April 18, 2006

JESS FRANCOS' LES DEMONS (1972) REVIEW 12



You may be sick of chocolate at this time of the year with Eostre now ending but I am sure your still just as hungry for some more Teapot titillations ..........

This movie always seemed to intrigue me since seeing its’ ‘go video’ pre-VRA release in the 1980’s. In typical ‘Go Video’ fashion it was lurid enough to captivate the young imagine and a burning need to explore it.

I eventually ended up watching it in a piss poor quality version that appeared to be edited together with shears and cellotape and was most disappointed with what could be described as a messy jumble of witchcraft, brief nudity and very little else.

Recently the directors cut surfaced on German region 2 DVD as ‘Die Nonnen von Clichy’ as part of the fascinating output from Kult DVD’s ‘X-Rated’ umbrella.

Although sometimes the dialogue went silent and turned into French (I would imagine the French version to be more longer and featuring more extended ‘torture/dialogue’ sequences, subtitles would’ve been nice here though); this didn’t really impair my enjoyment of the movie.

From what I recalled to what I actually viewed seemed entirely different films all together with the yank edit being terrible but the only way accessible to the film for as long, long time.

‘Les Demons’ appears to be heavily influenced by Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils (1971)’ and is referred by many as a sequel to Francos’ 1969 witch and tit melodrama ‘The Bloody Judge’ with no other but Christopher Lee brandishing the justices in the guise of Judge Jeffries. Les Demons seems to up the sex and violence and although not gratuitous is potent enough to keep the euro-trash fans happy.

Research indicates that there have been several versions of this movie, some shorn, some even re-arranged but I believe the version I saw is the most complete…..

THE PLOT

An old woman is tried and tortured for Witchcraft as all the signs are conclusive evidence she is a handmaiden of Lucifer she is sentenced to death by burning.

As she burns she curses the three culprits who sentenced her to the flames Lady de Wynter, Judge Jeffries and Thomas Renfield.

Further witterings reveal that she will be avenged by her ‘daughters’; Jeffries’ speculates that this refers to fellow practitioners of the black arts. Unconvinced Lady de Wynter and her protectorate Renfield visit a convent at Blackmoor to investigate any ‘orphaned’ women that could fit the bill and be the witches’ siblings.


They interview Mother Rosalinda who confirms that there are two nuns sisters Margaret and Kathleen that could be descendants. One is believed to be pure whilst the other Kathleen is feared to be a witch.

Kathleen is taken by Lady de Wynter and is taken back to her castle where she is tortured to verify further her canoodlings with the devil.

At the convent in Blackmoor, Margaret has a supernatural visit from her mother who asks for her help in avenging her death. Margaret agrees and as well as being bestowed with magical powers also gets a good fucking by the Lord of the Flies himself to seal ‘the pact’ so to speak.

Margaret goes demented and becomes a raging nymphet intend on seducing and destroying the wrong doers , she causes Mother Rosalinda to fall in love with her which ultimately leads to her throwing herself of the nunnery walkways in a fit of insane lust and guilt.

Against this backdrop of satanic delirium a love affair blossoms between the other sister Kathleen and the soldier Thomas Renfield . The sisters are identified as the witches daughters whose’ father happens to be Lord Malcolm de Wynter; who is currently involved with political intrigue concerning William of Orange.

This political intrigue could pave way for the lovers escape to freedom in Holland. Attempts made however abysmally fail and the lovers are captured and incarcerated in the de Wynters torture dungeons.

Margaret disguises herself as a Spanish aristocrat and charms her way into the de Wynter homestead to wreck and ruin the ‘guilty’ inhabitants. Margaret has discovered that she has the supernatural ability to turn people into skeletons in almost an instant and initially targets Lady de Wynter; the final revenge has all participants caught in the black magical crossfire…….

CRITIC

Made with a scant budget the historical accuracy goes completely out the window, perhaps the cast were given a budget where other costumes from other movies were used. This gives several visual indications that at times we seem to be witnessing Elizabethan, Georgian and even medieval garb, verbally the movie is set around the 1680’s due to William of Oranges’ mention.

