Emanuelle in America
Italy / 1976
Directed by
Joe D'Amato
Laura Gemser
Gabriele Tinti
Lorraine De Selle
Color / 100 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
Blue Underground
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
    7   10 = Highest Rating  
SNEAK PREVIEW | DVD Release Date: June 24, 2003
Just one of a slew of rip-offs and pseudo-sequels to the original Emmanuelle starring Sylvia Kristel (1974), Emanuelle in America* marked yet another collaboration between Indonesian sex goddess Laura Gemser and Italian director "Joe D'Amato" (real name: Aristide Massacessi). In its uncut form the film is a fairly innocuous (not to mention plotless) 'hard R' sex flick that is, until the insertion of some hardcore porn scenes and a sudden left turn into graphic gore territory. Then there's the participation of Pedro the horse...
Gemser's Emanuelle is a nudie photographer/investigative journalist (???) based in New York City. When wearing her reporter hat she travels the world in search of exclusive stories, each of which invariably has a substantial sexual component. That she's willing to strip and hop in the sack at a moment's notice in pursuit of a scoop serves her well. During the course of the movie Emanuelle infiltrates a tycoon's private harem, becomes involved in the kinky pastimes of Venetian aristocrats, tours a posh island resort catering to the sex fantasies of rich women, and uncovers an illicit snuff film trade between an unnamed South American country and debauched politicos in Washington DC. She gets naked a lot and boinks just about everybody, male or female. Such dedication! Good thing her boyfriend doesn't really mind.
    Of course her job as a journalist is merely an excuse to get Emanuelle into kinky situations and out of her clothes (along with most of the other female characters). Horndogs can't go wrong with this flick, as there's nudity galore and most of the ladies on display are attractive. Connoisseurs of the prurient will doubtless have no problem with the inclusion of three minutes of hardcore porn action mostly fellatio, but also a bit of penetration that suddenly rears its head (pun intended) about halfway into the picture. (Gemser herself never participates in any of the X-rated scenes, merely 'observing' via the magic of editing.) But just what the appeal of the infamous horse stroking scene is supposed to be I can't begin to fathom. Is this supposed to be a turn on? If so, I can happily report that equine masturbation does absolutely nothing for me. D'Amato certainly isn't making any kind of artistic statement here... For no real reason whatever, we get to watch a naked woman coo lovingly to Pedro the horse while she manually stimulates him. Besides disgust, the only reaction I could imagine any normal person having to this sequence would be thinking, "Jeez! Horses sure have big dicks!" (Provided the viewer never lived on or visited a farm or ranch, that is.)
    Blow jobs, squirting man-juice and equestrian antics aside, where the movie takes a decidedly bizarre turn is in its inclusion of gore via the snuff film subplot. While snooping around the pleasure island Emanuelle sees a woman and her rented stud watching a disturbing film of apparently real torture and murder. Determined to learn its source, our heroine tracks a lead to a Washington politician whose taste in cinema leans towards the taboo. She seduces the pol to learn where the snuff film originated. After screening some of the footage together he drugs Emanuelle and takes her on a plane trip to somewhere in South America. At a military base the pair get to watch a snuff film being made
woman are stripped, horribly tortured and then brutally killed while a camera rolls. Still in a drug-induced haze, the next thing Emanuelle recalls is waking up back in the United States. Was it all just some nightmarish dream?
    Apparently not. Photos taken with her miniature spy camera prove the experience was real. Unfortunately her editor decides the story is too incendiary to publish. The photo evidence is filed away and the matter dropped. (Does she work for Fox News or something?) The wicked politician suffers no ill consequences. Oh well! Thus the whole snuff angle amounts to a big fat zero plot-wise, just another pointless episode in Emanuelle's globetrotting. So why is it there? Brief as it is the snuff footage is quite disturbing and realistic-looking, certainly not for the squeamish. (Women are beaten, gang-raped and forced to drink acid, breasts are hacked off, etc.) If D'Amato was attempting to blend the sex and horror genres then his gambit fails the gore is arbitrarily tacked on for absolutely no other reason than to shock.
Actually, a lot of the movie seems arbitrary; this, after all, is to be expected with sex flicks. Script quality is always low on the priority list. The goal is to get the ladies out of their clothes and into steamy situations as quickly and regularly as possible. This D'Amato readily achieves. One of the better exploitation film directors, he ensures everything looks as enticing as possible and makes good use of location filming. (The title is something of a mystery, though; from Venice to the Caribbean to Latin America and finally to Africa, Ms. Gemser spends less than half the running time in the good ol' U.S.A.) Were it not for the hardcore porn inserts, Pedro's schlong and the gory snuff sequences the film would play exactly like one of those lame, goofily dubbed European sexploitation flicks they used to run on Cinemax back in the late '80s-early '90s. (The coffee table/wet bar combo made to look like a giant pack of Marlboros is pretty cool.)
* Notice there's only one "M" in D'Amato's "Emanuelle"... The spelling change was to avoid charges of plagiarism!

With their usual attention to quality the folks at Blue Underground serve up this steaming sleaze goulash on a silver platter. A/V specs are exemplary, with a beautiful looking widescreen transfer and a solid mono audio track. Optional Italian and French language tracks are also selectable, with the qualitative edge going to the Italian one among all three. (Alas, there are no subtitles options.)
U accentuates the DVD's main course with a selection of notable side dishes. First, there's a video interview with director Joe D'Amato, culled from a Italian documentary about his work made prior to his death. He discusses his approach to erotic cinema, his long professional and personal camaraderie with leading lady Gemser, and tells a hilarious story about a male actor's on-camera erectile dysfunction. An audio interview with the reclusive Laura Gemser, taped in 1996, will be of significant interest to her legion of fans. She talks candidly about working in sex films basically it was a job that paid well and allowed her to travel extensively and praises D'Amato, with whom she developed a strong friendship. This Q & A session runs 11 minutes and is accompanied by a montage gallery of poster art/promotional stills from many of her Emanuelle films along with a number of cheesecake shots.
Completing the roster of extras are talent bios of D'Amato and Gemser and a terrific step-through essay, The Unofficial Emmanuelle Phenomenon by David Flint, which puts the film and the entire Em(m)anuelle craze into perspective. 6/18/03