Monday, June 26, 2017

Adult film star Jean Jennings sings (1976)

From the Rialto Report

Adult film star Jean Jennings was only an adequate dramatic actress, but she appeared in some interesting films and often delivered entertaining if not Oscar-worthy performances. Until recently, I didn't know that she apparently did a little singing too.

Her first film was the non-porn Case of the Full Moon Murders (1973), a surprisingly funny horror/comedy made by many of the same people who worked on Wes Craven's sleazy horror classic The Last House on the Left (1972). She appeared completely nude in a leapfrog scene even though she was only 16 years old at the time. This otherwise unknown film was inexplicably successful in Australia, where it has been reissued on DVD.

Jennings met Fred J. Lincoln, most famously known for his turn as "Weasel" Podowski in The Last House on the Left, while working on Case of the Full Moon Murders, in which he also appeared. He got her involved in Defiance of Good (1975), her adult film debut and also her best film. This was an awesome experimental time in film history when a lot of the same actors and filmmakers were making adult films, horror films, and art films. (Sometimes all at once, as with Thundercrack! [1975].)

Defiance of Good stars Jennings as a teenager whose strict parents catch her experimenting with drugs and commit her to an institution for what is supposed to be a one- or two-week stay. But her time there stretches on and on, and after some horrific experiences, she is taken under the wing of the enigmatic Dr. Gabriel, played by Fred Lincoln.

Dr. Gabriel's unorthodox methods are intended to liberate the minds and bodies of his patients by ridding them of their moral and sexual hangups, but he also turns them into veritable slaves by making them prisoners of his facility and/or cultish adherents to his philosophies.

After Defiance of Good, Jennings appeared in only five more films, all of which were adult films.

One was Autobiography of a Flea (1976), the Mitchell Brothers' attempt to create a female-friendly X-rated crossover hit like Deep Throat but with better production values and more artistic merit. The film was based on the hilarious Victorian erotic novel of the same name and was directed by a young Sharon McNight, a talented singer who subsequently appeared in mainstream television roles and currently tours with her show Songs to Offend Almost Everyone.

The Mitchell Brothers had high hopes for Autobiography of a Flea, because they went all-out with promotion. Romance book cover artist Elaine Gignilliat created one of the four theatrical posters for the film (pictured at right). 

The film was notable for a lot of other reasons, including being the second film of Paul Thomas, who played the male lead, Father Ambrose. Heavy hitters John Holmes and Annette Haven also appeared in this surprisingly faithful adaptation of the novel.

After that, Jennings performed in two Zebedy Colt films.

Zebedy was a real Renaissance man of the underground—a great singer, a serious actor, a gay man who made unlikely inroads into the field of straight adult films, and a director/scriptwriter who has become a cult figure because of his strange and transgressive films. His Unwilling Lovers (1975) is an adult/horror classic that seriously needs to be rediscovered and, ideally, released on Blu-ray, even though it probably will enrage and/or disgust most people who watch it. 

The first Zebedy Colt film in which Jennings appeared was Sharon (1977). Jennings plays a cheerleader—a "Dixie Twirler"—in Atlanta. Her first scene is with Zebedy, and the two of them have great fun hamming it up in the shower with fake southern accents.

Her second film with Colt was her final film, the artsy Virgin Dreams, in which she plays the titular straight-laced girl who is plagued by frightening sexual dreams. Zebedy again plays her father but as a more contemplative character this time.

The point of this article, though, is Jennings's 1976 film Virgin Snow, in which she sings a song with the group Messiah. Messiah also performs the film's theme song. 

The song that Jennings sings is pretty charming, even though she overdoes it with the lip-syncing. As far as I can tell, she's actually singing the vocal. The song is a pretty cool 1970s California-country/soft rock tune.

After Jennings left the adult film business, she worked as a nurse in Florida until her death in 2011. She was married to actor Joe Spinell (The Godfather) for a couple of years before marrying Roosevelt Booker, with whom she remained until her death. Booker, incidentally, died the same year.

Here are Jean Jennings & Messiah in Virgin Snow:

And here's Messiah's theme song from the same film:

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