Title: The Destroying Angel
Director: Peter De Rome (as Peter de Rome)
Writers: Edgar Allan Poe (story), Peter De Rome (as Peter de Rome)
Stars: Timothy Kent, Bill Eld, Philip Darden
Runtime: 62 min
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.