Laura Gemser has mesmerized Judge Daryl Loomis.
"She has brought something new to sex films."
There's no reason to deny it; Black Emanuelle is bad in all her forms. At best, the films in this series are absurd and dull. At worst, they are utterly reprehensible and represent some of the worst that cinema has to offer. In spite of this fact, the name Emanuelle still carries weight 30 years after the series began. It's easy to argue that this popularity came exclusively from the copious nudity and sex, and this may have been true in 1974. Today, there are far more accessible, and certainly more explicit, avenues to travel down for the same purpose than these Vaseline smeared grind-fests. Yet, Severin Films has felt it necessary to release a second collection of these films. This judge is well-versed in the series and, in full knowledge of its quality, gleefully requested this title for review. The jury must additionally consider whether something is wrong with him.
Facts of the Case
Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade: Globetrotting photojournalist Emanuelle (Laura Gemser, Emmanuelle, Joys of a Woman) uncovers a worldwide prostitution ring and, in order to break the story, sells her body to the highest bidder. Upon arriving at the brothel in exotic San Diego, she jumps headfirst into her new position. While there, she takes a lot of pictures and, though it appears that she will use this evidence to break up the ring, she merely escapes and heads home to write her hot story. Along the way, she has a whole bunch of softcore sex.
Black Emanuelle 2: Emanuelle (now played by a dazed Sharon Lesley) has suffered some kind of trauma and is now in a psychiatric ward for her amnesia. To find a cure, the doctor delves into her past and collects tales of Emanuelle's ravenous sexual appetite from her coworkers, her husband, and disgustingly, her father. Meanwhile, the doctor's wife believes he's spending all this time with his young, attractive patients for a different kind of therapy. He tries to convince her otherwise, but the patients, including his niece, keep trying to seduce him. What's a shrink to do? Did I mention that they have a whole bunch of softcore sex?
Black Emanuelle White Emanuelle: Emanuelle (Gemser again, thankfully), is now a model and in Egypt on a fashion shoot. Her photographer (Gabrielle Tinti) is a Grade-A scumbag who forces her into erotic poses with dead bodies and bits of carrion that he finds in the desert. For no good reason, they are staying with an ultra-rich expatriate family who also houses some shady-looking blonde guy. There isn't much story to speak of. It does, however, have a remarkably bizarre ending that involves goat's blood, as well as a whole bunch of softcore sex.
Our second helping of Black Emanuelle's box presents three different sides of our lovely heroine. Over the years, she has become an icon of sleazy cinema. These movies aren't the sleaziest of the bunch, but they do represent the represent the series without forcing viewers to see things they never thought they'd have to see (without going into details that I'd really like to forget).
Black Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade was released in 1978, has remained largely unseen since, and should have stayed that way. The final teaming of Gemser and director Joe D'Amato (a.k.a. Aristide Massaccesi, Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper) it appears that, in lieu of a story, D'Amato culled together scenes from their previous work and reshot them in exactly the same way. It seems obvious to say but, more than any of the other entries, the scenarios here exist only as an excuse for more sex. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, or even surprising, but they used to try.
Black Emanuelle 2 is the official sequel to the unofficial original film. It's hard to imagine a worse lead actress than Laura Gemser. However, here is Sharon Lesley, who is very beautiful but looks lost throughout the film. Insofar as the story revolves strictly around the magnitude of Emanuelle's sex drive, I guess they accomplished what they set out to do, but it's mind-numbingly dull and looks like a grouping of unconnected scenes. This is easily the worst in the collection; that's really saying something.
The weirdest of all, Black Emanuelle, White Emanuelle is one of the most nonsensical movies I've ever seen but might be, at the same time, the best of the whole lot. Originally titled Velluto nero or Black Velvet, it was not intended to be an Emanuelle movie, but was re-titled in foreign markets to capitalize on the success. This occurred often in Italian cinema, most notably with Franco Nero's films after Django. Written and directed by Brunello Rondi (writer of Fellini's 8½ and Satyricon), it features a shocking amount of style amidst all the T&A. Unfortunately, all this style drives the film straight into the ground and makes the film plain confusing. This film is the only one in the set that features the Italian dub. On this track, Gemser's character is called Emanuelle and her white counterpart is named Laure (Annie Belle, Laure, a.k.a. Forever Emanuelle). The English dub track, however, calls Gemser "Laura" and Belle "Pina," which really doesn't help the confusion. Style is dripping from the screen, but none of it makes any sense. By the time they bring out the goat's blood, I wanted to poke out my eyes.
While it's true that none of the above films makes a lick of sense, this does not make them remarkable. It's their overall viewpoint which sets them apart as truly vile pictures. Completely misogynistic, the sexual violence abounds and, what's worse, the women tend to befriend their aggressors shortly after the attack. Everyone is awful, male or female, only working toward two goals: violence and sex but, preferably, both at once. I feel depraved for even watching. That everybody involved so joyfully wallows in the filth is the icing on this crap cake.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
For all of her problems delivering lines, Laura Gemser had phenomenal charisma. Naked or not, she commands the viewer's attention. More than just beautiful, she added strength and confidence to the character in stark contrast to Sylvia Kristel's naïve original. She can't act at all, but her screen presence is through the roof. These films are freak shows, and there is a fairly strong cult following around these films (sadly, I must include myself). Severin has done all these fans a service with their presentation of Black Emanuelle's Box, Vol. 2. All three films look better than ever before in their anamorphic transfers in their original aspect ratios. There is some dirt on the prints, and it looks like they've pulled from different sources, but they look incredible compared to their video counterparts. All are with their original mono soundtracks, but there is a minimum of static. The highlight of the set is the CD featuring three of Nico Fidenco's scores for Joe D'Amato's Emanuelle films (his other three were featured in the previous collection). This cheesy '70s Europop is often placed into the film inappropriately but, separated from the film, the soundtracks are a lot of fun to listen to.
There is no defending Black Emanuelle, but I have a long standing affection for Laura Gemser and these bewilderingly bad films. At least they have a personality, as opposed to what became of the original character: cable television's "Emmanuelle in Space" series, which is far blander. The CD helps to make the set worth the money, but it's still a high price tag for the quality actually offered. Those who have seen any of the films in the series know whether or not they are in the market for this set. Those who are will not be disappointed. If you've never seen one and are curious, you're definitely in for an experience, but I'd rent one first before laying down money for this collection.
Everybody involved in these productions is guilty of about every film crime in the book. Laura Gemser is ordered to meet me in my chambers to discuss her punishment. I would sentence Joe D'Amato to a lifetime of watching his own films, but he would just laugh and tell me how much money he made off of them. His sentence is suspended. This judge is guilty as well. In my own defense, if loving Emanuelle makes me guilty, I don't want to be innocent. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
• Bonus CD: Getting Down with Emanuelle, Vol. 2
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