The Devil in Miss Jones (1973)
Directed by Gerard Damiano
Starring Georgina Spelvin, Harry Reems
Release date: March 28, 1973
If DEEP THROAT made it hip for suburbanites to visit an adult cinema, THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES made it okay for serious critics and academics to cast something more than a dismissive glance at the pornographic screen. Running a scant 74 minutes, MISS JONES is a film that will sit with you long after the final reel has unspooled. It is a stark and startling film in many ways, far from the frothy fun found in pornography before and hence. It’s not a film about sexual abandon like much of its ilk. Rather it is a film about life, death and consequence.
Weary of loneliness and despair, Justine Jones takes her own life. Upon reaching the afterlife she learns that her act of escape has condemned her to an eternity in Hell. A minion takes pity upon her and gives her the chance to return to Earth to earn her way to Hell by living a life, as she puts it, “consumed by lust.”
Heavy subject matter to be sure, but the film succeeds in drawing us in from the very first few moments. Our first meeting with Justine Jones (played with aplomb by Georgina Spelvin) draws us right into her world. Her apartment is stark: a sea of white walls, a cocoon of isolation in the chaos of New York City. Georgina Spelvin’s performance is both subtle and obvious and while she tackles the wordy dialogue like any pro, she is most effective in scenes where she utters no words at all. From the moment we first lay eyes upon her we feel her pain, her emptiness. Spelvin hands us all these emotions with the mere glance of her eyes.
The opening suicide scene is drawn out, graphic and agonizing without ever becoming gratuitous or exploitative. It is slow, methodical and doesn’t seem like a desperate act at all. Justine Jones is a woman calmly resigned to her fate.
As Justine reaches the afterlife we are as stunned as she that her manner of death means she must go to Hell. When she gets her temporary reprieve we are also as eager as she to learn what “The Teacher” has in store for her as she sets sail on her brief re-birth into a life of lust.
Jones’ guide to the carnal is played expertly by a somewhat sinister Harry Reems, veteran of hundreds of pornographic films including DEEP THROAT. His performance is layered and deliberate. He is at once stern, strict and oddly tender as he puts Justine through the paces and takes her virginity in a scene of both agony and beauty.
Director and screenwriter Damiano (DEEP THROAT, THE STORY OF JOANNA) paces the film with an ever-increasing tempo. As Justine delves further into the depths of her new, lustful existence Damiano directs the increasingly frenetic sex scenes in such a way as to make the audience feel her increasing sense of sensual abandon. The initial lesbian scene is tender and welcoming but as we move through the film we see our heroine indulge in experiences increasingly outside of the norm.
As the film moves into its final quarter hour, Spelvin performs a scene where she tousles suggestively with a snake. Justine Jones has truly lost all inhibition and as the audience is no doubt feeling by this point…her soul.
While the final double penetration scene (with genre stalwarts Marc Stevens and Levi Richards) may not set off any alarm bells these days, for the time it was astonishing. By this point Justine has stopped being a witness to her own sexual awakening. Rather, she is the driving force behind it. She is no longer the ingenue communicating with her eyes, instead she talks the men through her orgasm, directing them to fulfill each sexual whim. It is a shocking transformation in a character we’ve come to like and identify with.
The film rounds out with what must be one of the most depressing denouements in cinema history, in or out of adult films. Her wanton ways have opened her eyes but the cost is greater than even she could imagine. It is a conclusion that will burn into your memory. It is bleak, it is unexpected, it is unforgettable.
THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES is a startling piece of filmmaking. Everything from the costumes, sets, pacing and score (which was, unusually for porn, commissioned especially for the film) draw the viewer into Justine Jones’ world, taking us along on her journey. It is a film that one will not soon forget. In a world where anything more than five years old is called a “classic,” THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES is one of the very few films that deserves such lofty designation.