc 1. A photo gallery offers promotional materials, including VHS covers, still photos, and theatrical posters. A lengthy video interview with Robin Byrd is the only other major extra on disc 2. Brushing off discussion of her films, Byrd instead focuses on the history of her cable access show, and clips from the show are included. The story of how she became a popular TV hostess through a show called “Hot Legs”, produced by Bobby Hollander and usually featuring Vanessa Del Rio, Leslie Bovee, or Gloria Leonard, is fascinating. While she is attached to the DEBBIE DOES DALLAS phenomenon, it did nothing for her career, but she’s an endearing personality and has become a gay icon on New York’s Fire Island. Byrd does get her West Coast and East Coast personalities mixed up, but hearing her talk about former performer Sandy Foxx becoming her agent (Foxx ran an agency in New York with Darby Lloyd Rains after the two retired) and Bobby Hollander’s renowned abuse of actresses is really quite tantalizing. (Casey Scott)
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