One of the true, legitimate classics of vintage adult cinema, Gerard Damiano's The Devil In Miss Jones is one of the most popular seventies porno films of all time and for good reason. Not only did it take adult cinema to new heights of class and believe it not intelligence, it also made a star out of Georgina Spelvin. Spelvin is an interesting actress. She was definitely a little older than most of the other ladies working in porno at the time, but it was this maturity that made her the perfect choice for the lead in Damiano's film.
The story line is a little different here than it is in the recent remake courtesy of Vivid. Spelvin plays the titular Miss Justine Jones, a lonely spinster who commits suicide when she can no longer deal with her sad, lonely existence on this plain. Damiano's Catholic roots show up when her suicide sends her to Hell as tradition dictates, and soon she meets the devil himself, or at least an interesting interpretation of him in the form of Mr. Abaca (John Clemens). Miss Jones explains to him the regret she has over not indulging herself more during her time on Earth. She died a virgin, never having known the pleasures of the flesh. As the blurb on the back of the case says, 'if you're going to go to Hell, go for a reason' and she figures if she has to suffer for all of eternity, she might as well do something more than just off herself to deserve it.
The devil decide to send her back to Earth, alive, for a short period of time on the condition that she go out and partake in every kink she's ever even considered in her mind. After she's taught how to indulge herself, courtesy of some training with 'The Teacher' (Harry Reems, who bends her over and sticks a plug up her ass before getting her to give him head) in that way, she's sent back to Earth to get it on. Along the way she gets it on whoever she wants, male or female (in a hot scene with Claire Lumiere a.k.a. Judith Hamilton), or even solo, with a guy and a girl (Sue Flaken a.k.a Erica Havens and Marc Stevens), or two guys (Levi Richards and Marc Stevens), a water hose (a very hot masturbation scene where Spelvin pleasures herself to a piece of Ennio Morricone's score from Once Upon A Time In The West!), or a bowl of fruit. In short, she goes out and fucks whoever and whatever she wants.
While the sex scenes aren't nearly as prolonged as they are in the remake (which is much more modern in that the sex is prolonged and the real reason to watch the film, as opposed to the very plot-centric way in which Damiano's movie unfolds), this is still some fairly hot material and even those not as well versed in vintage adult cinema, as some of us tend to be, would do well to check this out – if only to just compare it to the Vivid remake. Given a chance, The Devil In Miss Jones proves to be an intense viewing experience. Roger Ebert called in 'the best hardcore porn film I've ever seen' and while there are a probably a lot of good ones that have escaped Mr. Ebert's eager eyes, this reviewer is hard pressed to think of one that tops it for style, smarts, and eroticism.
While some might not find Spelvin the most attractive female lead to ever fuck on film, make no mistake, once she gets going she knows what she's doing and it's to Damiano's credit that he cast her in the lead. She's not typical porn star material – even in 1973 she was on the older side of the spectrum. She's also rather flat chested with an attractive but not particularly remarkable figure. That being said, she certainly gets very into her role and that enthusiasm and sensuality definitely comes across in her performance here. You'll note this from the very opening scene in which she's begging Damiano himself (as the man in the cell with her) to fuck her, fingering herself and asking for his cock so that she can get off.
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Even without the smoldering sex scenes, The Devil In Miss Jones is a really well made movie. From the scene early one where Spelvin reaches for the razor and takes her own life while the surreal music swells up on the soundtrack to her 'born again' persona later on in which she completely gives in to her dark sexual side, the acting is good. Harry Reems hams it up a bit, which is par for the course with him, but even then he works in his part. The rest of the cast is suitably mysterious, not going as over the top as modern actors tend to do in porno movies, plot based or otherwise. Damiano's film also looks like a real movie. There's some obvious care put into the setups and the cinematography and the movie has a very polished look to it. It's well edited, well paced, and the sex fits into the storyline well. Damiano will always be known for Deep Throat and for good reason as that film really deserves its place in film history but The Devil In Miss Jones proves that the man was far more than just another pornographer with a camera. He had real talent, you can see it here and in some of his other movies, even early ones like Deep Throat. This film proves he was a good storyteller and a legitimate artist in his own right.
While it's unfortunate that the 1.66.1 widescreen image is not enhanced for anamorphic sets, this is otherwise a very nice transfer and a big improvement over the cropped, fullframe release that was available from VCX for some time. Here Damiano's compositions look good, the film looks very smooth and in its proper aspect ratio you can really appreciate the artistry behind the movie. Color reproduction looks quite good and the black levels are very strong. There's a lot more detail present in the picture here than in previous home video releases and while there is some mild grain and some minute print damage, there's really little to complain about here.
Raincoat Theater provides three audio options for this release – a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, the original Dolby Digital mono mix, and a Dolby Digital Mono dubbed track in Spanish. There are no subtitles or closed captions provided.
As far as the quality of the audio goes, the surround mix is fun as it spreads things out a bit, primarily the music, but the mono track is the way to go. This track presents the movie the way it's supposed to sound. There's a little bit of background hiss here and there but that's about the only complaint one can levy against the track and it's not that big a deal in the first place. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout, and Alden Shuman's score comes through nicely. Levels are fine, they're balanced properly and if this sound mix isn't going to blow your mind, it really does get the job done nicely.
