Debbie Does Dallas (1978)
Directed by Jim Clark
Starring Bambi Woods, R. Bolla
Release Date: October 1978
Just the title DEBBIE DOES DALLAS makes people sit up and take notice. It’s one of those adult films that everyone – from the porn novice to the connoisseur – has heard of, but it seems few of them have actually seen. When people find out I write about classic adult films, DEBBIE is usually the first thing they ask me about. “What’s it about?” “Is it really dirty?” “Is it any good?” Well, the answer to the latter is certainly subjective, but I usually answer with: “Well, that depends on what you’re expecting.”
The story, while not particularly original, is certainly as engaging as any of the better R-rated T&A comedies of the day. Young Debbie Benson has a dream – to join the “Texas Cowgirl” cheerleaders! When her parents disapprove, she and her girlfriends hatch a plan to help Debbie raise money to get to the auditions on her own.
The direction and performances are adequate (even though our heroine, played by Bambi Woods, seems to be suffering from early-onset perma-fry.) And while the sex scenes are completely by-the-numbers, they have enough enthusiasm and naïve charm to hold the viewer’s attention. These ingredients, presented here in prose, make DEBBIE DOES DALLAS seem rather ordinary, and in some ways the film is. However, looked at in another way, DEBBIE really is so much more.
DEBBIE appeared at an odd time for adult film, that nebulous era between Porno Chic in the early 1970’s and the videocassette boom of the early 1980’s. During this period, adult films were moving away from the silliness of DEEP THROAT and into the darker realms of directors like Henri Pachard and the lush melodramas of Chuck Vincent. DEBBIE DOES DALLAS was one of the last gasps of the hardcore sex comedy and, under the circumstances, acquits itself quite nicely.
The film certainly boasts an impressive cast. Familiar faces like R. Bolla and Eric Edwards are on hand to usher in a bevy of young actresses at the dawn of their carnal careers. These new faces include Merle Michaels, Rikki O’Neal, Georgette Sanders and the always-delightful Arcadia Lake. Part of people’s attraction to this film may well be the fact that the cast all look like real, live human beings – rather than the tattooed, pierced and implanted sexbombs of today’s porn films. The women and men of DEBBIE could well be your kid’s teacher, your bank teller or your neighbors. This lends a reality that just about makes up for some of the film’s technical and acting shortcomings.
And then…there’s Bambi Woods. Yes, the mysterious vanishing superstar who created a huge splash in adult films before disappearing into an abyss of rumor and speculation.
I’m inclined to believe that Bambi Woods’ toked-out performance likely stems from the fact that she was still finding her acting feet in her debut…and a large dose of pharmaceuticals. Woods’ wide-eyed, spacey delivery is rather charming and her deflowering which I once found somewhat distasteful, now seems sweetly quaint.
Good and bad adult films are very like good and bad musicals. In a good musical, the songs serve to flesh out character and advance the plot. Conversely, in a bad musical, the songs bring the story to a screeching halt. Fortunately, DEBBIE’s sex scenes fall into the former part of that analogy. The sex, while certainly not the hottest ever committed to celluloid, is natural and organic, and often quite humorous.
While many of the coital couplings are of the older man/younger woman variety, for the most part these scenes don’t feel as exploitative as they might have. The story is seen through the eyes its female protagonistas (I just made that word up) which makes scenes that could otherwise seem seedy much more palatable. To the women, these men are a means to an end, and any manipulation is by the women of the piece. Andrea Dworkin would be proud. Or not.
The plot may be threadbare but the enthusiasm of the young and inexperienced cast makes the characters quite likable – and you may just find yourself rooting for them! Bambi Woods is the star of the show here, and her name couldn’t be more apropos. She does often remind one of a deer caught in the headlights. She does, however, give us the occasional knowing glance and slight smile, leading me to wonder if the high-as-a-kite, babydoll bimbo routine is all a ruse.
DEBBIE DOES DALLAS was one of the first adult films to make its way to videocassette, and since then it has been re-released countless times. These releases tended to be muddy, scratchy transfers that made the film look even cheaper than it is. This was remedied circa 2005 when Media Blasters’ Raincoat Theater imprint, in conjunction with VCX, released the Definitive Collectors Edition.
This presentation is breathtaking, with a gorgeous new transfer, and multiple audio options (including a vintage Spanish track!) The 2-disc set is filled to the brim with extra features, which include trailers, bios, on-camera interviews and even the softcore “cable version!” This release was further supplemented a couple years later with a special 30th Anniversary Edition. Regardless of how you feel about the film, this is certainly a very handsome package, well worth checking out!
I could go on at length about the many flaws to be found in DEBBIE DOES DALLAS – such as the fact that most of the cast looks about five years too old for their roles – but that would be missing the point. As a diverting bit of fluff, it certainly succeeds, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of silliness. DEBBIE DOES DALLAS may not transcend the high bar set by THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES, DEBBIE is certainly an enjoyable evening’s entertainment. Definitely a film to watch with friends over pizza and beer.