Movie Review: The Devil in Miss Jones
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Not only do they not make porno movies like this anymore. They no longer make movies like this anymore.
The Devil in Miss Jones, is a 1973 pornographic film, written, directed and produced by Gerard Damiano, and is one of the only hardcore pornographic films that approaches an art form. The film is a sensation for it’s genre, marked by a technical polish that pales most Hollywood productions and contains some of the most frenzied and erotic sexual sequences in cinematic memory.
It follows the story of virginal spinster, Miss Jones (Georgina Spelvin) a lonely, depressed, and demure young woman who commits suicide by slitting her wrists. The next scene finds her sitting before the desk of an afterlife mediator, Abaca (John Clemens) who informs her that this final transgression is enough to keep her from entering Heaven. Her suicide being the one damnable act in an otherwise despairing life. To make herself ‘‘worthy’’ of this punishment, Jones insists that she be given another chance to ensure she lives a life that truly warrants eternal damnation and requests a little more time in which to experiment with, and be consumed by, lust. And so strikes a deal with the Devil in order to return to Earth and indulge in all the sins of the flesh she passed up during her short, uneventful, life.
She is then assigned a "teacher" (Harry Reems) who instructs her in the fine art of lovemaking before setting her free to indulge in all areas of sensuality.
Miss Jones then seeks pleasure with another woman who rubs a bizarre metallic oil over her body before engaging in sex. We then witness her lounge in a bathtub where she "lubricates” some very specialized areas. She even involves herself in some heavy petting with a small snake. The teacher is always around, however, always ready to guide her and provide some of his own special gratification.
After a solemn discussion with her mediator, Jones then engages in two final acts of fulfillment. She and another woman satisfy a man. Before two other men then use her body as a conduit for their own gratification.
However, when her time is up, and her adventure comes to an end, she is confined to a small white room with a strange-looking man (Gerard Damiano, using the pseudonym Albert Gork) who imagines that he can hear flies buzzing around him. "Just make me come!" she pleads as she manipulates herself, but the man continues staring into space, waiting for the flies. And so they remain, for eternity. Eternal punishment mocking her brief experiments in carnality. Bringing to an end this X-rated and oddly emotional odyssey of lustful licentiousness.
Released during the Golden Age of Porn (1969–1984). This notoriously hyperbolic and almost encyclopedic hard-core porn film, straddles an odd divide between art house cinema and hardcore pornography. Upon its release it was described as, "More morality play than masturbation aid." The lush piano driven score alone, courtesy of Alden Shuman, highlights the despondency at the heart of the story and negates typical conventions of kinky Seventies porn soundtracks.
The film's plot was inspired by the 1944 play No Exit by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and went on to spawn numerous remakes and sequels, none of which ever reached the sophistication of the original. Mostly due to the qualities Damiano possessed as a director and which have always been generally lacking in the adult arena: good direction and an interesting story.
While most adult filmmakers chose to shoot their movies like peep shows: wide angle, real-time bores with extra emphasis on the "pay-off." Damiano instead chose to shoot primarily in close-up, like any good director would, emphasizing the emotional thrust of a particular scene. His films are well-edited; not every sexual act has to end, begin or follow any linear structure. It's not a stunt or a game, as tends to be the case with pornography both old and new. It's an extreme, involving experience. Therein lies his genius. He is a man who has the guts to treat adult films as actual films. He even manages to pull off a great cameo as Spelvin's eerie companion in the films hellish finale.
The film is widely regarded as a classic in it’s genre. And Along with Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door, is associated with a time in American culture known as "porno chic", in which adult erotic films were just beginning to be widely released and publicly discussed by celebrities like Johnny Carson and Bob Hope and taken seriously by film critics such as Roger Ebert. It’s an ambitious film, that delivers in spades. And is the first pornographic film I've seen that actually seems to be about its leading character instead of merely using her as the object of sexual variations.
Spelvin ultimately triumphs in the lead role, mostly due to her acting abilities, i.e. she makes an emotional connection with the audience and takes us through all the emotions she experiences. Considering this, it’s easy to see why the film didn't quite reach the dizzying heights of Deep Throat. There's very few "standard" sexual acts and only a few short scenes of traditional penetration. There's also a sense of melancholy throughout the entire film; if the opening suicide wasn't enough, whenever Spelvin is at the height of passion you get the feeling that she's trying to go as far as her depraved consciousness will take her; she engages in constant dialogue with her lovers, trying to control, manipulate, and plan every precious moment; "No! Not Yet! I don't want to come yet!" Which adds to the sense of desperation permeating the film making the ending downright unsettling. But, who ever said that pornographic films couldn’t be disturbing or raise serious issues about society and human sexuality?
Nevertheless, the true message in The Devil in Miss Jones, is that we all need to free ourselves from our own emotional purgatory and come to terms with our own sexual identities as rational adults. It may sound like a dated message but in these repressed times it's still as timely and important as ever.