Oddly enough such historical inaccuracy doesn’t seem to impede the movie as a whole it just adds to its frantic delirium. Even contemporary spider eyelashes and the layer of heavy eye make-up don’t seem out of place. This is history according to Franco and it is his movie so let us not forget this and get a better understanding on the whole.


Francos’ ‘pokey’ editing is as punchy as ever and trademark crotch shots are also prevalent at varying sexy intervals. There is also a skill on show here too, some of the scenes are constructed and filmed in what appears to be beautiful gothic tableaux. On occasion some scenes look as though they are filmed with a strong visual element borrowed from the theatre.

On occasion I noticed an adult ‘fairy tale’ kind of vein running through the imagery. The witch in the cottage also cements that feeling towards the films final instalments.

The torture sequences aren’t as focal to the proceedings as one would tend to imagine if a first time viewer. They are gruesome enough but nowhere nearing the same league as the harsh cruelty in ‘Mark of the Devil (1969)’ and the S.S medi-camp stable of film making. What is of interest is the different representation we have of the witches’ torture.

In the Spanish dub when pins are pushed into her arms and boiling watered poured over her breasts the old woman maniacally laughs at her executors. In the English/German dub these are replaced with screams of pain.

The facial reaction clearly indicates that all the attempts of torture are a waste of time. It’s’ a bit of a shame that these Spanish laughter ‘dubs’ weren’t utilised for all the other versions. On a few occasions the sorceresses of the movie are referred to as ‘true witches’. If there mother is a legitimate, 100% broomstick mounter then her powers would override any attempts of inflicting pain, hence why I believe the laughter to be important in these early sequences.

Another exceptionality of the movie is the amazing ‘soundtrack’. The joyous thing is that it is totally out of place and out of keeping with the historic settings. Gone are the violins, harpsichord and whimsy twee of period piece soundtracks , ditched in favour of infectious bass rifts leading into frenzied jazz flute. Bongos dance wildly to a prog rock funk fusion that accommodates the majority of the sex scenes and the action sequences.

This frantic tempo really empowers the visuals and picks the whole feel of the movie up when it is occasionally needed in moments of slowness.

I sincerely hope that this soundtrack becomes available it is a waste to keep it hidden as it really is that bloody good.

Unfortunately on the Spanish dub the music has been substituted by a totally inferior sombre organ and what appears to be a Gregorian chant. I guess you can’t have it all ways.

Such a diverse mixture of music, costume and style makes this a bizarre experience. The movie is like an ocean vessel, the pitch and roll could be used to represent the way the narrative of the picture twists and turns as a true example of ‘on-the-go’ direction.


The leads themselves appear to be enjoying every minute. The voices used for some of the dubs are understandably shoddy but setting this aside most seem giving it their best shot for the character they play.


Karin Field makes a welcome twisted appearance as Lady de Wynter and blends both her cruelty with her beautiful looks effectively. The stunningly handsome Cihangir Gaffari made a rather ‘dry’ Judge Jefferies and it was a shame that more use wasn't made of his character within the plot. Howard Vernon turns up trumps with his ‘Lord Malcolm de Wynter’ incarnation and is delightfully doddery too.

Beautiful people (check out Sister Margaret - Britt Nichols is absolutely stunning looking), attractive costumes (although from all over time it seems), eye-catching settings and flashes of inspirational direction make this worth seeing.

I favour this over ‘The Bloody Judge’ and would advise all to check it out but only in it’s’ (or one of it’s’) truest, longest forms.


Most Outstanding Moment

Lady de Wynter wandering around the gothic dungeon in see-through apparel – delicious.

The comical representation and boudoir antics of sex starved Satan - red tights and all (I sometimes wish Franco filmed this sequence in speed up- it would’ve been hilarious and quite fitting)!!!!

