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this is an real gem from the golden era of porn
christopher-underwood20 January 2006
Excellent SM themed hardcore starring Terri Hall and Jamie Gillis, although the latter performs less sex in this than his manservant within the film played by Zebedy Colt who not only performs one of the most erotic scenes alongside the leading lady but also a really surprising one with Mr Gillis himself! Some really fine sequences, a lot of 'serious' dialogue, most of it just about avoiding seeming too crass combine with incredibly well put together soundtrack mixing what sounds like a mix of Bach and Bacharach. The print I saw looked like it had spent ten years spooling through some 42nd Street cine projector but never mind, this is an real gem from the golden era of porn and it also includes a never seen before and certainly never to be seen again erotic ballet sequence featuring ex-ballet dancer, Terri Hall herself.
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The Ultimate S&M Love Story
Dries Vermeulen28 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Gerard Damiano, he who gave the world both DEEP THROAT and the original DEVIL IN MISS JONES, desperately wanted to film the scandalous French erotic novel "Story of O" but clearly didn't stand a virgin's chance in a gang bang of acquiring the legal rights to do so. Instead, he wrote an original screenplay liberally based on the book, pretty much as he had adapted Sartre's "No Exit" for MISS JONES, adding a moral (believe it or not) subtext to the whole story. This stands not only as one of Damiano's finest films however but quite simply as one of the very best adult movies ever made.

Hauntingly sad-eyed Terri Hall plays the titular Joanna, an innocent débutante singled out by wealthy womanizer Jason (the always intriguing Jamie Gillis) for degradation. As any long-suffering literary heroine worth her salt, Joanna takes it all on the chin (trust me, no pun intended...) in the name of love. There is method to Jason's madness however as we find out that he is dying of a mysterious disease and,as a final grand gesture, wants to be killed by one who loves him above all else.

In one of her earliest adult film appearances, Hall brings a touching sincerity to the role of Joanna, the occasionally awkward line reading notwithstanding. A former dancer with the Stuttgart Ballet, she also performs an exquisitely choreographed routine, wearing little more than a modest pubic shield. Her male partner in this memorable sequence is Steven Lark, who was featured in Chuck Vincent's FAREWELL SCARLET and Bill Milling's ORIENTAL BLUE, frequently partnered by Hall, begging the question whether perhaps there was a personal off-screen connection between the two. The only other female performer is Juliet Graham as maidservant Gina. She's best remembered for portraying the evil Queen of Hearts in Bud Townsend's legendary porno musical ALICE IN WONDERLAND as well as the various incarnations of hapless anti-hero Jeff Hurst's fantasy girl in Howard Winters and Roberta Findlay's engaging Walter Mitty adaptation FANTASEX.

The three cigar-chomping aristocrats Joanna takes on in a bid to prove her limitless devotion to Jason are one shots John Koven and Roy Carlton with the bulky bearded guy being regular "roughie" mainstay John (occasionally "Francis X.") Bush, who appeared in Zebedy Colt's UNWILLING LOVERS and a couple of grimy Joe Davian sleaze operas made for notorious New York based Avon Productions, APPOINTMENT WITH AGONY and DOMINATION BLUE. Speaking of Colt, here he delivers one of his most accomplished albeit restrained acting turns - diametrically opposed to his equally indelible loose cannon ranting in Tim McCoy's SEX WISH - as loyal manservant Griffin who performs well above and beyond the call of duty, as witnessed by his obedient oral servicing of his Master, a rare sight in heterosexual hardcore even in the anything goes decade that was the 1970s. A proudly out of the closet gay man with bi-curious leanings, long before the term became fashionable, Colt was never the most potent performer sexually, so it's safe to assume he was stunted for in his mesmerizing extreme close-up lovemaking scene with the heroine.