The only extra feature on the first disc (aside from a static menu and a scene selection option) is an audio commentary with director Gerard Damiano. On this track Damiano speaks about what it was like to work with Spelvin, why he liked her in the lead, and what bothered her as an actress (she was apparently unsure about the anal scene and needed some encouragement). He talks about some of the themes that he plays around with in the film and gives us a good overall look at what went into the production. There's a tiny bit of dead air here and there and the moderator lets Damiano go off topic from time to time, but for the most part this is a pretty interesting discussion. Unfortunately the quality of the recording isn't the best, there's a fair bit of irritating background noise that does get a little distracting at times (at one point it sounds like someone's cell phone goes off). Minor complains aside, this is historically important, as it is Damiano's best track. The moderator brings up the remake and claims it doesn't work (this reviewer disagrees) and Damiano appears irritated that he didn't get much credit when the remake hit big. Fair enough, he did come up with the concept and Paul Thomas probably should have given the man more credit than he did. At any rate, Damiano is an interesting enough subject and getting the chance to hear his side of the making of this movie and of his time in the adult film industry is interesting stuff.
Here Damiano laments the advent of video, how it ruined proper porno movie making, and how it stopped the industry from getting better and better. It's also interesting to hear Damiano talk about how he covered Spelvin and Hamilton (who is credited here as Claire Lumiere which is how she's mentioned in the commentary) in oil for their scene together (that's why there's a plastic sheet on the bed), which has been cut at times during the film's history. He also talks about the soundtrack, how it works well, how important it was to the movie, how 'every goddamn distributor in this business is that fucking stupid.' Is he bitter? It does sound like it, but he's got a right to be. He also talks about the snake scene, how Spelvin improvised it, and how he never would have expected her to do it. It's also interesting to hear him talk about how tricky it was to shoot the scene where Spelvin takes on two guys at the same time and the logistical problems that scenes like this entail. He covers the film in quite a bit of detail, fans should be pleased.
Disc two contains the softcore version of the film that runs fifty-minutes exactly and is pretty much the same movie without the penetration scenes. This version also omits the intro scene with Damiano and Spelvin, and is taken from an unusually framed source that is just a little bit crooked and slightly cropped on the left and right hand side of the picture (likely to make it more appropriate for a standard TV frame). Regardless, it's here as a companion piece to the uncut version and it's really more of a curiosity item than anything else. This version doesn't look nearly as nice as the restored feature on the first disc and it suffers from some odd combing, but it's nice to see it here for the sake of completion.
Also on the second disc is an interview entitled Devil In Miss Spelvin where Georgina herself appears on camera and talks about her life and times in the adult film industry and her work on this film in particular. She talks about how she came to NYC with virtually nothing but make up and curlers and a bunch of clothes, and how she lived at the Woodrow Hotel while she tried to break into ballet. She got into musical comedy and did some dancing but never found the break she wanted and finally wound up doing stage production which lead to film production which in turn lead to acting and editing. She and some friends apparently did some activist films but that didn't pay the bills and soon enough she answered an ad in a trade paper and ended up in porno after doing some location work and rounding up some extras. It was during these days in the NYC film industry that she met a man who wanted her for a role in a film called The High Priestess of Sexual Witchcraft. She apparently didn't know this was supposed to be a porno until it was time to perform, at which point she just went with it. From her she talks about working with Marc Stevens who introduced her to Harry Reems and how she wound up working with Damiano through this connection. She was originally brought on as a cook, but when Damiano met her he cast her as the lead. From here we hear about her working relationship with Damiano and what it was like working with her various co-stars (she has nothing but kind words to say about Reems and she credits Marc Stevens with saving her ass) and her thoughts on the girl-girl scene (Claire Lumiere was her roommate!) and the three-way scene that are in the movie. We get her side of the snake scene story, and lots more including her thoughts on the sex industry, why she never performed sex on stage like many adult performers of the era, and how she feels about her career in hindsight. Spelvin comes across as very down to Earth and as a very nice lady. It's great to get the chance to hear about her work in her own words, though like the audio commentary, the recording could have been better as there are too many moments where the wind hits her lapel mic and shows up in the mix – this could have been easily avoided and it's annoying. That being said, I'm nit picking. This is a nice half hour sit down chat with someone who probably couldn't give a bad interview if she tried!
Rounding out the extra features on the second disc is an 'original' theatrical trailer (this doesn't look like an original trailer, as the film's logo looks video generated, there's no narration or 'coming soon' type promotion and it's simply made up of the opening scene with Damiano and Spelvin – it runs 1:21) and a nice still gallery that plays as a silent slideshow and is made up of various promotional photographs but which sadly (and surprisingly) doesn't contain any home video release, promotional artwork or advertising material. There are also trailers included here for Insatiable (with the Miracle Films band, 1:08), Debbie Does Dallas (narrated by Bambi Woods who says in real life she was a Dallas Cowgirl! 1:54), Neon Nights (a lengthy 4:19) and Babylon Pink (also quite lengthy at 3:50).
Minor complaints aside (the transfer should have been anamorphic), this is an all around excellent release. The Devil In Miss Jones deserves all of the accolades of praise it's received over the last three decades and it's great to see it finally get a proper release with nice audio and video and some interesting extra features. Highly recommended.