The Film; Les Demons / The Demons/ Sex Demons/Os Demonios/ She-Demons/ Die Nonnen von Clichy (German Region 2 Kult DVD release title)/ Las Poseidas Del Demonio (Kult DVD on screen film credit title)


The Country;
France / Portugal

The Year; 1972


The Players;

Anne Libert Kathleen

Britt Nichols Margaret

Doris Thomas Mother Rosalinda

Karin Field Lady De Wynter

Cihangir Gaffari Lord Justice Jeffries

Luis Barboo Truro

Howard Vernon Lord Malcolm De Wynter

Alberto Dalbés Thomas Renfield


The Director; Jess Franco

The Music; Jean-Bernard Raiteux , Daniel J White and Jess Franco.

My Relations are; The Bloody Judge (1969), The Mark of the Devil (1969), Witchfinder General (1968), The Mark of the Devil pt.2 – The Witches (1972).

April 16, 2006

HARDCORE CLASIXXX - THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES (1973) - REVIEW 11



Gerard Damiano had a successful experience in 1972 with his hardcore box office smash ‘Deep Throat’. Hot on its’ heels was ‘The Devil in Miss Jones’in 1973.

A sinisterly overtoned hardcore feature film about sexual liberation at a price, Justine Jones (played superbly by Georgina Spelvin) is condemned to hell as a prim, frustrated and generally quite sad character to become a transformed libertine with voracious libido.

D.M.J could be considered as a retelling of Sartre’s 1943 prize winner ‘No Exit’. It focuses’ like Sartre on the sexually charged, trapped in hell, in a room with the sexually incapable.

PLOT

Justine Jones is an unhappy women, she is in sheer turmoil and is trapped in a loveless marriage where she is totally unfulfilled by her husband.

A manic depressive, Justine takes the razor blade to her wrists and leaves this dimension…..

When she takes her life she finds she is transported to a sort of limbo where it is decided whether Miss. Jones should go to heaven or hell. As she committed suicide it is decided she must go to hell but has time to experience all that she has been deprived of before she slit her wrists. With the deadly sins offered by Satan , Miss Jones opts for lust.

As part of her liberation to become the ‘woman’ she had always dreamed of being; she encounters several vignettes where her sexual senses are pushed to their optimum.

She is introduced to ‘The Teacher’ this hirsute icon of 70’s stereotyped pornography (Harry Reems) educates Justine the art of oral and vaginal stimulation, whipping Justine into sheer orgasmic frenzy.

He further assists her experience by exploring the forbidden territory of pleasure and pain.

She finds the joys of experiencing a same sex encounter, using a bottle of baby oil and a plastic lilo.

Justine explores an array of stimulus on her journey as well, from the warm jet of a bath hose exploring intimately to the sensual frenzied tickle of a pythons tongue.

Ultimately she takes on two guys in a wonderfully passionate ménage a trois that is quite possibly one of the hottest pieces of delightful carnal rough one could be privy too on seldom occasions.

Despite these powerfully sexual lessons in love, there is a price to pay as Justine discovers that her experiment with lust is mocked for eternity. ….

CRITIC

No wonder this is referred to as one of the best examples of Hardcores’ ‘Belle Époque’ in ‘70’s American hardcore boom. This, Deep Throat, Behind the Green Door and Resurrection of Eve were the figureheads on the porno ship sailing towards what would become a highly lucrative industry.

Hardcore went mainstream and became all the better for it, the age of the stag movie or loop was no more. 15 minute wank aids usually playing in semen and disinfectant smelling booths were now replaced by sex epics of over an hour in length in comfortable theatre houses.

The dawning of a highly liberalised U.S.A had started and opened the floodgates to a whole new genre of movie. What was once thought of as a dirty, grubby, genre exclusively for perverts and sexually unsuccessful middle aged business men was now tainting mainstream culture.

Films such as Deep Throat and DMJ were on everyone’s lips, whether they had seen it or not, and became the focus on many smutty puns, the actors and actresses bathed in the limelight as they went from underground oddities to household names. The age of porno chic arrived as Hollywood spawned a slightly less ‘wholesome’ relative.

