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Der Teufel in Miss Jonas (1976)






By the mid-1970s, hardcore still could not be legally screened in most European countries. That situation would soon change in a few flagship regions like Holland, France and Germany, though others like the UK and Belgium stuck to their guns well into the video era. None of this prevented Old World inhabitants of learning about the explicit extravaganzas that were packing movie theaters on the other side of the Atlantic. As yet unseen, Gerard Damiano''s landmark DEEP THROAT and the Mitchell Brothers'' BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR built up mythical reputations by word of mouth that could only be damaged by the sobering reality of these merely modest attempts at broadening a genre thus far limited to brothels and stag parties.

Another early adult film however was rumored to have caused a furore among both paying customers and movie critics, a surprising number of which were perfectly willing to consider these explicit endeavors until legislative clampdown forced the genre into a ghetto where it would adversely flourish, in financial terms even if artistic acceptance was not forthcoming. A liberal adaptation of Sartre''s No Exit filtered through Damiano''s own Catholic hang-ups, DEVIL IN MISS JONES made people sit up and take notice, even those who didn''t have a chance to see it. This brouhaha did not escape the attention of Swiss skin flick mogul Erwin C. Dietrich, who would attain trash cinema immortality through his association with Jess Franco over the next couple of years. Until then, he had been the only one to blame for a string of simulated sex sagas credited to "Michael Thomas", remembered if at all for the exposed charms of starlets who sometimes went on to bigger though not necessarily better things, German TV and tabloid sweetheart Ingrid Steeger being a case in point.

While Dietrich''s reputation rests on corner-cutting as a self-sufficient producer, proud of the fact that he never accepted outside funding, and his marketing savvy as a distributor, it clearly does not extend to any directorial skills, proving a mere hack in this distinction. Still, he managed to keep the copious doses of T&A in focus, through no small help of his true blue DoP Peter Baumgartner, which seemed enough to keep undemanding audiences happy for the time being. With penetration still outlawed, Dietrich did the next best thing, packing his pictures with wall to wall female flesh, pushing the envelope with screen-filling crotch shots.

While only tangentially linked to Damiano''s DEVIL, his TEUFEL IN MISS JONAS does represent an interesting variation on similar themes from a differing viewpoint. No chest beating here as Miss Jones - first name switching sexual icons from De Sade''s tormented Justine to screen goddess Marilyn - is a carefree good time girl rather than a repressed suicidal spinster virgin. A satanic witch trial orgy runs out of hand, ending up with Marilyn (Christa Free) losing her head with a swing of the guillotine. Her death not scheduled just yet, the bemused devil (bottom rung character actor Herbert Fuchs) sends her back home to do more of what got her condemned in the first place. None of this particularly phases Free, most curvaceous of all cottage cheese carnal cuties, who merely delights in scaring the hell out of all the old boyfriends who thought she was dead ! Even her less than loyal domestic (Marianne Dupont, a regular on the SCHOOLGIRL REPORT series), who has been banging said boyfriends on the side, casually shrugs off her employer''s resurrection !

Plot, such as it is, proceeds haphazardly, action economically restricted to a few separate sets. Clocking in at a frugal 72 minutes (as did Damiano''s original), over an hour of which is devoted to non stop nudity, narrative consists of both attractive actresses taking on a succession of severely flawed (old, fat or otherwise "impaired") studs, presumably cast to make male viewers feel good about themselves. Perhaps least objectionable of these is Dietrich regular (simply because without him there would not have been a Swiss sex industry) Jürg Coray, who played Porthos in THE SEX ADVENTURES OF THE THREE MUSKETEERS, as the rotund Carlos. Another familiar sex film mainstay, blond floppy-fringed Michel Jacot, veteran of many an unfunny Kraut tits ''n'' titters caper, appears as the self-possessed Jacques. Film''s denouement curiously prefigures the twist ending to Greg Dark''s DEVIL IN MISS JONES 4 more than a decade later.

Action occasionally strays from Marilyn''s scarlet bedroom to someone''s backyard for bizarre interludes of the main characters clowning about in the altogether, sporting grotesque African masks as a thunderstorm rages, mirroring the supposed inner turmoil no one actually suggests ! Rather surprising then, Dietrich pays homage to Damiano''s famous 6ft under final twist as Free fruitlessly frigs to climax as the disinterested Fuchs gazes on. With just two women on board, a paltry quota by anyone''s arithmetic, he at least cast the roles with starkly contrasting actresses. Free''s bountiful curves would not have been out of place in a Russ Meyer movie while the lissome Dupont provides a gamine counterpoint.

One of those MIA obscurities I thought I would never get the opportunity to sample, it recently resurfaced on German DVD under the director''s Ascot Elite label, sourced from a spotless 35mm print from his vaults, with English subtitles rather than the obligatory grating dub job. A final note of trivia then. A supposed and even more obscure sequel entitled WAS GESCHAH WIRKLICH MIT MISS JONAS ? is touted on the DVD cover as being underway. Not an alternative title for the movie just reviewed, as IMDb would erroneously have it, but featuring much of its cast, this is actually another soft-core adaptation of an American adult film, in this case Jerry Denby''s excellent if also still under the radar WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MISS September ? starring the late great Tina Russell in arguably her career performance as the titular elusive pin-up princess.





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