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Oct 04 2010

The Devil in Miss Jones

Handed down in 1957, the decision by the Supreme Court in the landmark Roth v. United States   attempted to define the boundaries of obscenity. The provisions set forth in the case stipulated that, for anything to be considered obscene, and therefore unprotected by the First Amendment, it must:

1. Appeal to prurient interest

2. Be patently offensive

3. Have no redeeming social value.

It’s important to note because the ruling has allowed hardcore porn to flourish since its inception in the early ’70s.

The truth is that most porn is, by any standard, satisfies the first two criteria in that list when taken in context with prevailing social values. The difficulty in abolishing porn for opposition leaders has been the third criterion. To date, it has remained a very exploitable loophole, and directors have been quick to do so. It’s an ironic yet interesting development considering it is the completely exploitative notion of porn that directors have sought to curtail by infusing more artistic elements into their work.

The makers of classic XXX cinema, from what is now considered the Golden Age of porn, were well aware of the short leash to which they were affixed and that their work was highly scrutinized. So, they went to great lengths to ensure their films had artistic merit. Some, like 1973’s The Devil in Miss Jones, directed by Gerard Damiano, took that notion to the extreme.

Considered by many to be the best and perhaps the smartest adult movie ever filmed, TDIMJ explores the life of a woman named Justice Jones, played by former Broadway chorus girl, Georgina Spelvin. Though she has lived a righteous life, it is, by her account, an uneventful and worthless one, leading her to suicide. Her fateful choice denies her entrance to heaven and she is left with a choice of limbo or a permanent spot in Hell. Given an opportunity to go back to Earth and earn her place in Hell, she becomes a wildly deviant sexual dervish. Though we won’t spoil the “how” and “what for” here, let’s just say that Hell lives up to its reputation for the dispensation of eternal suffering on those willing to ink a contract with the devil.

At just 62 minutes in length, TDIMJ experienced huge commercial success, going toe-to-toe against mainstream box office titles. It grossed 7.7 million dollars upon its release, making it the seventh highest grossing film of 1973.

To this day, The Devil in Miss Jones, along with Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door, remains in a class by itself. If you’ve never seen it, there is no better time than the present.