Many of these films piloted the ‘shoestring’ budget way of directing and production. This is a nod towards the underground way films are made today.

More times than enough do we come across skin flicks directed by stalwarts of sleaze in other areas. Abel Ferrara had a go, Doris Wishman, Radley Metzger and a host of directors under varying skill sets often dabbled in things bump and grind.

The first thing I noticed about DMJ in comparison to its’ ‘sisters’ was the films lack of humour and concentration more on the melancholy. It has a dark, brooding, ephemeral atmosphere.

Deep Throat was more comical in its’ approach and was presented as (and is) a whole lot of fun. Behind The Green Door also, despite a dark ‘sex show’ instalment, was infinitely much, much lighter.


Credit where credits due, Georgina Spelvin is knock-out and plays the character with such gusto that one can really feel sympathy for her. The sex sequences are also a revelation in Spelvins’ acting/performing capabilities. She has such an amazing time, it’s as though Spelvin doesn’t care whether she is being filmed fucked or not. She really throws herself into the part; she is living the character of ‘Justine Jones’ as opposed to just acting it; clearly evident from her performance.

Spelvin was pure serendipity for director Damiano, she was initially cast as the movies cook, when Damiano saw her he made her his leading lady. Spelvin also strikes an uncanny likeness to famous actress Shirley Maclaine , it is also known Spelvin actually ‘doubled’ for the actress on some occasions.

Her interaction with Harry Reems’ ‘Teacher’ character makes a totally compelling experience to view as both seem more than capable of acting in a porno as well as they could in ‘clothed’ performances (Harry Reems did and turns up in the daft rape and delirium scream fest ‘Demented’ (1978) and we mustn’t forget his other ‘soft-core’ romp with a post-op virgin in ‘Let Me Die a Woman’ which takes us back to 1971.

Much praise can be said for Damianos’ directing skill, he was also known to have edited the suicide scene in the video for ‘Simon and Garfunkels ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’.

Due to this connection Damiano asked if the song could appear on the soundtrack during Justine’s suicide sequence. This never surfaced and although it is an excellent composition would’ve spoiled the ‘flow’ of the film score.

Another dazzling aspect of this amorous showcase has to be Alden Shumans knock out soundtrack. Shuman blends simple piano with built up violin concerto to compliment the onscreen ‘odyssey’ of our protagonist.

Whether you want to witness the acrobatic skills of Justine or not; the soundtrack is worth listening to on its own merit. Shuman seems to have encapsulated the sound of dark sexual initiation.

Some of his compositions are simply exquisite and ‘lift’ the screenplay from moments of dark forebode. This is a perfect balance of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ and perfect audio accompaniment for the visuals.

If you want to cut your teeth on a prime example of hardcores’ ‘golden age’ you couldn’t go too wrong with this picture.

Along with ‘The Opening of Misty Beethoven’ (1975), ‘Through the Looking Glass’ (1977),’Femmes de Sade’ (1977) and numerous other titles, far to many too mention, this is up there as one shining example amongst the all time adult greats.

MOST OUTSTANDING MOMENT

Justine Jones, one python and one bowl of fruit. An eloquently filmed sequence, slightly bizarre - a Damiano 'quirk' that cropped up at times in his 'style' of pornographic art but always very sensual and rarely cumbersome.

The film; The Devil in Miss Jones

The Year; 1972

The Players;

Georgina Spelvin (Justine Jones)

John Clemens (Abaca)

Harry Reems (The Teacher)

Marc Stevens (Ménage a trois Scene)

Levi Richards (Ménage a trois Scene)

Judith Hamilton (Sapphic Scene)

Erica Havens (Sparring Partner)

Gerard Damiano (Man in Cell)

The Country; USA

The Director; Gerard Damiano

Available; R18 U.K Reg. 2 DVD uncut (vhs transfer) / Region 1 VCX DVD (uncut)

The Music; Alden Shuman

My relations are; Devil in Miss Jones pt.2 (1982), Deep Throat (1972), Behind the Green Door (1972), Opening of Misty Beethoven