Archive for March 1973

The Devil in Miss Jones

March 28, 1973

One of three famous, ground-breaking porn movies of the early ’70s (Deep Throat, also directed by Gerard Damiano, and Behind the Green Door are the others), and easily the best. Georgina Spelvin (née Michelle Graham), as the busy heroine Justine Jones, is one of the most avid porn actresses you’ll ever see; she’s very convincing as a woman carried away by her new-found sexual hunger. The fact that she isn’t the usual blonde, bored, Nautilized, Lolita-type bimbo (she’s an average-looking woman who looks to be pushing forty) only makes her escapades that much more exciting — she’s a true woman-next-door. (And she can act.)

The plot has the depressed virgin Justine slashing her wrists in her tub, then awakening in some office-style limbo where a middle-management type (John Clemens) tells her she has to go to Hell. Justine argues that she’s done nothing to deserve it — not even anything fun, like sex. They reach a compromise: She’ll be allowed to act out as many sexual fantasies as she can before her time runs out and she’s sent to Hell. She loses her virginity to “teacher” Harry Reems and is soon dropping her inhibitions right and left, in a variety of clinches. To me, the most striking bit is when the brave Spelvin fellates a snake (!).

A couple of the sex scenes are too drawn-out, but Damiano (who also edited) is a stylish director who probably set the mood for all upscale porn. The movie’s weakness is that it’s too serious, with grave piano music by Alden Shuman and bleak, Bergmanesque touches trying to legitimize what could have been a lively metaphysical porn comedy. Still, it ranks alongside Cafe Flesh as a porno that tries to be more and succeeds. Followed by many “sequels.” Look for Damiano (billed as “Albert Gork”) as the nutcase in Hell.

The Crazies (1973)

March 16, 1973

This little-seen chiller from Pittsburgh’s titan of terror George Romero has to do with a virus — developed by the military, who else? — that infects a small town and turns people into dazed, unpredictable killers. Zombies, if you will.

Have fun counting all the parallels to Romero’s Dead films. It begins with a brother trying to scare his sister¹. The military takes over, generally fucks things up, and pays little attention to the scientists². A small group of survivors are on the run³. One of them, a soldier, is infected³. A taboo-breaking scene involves a daughter and her parent¹. There are 5,000 scenes of authority figures shrieking at each other². The captured “crazies” are isolated in tight quarters²,³. There’s a black hero¹,²,³. The ending is utterly pessimistic¹,²,³. The bearded guy who plays the head scientist was also the loudmouth TV commentator in Dawn of the Dead; the sicko father who forces himself on his (very willing) daughter is Richard Liberty, the mad doctor in Day of the Dead. The movie could be called The Portable George Romero.

Edited at a sprint, the movie is often shocking, occasionally gory, and never boring. The end-credits theme song is “Heaven Help Us,” composed by Carole Bayer Sager and Melissa Manchester, of all people. By the way, 28 Days Later pretty much ripped this off.

¹Night of the Living Dead. ²Day of the Dead. ³Dawn of the Dead.

Don’t Look in the Basement

March 2, 1973

The pits. It may be the most famous of all the horror films whose titles begin with Don’t (a sub-subgenre that may have inspired Edgar Wright’s Don’t trailer in Grindhouse), but it’s also very likely the worst. It’s a grade-Z horror flick about a secluded asylum taken over by one of its inmates (Anne MacAdams, who helped with the direction under her real name Annabelle Weenick), who disguises herself as a doctor after the previous head doctor is apparently axed to death. A nurse comes to work at the asylum and eventually escapes after the other patients have killed MacAdams/Weenick.

An absolute snooze from start to finish, Don’t Look in the Basement (the title is better than anything in the film) offers some unintentionally hilarious moments. An old woman (whose tongue is later torn out) leers at the camera, warns the nurse to “get out,” and recites two different misquotes of the haunting old poem Up the airy mountain/Down the rushing glen/We dare not go a-hunting/For fear of little men. A big, black lobotomy patient walks around eating popsicles and playing with a toy boat. A weirdo who thinks he’s a judge takes an axe to a doctor while the doctor is in mid-sentence (a failed seat-jumper similarly botched in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning). A telephone repairman is set upon by a nymphomaniac in a closet. This was all shot in twelve days in Texas on an under-$100,000 budget, and looks it. Anyone wanna bet Tarantino can quote from it extensively?