The Devil in Miss Jones
U.S.A. | 1973
Directed by Gerard Damiano
Starring
Georgina Spelvin
Harry Reems
Mark Stevens
Color
| 68 Minutes | XXX
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC
| 2-disc set)
Raincoat Theater
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8
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Guest Review by Troy Howarth
Lonely Miss Jones (Georgina Spelvin) commits suicide, but before being condemned to Hell she is given a chance to indulge in enough Earthly pleasures to justify her eternal damnation...
    After making XXX film history with Deep Throat, director Gerard Damiano concocted this far more serious mixture of metaphysics and carnality. Using a surprisingly gloomy and somber narrative linchpin, Damiano thrusts the viewer into a literal story of lust and damnation. Running a lean 65 minutes, the film never overstays its welcome and offers an ideal balance of story and sexual peccadilloes.
    From its opening, unsettling suicide to its final, despairing image of one woman's personal hell, the film avoids the jocular tone typical of most XXX films of the period. Miss Jones is not presented as a free spirit romping from one bedroom to the next she's a lonely, deeply unhappy soul completely disconnected from the world around her. In a sense the film presents the classic story of the ugly ducking who cuts loose and discovers her inner self, but the film doesn't present her journey as joyful the fact is, she's damned from the outset, and while her journey will allow her some carnal satisfaction, she is ultimately condemned to a world without pleasure. The end result is peculiarly disorienting, flying in the face of audience expectations it's hard to imagine how the raincoat brigade must have responded to this film in 1973, as it certainly isn't the typical run of the mill sexploitation potboiler.
    That is not to suggest that the film doesn't work as erotica, however. Part of Damiano's accomplishment is to have made a film that remains true to its downbeat concept while also serving up some tremendously effective hardcore sex sequences. In the lead role of Miss Jones, Georgina Spelvin is a revelation. She is hardly likely to be anybody's idea of a porn starlet but her 'normal' appearance suits the role perfectly, and she outdistances many younger, more superficially attractive starlets in terms of animal ferocity and presence; compare her with Savannah in the recent remake of the film: Savannah is much more 'typical' as far as porn stars go, but despite her looks she seems sedate in comparison. Spelvin attacks her sex scenes with startling enthusiasm, effectively tapping into the character's long-suppressed sexual frustration. Her most notable partner in the film is the legendary Harry Reems, cast as her sexual "teacher", helping to unlock her desires and teach her the tricks of the trade. Whether draining Reems dry (literally), getting down and dirty in a memorable lesbian tryst, or performing in an early double penetration scene, Spelvin is a revelation her dynamic presence helps to make The Devil in Miss Jones one of the most satisfying hardcore efforts of its period.

Raincoat Theater's two-disc special edition release gives the film the respect it deserves. The first disc contains the uncut version of the film, letterboxed at 1.66. The transfer has limitations, notably the lack of anamorphic enhancement, but it looks presentable enough. Some print damage is evident, but this is to be expected in a grindhouse feature of this vintage. The film is fully uncut, however, and color and detail are both adequately rendered. The film has been given a pointless 5.1 Surround track in addition to its original mono soundscape. The latter is in good shape, with clear dialogue and no discernible background hiss or distortion, while the former doesn't add anything to the experience.
    An audio commentary with director Damiano, moderated by Casey Scott, rounds out the first disc. Damiano sounds appreciative of the opportunity to discuss the film and while he is hazy on some points for example, noting that a piece of music sounds like something from a Sergio Leone western, failing to realize that it is, in fact, a pilfered cue from Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) but he has some amusing anecdotes about the film (e.g., Spelvin, then a novice to anal sex, was given pointers by straight-for-hire actor Mark Stevens) and makes for an engaging commentator.
    Disc 2 includes the censored cable TV version of the film, which reduces the sex scenes to softcore groping. The slightly letterboxed transfer is soft and in worse shape than the uncensored edition, but it is chiefly of interest for completists and isn't likely to get as much play, anyway. Bonus features on this disc include trailers for other vintage XXX features, a still gallery and an on-camera interview with Spelvin.
12/23/06

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