Retro Porn Review: The Devil in Miss Jones

January 3, 2014
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Retro Porn Review: The Devil in Miss Jones

Following the unprecedented (and quite unexpected) success of Deep Throat, director Gerard Damiano came back with a dark tale about death, regret and bottled up lust. I know, not necessarily the token synopsis of a porn movie, but a much more rewarding one.

In spite of its darker subject, it grossed more than US$15m in the United States that year, making it the 10th biggest box office film of 1973. It was more commercially successful than both Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door and it was generally well received within mainstream crowds.

The film’s best asset is undoubtedly the amazing performance by its leading star Georgina Spelvin, arguably the greatest actress in adult film history. A classically trained thespian, Spelvin (born Michelle Graham) was featured in several Broadway productions during the 50s, and was already in her late-30s when they shot The Devil in Miss Jones. The renowned movie critic Roger Ebert once called Spelvin “The Linda Lovelace of the literate.”

The film follows Justine, a very lonely and depressed woman who decided to kill herself. In spite of having lived a sinless life with an unimpeachable record, an angel in charge informed her that she would not be admitted to heaven, claiming that suicide was “the one thing they will not forgive.” Frustrated with the outcome, she confesses that if she had a chance to live her life all over again, she’d lead one consumed with lust. Seeing that she’d be going to hell anyway, and that she wasn’t expected there for a little while, her wish is granted temporarily.

And boy, did she make up for lost time! Spelvin embodies curiosity in its fullest, opening up to submissive scenes; lesbian scenes; double penetration scenes; fruit play (bananas were logical, grapes were an interesting choice;) and even a flirty scene with a snake. For the first time in her life, she had found contentment, and this is very palpable throughout the movie.

Probably more than any other porn actress I have ever seen, she seems to genuinely enjoy and transcend any exploitative idea of the genre. She seems like a woman in control, even when she’s openly and willingly giving it up.

The movie also features solid acting performances from Harry Reems and director Damiano himself, who in a non-sexual role offered a brilliantly gruesome end to an already macabre story.

Make no mistake; this is a good movie. Damiano and Spelvin captured a wide range of emotions, and there’s a sense of desperation, need and nostalgia that make a simple story worth watching, well beyond the sexual incentives. I don’t get to say this often about porn, but this is a story about humanity and emotion, an absolute classic.

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