In the envelope-pushing "Me Decade", pornography very nearly went
mainstream after DEEP THROAT played to packed houses across the country
and a good many porno chic films from this "Golden Age" had decent
budgets, actual plot lines, and attractive stars. One such film was THE
DEVIL IN MISS JONES (1973), which was considered "thinking man's porn"
due to the intelligent, No Exit-esque narrative wherein a virginal
suicide makes a pact with the devil to come back for a few days and
earn her consignment to hell ("If you have to go to hell go for a
reason", the tag line urged). Peter de Rome's all-male XXX THE
DESTROYING ANGEL is a gay version that re-"tool"s the Edgar Allan Poe
yarn "William Wilson" into the story of Caswell Campbell, a conflicted
seminary student who's given a three-month sabbatical to find himself
and come back to God a stronger man. He straight-away gives in to lust
and magic mushrooms which, of course, is just another way of saying "If
you have to go to hell go for a reason".
Caswell literally "finds himself" being haunted by his dark side, a
doppelganger he even has a threesome with in a cleverly staged scene.
Despite the low budget and amateur acting, this is an expertly executed
vision of a homosexual hell and it's dark theme is brought home through
shadowy, seemingly candlelit mis-en-scène inter-cut with religious
iconography. The last scene is a black attack on organized religion's
denial of natural desires. The oil painting of Poe and his raven over
the mantle in Caswell's apartment was also a nice touch.
The sex -and there's lots of it- is on the masochistic side and
includes watersports, sex toys, and a cucumber. de Rome's
wetdream-cum-nightmare is obviously very personal, the creation of a
man with some interesting issues -which begs the question, who was this
film intended for? Like Jonas Middleton's XXX THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
(made the same year), the disturbing imagery of a phantasmagorical
universe would be a guaranteed "wood-killer" for the trenchcoat crowd.
It's interesting to note that all three films (MISS JONES, ANGEL,
LOOKING GLASS) hypnotically chant the same mantra: heaven and hell are
one and the same. Life also imitated art at the time with the LOOKING
FOR MR. GOODBAR crime.
These are excellent films made pornographically and the 1970s actually
might have been on to something but, alas, AIDS and the '80s killed
that party -literally- and porn went back to being smut kept behind
closed doors thanks to the VHS home-video boom. THE DESTROYING ANGEL
deserves to be much better-known ...and not just in jerk circles.
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