Setting the story in some vague past (there are hints that these could be either the 1920s or '30s yet nothing too specific), Damiano weaves a monumentally gloomy melodrama that just happens to contain a considerable number of explicit sex scenes, some of them quite nasty, such as Joanna receiving a severe whipping across the thighs in a mirrored room, yet many of them also unexpectedly tender, choreographed to almost resemble sacred rituals. The whole film's gorgeously photographed by Joao Fernandes (as "Harry Flecks") and memorably scored with a mix of real classical music and new tracks emulating well known classical favorites. Best of all in this respect is the repeated use of Albinoni's swooningly romantic Adagio in G Minor, at one point even transformed into a torch song with fitting doom-laden lyrics by Colt, employing two thirds of his real name ("Edward Earle", his last name being Marsh) in this capacity.
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Superior adult film-making
The_Void7 April 2008
Gerard Damiano directed two hardcore porn classics before directing this film - those being the influential Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones, but for my money; The Story of Joanna blows them both out of the water and is the best and most erotic of the three. The film apparently takes influence from the classic French tale of sadomasochism 'The Story of O' and focuses on a strange relationship between two people. There isn't really a story to speak of as it's more just a premise from which the director springs all the sadomasochism and sex scenes. Basically, what we have is a rich aristocrat named Jason and his maid – a submissive woman named Joanna. Their relationship begins in the aftermath of a meal in which Joanna proclaims that everybody needs to be loved, and Jason responds by bending her over a table and having his way with her. Jason then informs Joanna that despite her love for him, he will never love her back but still exposes her to all sorts of cruelty including bondage and sex with other lovers.

The film has a classical setting and it's almost like the director was spoofing the classic romance pictures as the mood, music and performances all adhere to a higher level than what is usually expected from a porn film. This is one of my favourite things about The Story of Joanna; it does feel very high quality and it bodes really well with the sadomasochistic sex scenes. Both the leads approach the film well and put in good performances. Terri Hall is absolutely beautiful and fits into the title role well and convinces as the submissive side of the central relationship. In contrast, Jamie Gillis is mysterious and brooding as the dominant partner which bodes well later on when the twist in the tale is revealed. The sex scenes are of course what most people will see the film for and the director clearly knows how to film something erotically as the sex in this movie is very good. It's also not overused and actually feels like the director is holding back on it at times; which is actually refreshing as porn with wall to wall sex can be a bit dull. Overall, this is a fantastic porn film and comes highly recommend; I'd rate it the second best S&M themed porn after the masterpiece The Punishment of Anne.
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The dark mirror of Thanatos
jaibo9 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Gerard Damiano's The Story of Joanna is surely one of the most outré porn features from that strange period in the mid-70s when porn was being made on film and shown at movie theatres. Damiano - despite the crass Deep Throat - was usually one of the more artistic (some might say pretentious) of pornographers, and in this extreme oddity (loosely based on Pauline Réage's The Story of O) he offers what aspires to be the erotic equivalent of Last Year of Marienbad, a disorientating experience of pure aestheticism.

The story has wealthy socialite Jason (Jamie Gillis) recounting his seduction of a woman called Joanna (Terri Hall). He meets her in a bar and romances her, bringing her to his lush mansion and securing a place in her heart. Once he's weaselled his way in there, he forces her to have sex in the front room, humiliating her. Then follows the first example of what turns out to be the film's elliptical approach to narrative: Joanna is tied to a chair in a mirrored room, being whipped for an "infidelity" by Jason, with a fierce-looking dominatrix overseeing the event. How the relationship between Jason and Joanna developed this far, what her infidelity was, when in relationship to the previous scenes is unclear - all we know is that he's upped the ante in her humiliation considerably since the last scene. The film then proceeds as a disorientating fragmented narrative, with scenes of Joanna having sex with Jason's socialite friends and his faithful servant (Zebedy Colt).

An unkind critic might think that Damiano was simply being narratively incompetent here, or someone has hacked the film down from a longer version. But disorientation and fragmentation seem to be the codes of the road here, as the viewer is constantly trying to piece the story together, figure out the relationships, find some ground in shifting sands. Damiano's most daring scene has - out of the blue - Jason being fellated by his male servant, a sequence which must have a provocative and dizzying effect on the male heterosexual viewer. It is almost as if the film is playing an S&M game with its audience, pushing their limits and testing their stamina.

The film is beautifully designed, photographed and framed. Classical music accompanies much of the action, with particularly lush use of Albinoni's Adagio in G minor investing the images with a depth of emotion which touches profundity; there's a very odd and quite beautiful sexual ballet at one point.

The Story of Joanna is a dark film, as it turns out that Jason is dying and therefore training Joanna to be his executioner. It is a film designed to have strange and unfathomable effects on the viewer, erotic but also aesthetic and Thanatos-raising. This is a good place to start for any attempt to see Damiano not merely as a hack porn purveyor but as a genuine auteur.
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My number one choice as the all-time best quality adult film made
jbharrison27 May 2007
This is the most elegant adult production I've seen. I saw it in the late 70's. I was so overwhelmed by it's exceptional quality and detail in depicting ultimate sensuous beauty, I remained seated to see it three times in a row! It's score utilizes Thomas Albinoni's mournful, yearning, Adagio in G, during some exceptionally erotic scenes to effectively burn those images and emotions so deeply in your mind that I have full recall whenever I hear it played today! Jaimie Gillis is masterful and Teri Hall is superb; leaving you hungry to join the feast your eyes see set before you. If you want to truly taste of sensitive, deeply erotic sensuousness, do no deprive yourself of being mesmerized by this all-time classic!
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A classic snooze
unrated29 August 2002
This is a very, very well-made XXX film with an S/M angle; it's usually considered one of the all-time best in the genre. But it's also precious and pretentious beyond all description, and so cold that it's hard to get into. You can admire it, but it's awfully hard to enjoy.
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Art or Porn?
J P6 July 2012
When is art considered porn? When is porn considered art? Interesting questions that haven't changed since before Maplethorp's controversial photos were released. This film is a good example of that fine line between art and porn. But, which is it? That is for you to decide.

"Story of Joanna" is a dark vision into obsession, voyeurism and dominance. Terri Hall is Joanna, a lovely woman who seeks love, but enters a dark world of sexual dominance under the spell of Jamie Gills, a man obsessed... Gillis has a dark plan for Joanna, a plan that will change their lives forever... and the ending will leave you in utter shock! This film comes close to being an art film, with solid directing and good performances from Gillis and Hall... A recommended film!
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A Mainstream Porn Rarity
unzipt8 March 2005
Way back in the 1970s, Tom Snyder interviewed Jamie Gillis on the TOMORROW Show on NBC. (The show aired at 1 AM, back when Carson's Tonight Show ran 90 minutes.) Among other things, Jamie mentioned that the film had perhaps the very first (certainly among the first) sex scene between 2 men in what was neither a gay nor bisexual film. I saw the film, but there was really nothing memorable about it beyond the guy/guy scene. That scene, itself, was all oral with the butler character going down on Gillis. The movie was rather darkly lit, but exciting to watch because the male/male scene seemed especially taboo. It was rather dull by today's standards, but by 1975 standards, it was pretty hot (especially to a 17 year old). I remember it best because it was pornography with a gay element discussed on a major network show.
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Average Hardcore Flick
Michael_Elliott7 May 2014
The Story of Joanna (1975)

** (out of 4)

Gerard Damiano's take on "The Story of O" has millionaire Jason (Jamie Gillis) meeting Joanna (Terri Hall) in a club and soon he takes her home where he sexually humiliates her. At first Joanna is turned off by this but soon she starts to feel something and wants to experience more. THE STORY OF JOANNA isn't as well-known as some of the director's other films from this era like DEEP THROAT and THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES and I think it's pretty easy to see why. This one here is certainly a lot darker and contains some rougher elements that I'm sure most casual porn fans of the day weren't overly interested in. In fact, the film doesn't have its first sex scene until nearly fifteen-minutes into the movie and there's even a male-on-male encounter towards the end of the picture, which I'm sure shocked 1975 crowds, although it won't play that way today. For the most part this is a fairly average porn movie that has a few interesting ideas but nothing great ever comes from the story. I've seen several adaptations of "The Story of O" and I must admit that I really haven't been a major fan of any of them. The screenplay here just isn't interesting enough and neither of the main characters are written well enough to where you even care. Even worse is that I found many of the sex scenes to be rather boring without any erotic nature to them. For the most part I found Gillis to be good in his role but Hall just doesn't work at all. With that said, I think the film is well-directed and there's no doubt that Damiano has a certain eye for this type of film. If the story grabs you then I'm sure you'll enjoy it a lot more.
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