Emanuelle's Box, Vol. 1
Around The World
Review by Rod
for entire set
not sure what's come over me but I'm beginning to actually like
the Emanuelle films. Don't get me wrong —
I've not suddenly found hidden depths of meaning or unplumbed
pockets of brilliance in these T & A movies. But I have somehow
found a frame of mind in which I understand their appeal much
more than when I saw them as pointless excuses for nudity and
soft-core groping. This change of heart happened while watching
Emanuelle in Bangkok. Usually I
would have been frustrated by the lack of any real story or
forward momentum but instead I found myself caught up in the
pure sensual pleasure of looking at beautiful women and beautiful
places. I felt at ease; maybe even comforted by the pace of
the film with its essential lack of story and almost complete
absence of conflict. It soothed me... Nay, it washed over me
like warm soapy water dripping from a naked oriental massage
girl. But I've gotten ahead of myself.
Severin has released what promises to be
the first in a series of boxed sets of the "Black Emanuelle"
films. Produced in the 1970s and '80s, they were a huge international
hit quite apart from the Emmanuelle (spelled with two
M's) films they were imitating; they now have a much more vocal
fan base in the 21st century. Whether by accident or design
the three movies here show Laura Gemser's Emanuelle move from
lustful sex kitten to crusading journalist to penitent daughter
of Christ. It's a long strange trip but I definitely enjoyed
The onscreen credits give the title of the
first film in the set as Black Emanuelle En Orient but
the more common name is Emanuelle in Bangkok.
The credits both at the beginning and end of the film are clearly
taken from a much inferior French language print and these sequences
look awful. Happily the majority of the picture looks infinitely
better. The movie begins with American photojournalist Emanuelle
(Laura Gemser) in Thailand visiting her archeologist lover Roberto
Sinners' Gabriele Tinti, Gemser's real-life spouse). He's
there to participate in a dig upcountry while Emanuelle is going
to Bangkok to try to interview the king. Roberto obviously wants
the beautiful lady all to himself but she's not ready to settle
down. Indeed 'settle down' is a phrase I'm not sure she would
even understand as 'E' is easily one of the least inhibited
women in history, with one eye on the lookout for new sexual
experiences at all times. So off she goes, bouncing from one
encounter to another as she's shown around the country by royal
cousin Prince Sanit (The
Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh's Ivan Rassimov) while waiting
for a chance to meet the monarch. She dallies with a young hotel
employee and is sent to a special massage parlor by the prince,
where she's given a full body bath by cute little Gee (Koike
Mahoce). Gee shows her new friend around some of the less prosperous
areas of the city; then Roberto shows back up in the company
of a rich American tourist couple. The prince joins this odd
group for a night on the town, the highlight of which has to
be the stripper that insets ping pong balls into a very personal,
private place. I never thought I'd see that, let me tell you!
After a group opium smoking session at the
prince's house an impromptu orgy breaks out that sees the American
couple decide that maybe they weren't made or each other. And
as both of them end up sleeping with Emanuelle, maybe the reporter
has a vocation as marriage counselor in her future. Up until
now the film has been a plotless but gorgeous travelogue of
Thailand, interspersed with nudity... Then suddenly the prince
disappears because of an attempted coup and Emanuelle is gang
raped by a bunch of thugs. As shocking a turn of events as this
is its nothing compared to how she then befriends the rapists,
who send her on her way with the warning to get out of the country
for her own safety. I guess E is just so damned good in the
sack that no one can have her and dislike her. Bizarre.
Since her passport and camera have been stolen she has more
sex to procure a way out of Thailand and heads to Casablanca
with the American wife to link back up with Roberto. Of course,
there is sex on the plane with the newly liberated wife. Man!
If life was only like this! Once in Morocco Emanuelle meets
the cute young daughter of the American ambassador, befriending
her and impressing her father. While waiting for the ambassador
to get her a new passport E ventures out into the desert to
find Roberto and his new English fiancée. Within a few hours
all three are on very friendly terms and the two girls have
even gone off on their on to play with some nice Arab gentlemen.
There is no situation you can't screw your way out of, huh?
The film concludes with Emanuelle having a touching lesbian
romance with the ambassador's daughter that ends when a new
assignment comes in from her newspaper editor. The girls part
sadly at the airport as the credits roll.
Now I would never claim Emanuelle
in Bangkok is a great film but I did enjoy it. Devoid
of plot, characterization, logic or even conflict (except for
the out-of-place rape scene) it is less a film than a tone poem
about nothing more than enjoying the exotic and erotic sights
it scrolls before you. It's soothing and arousing in almost
equal measure and just might be perfect for an evening's viewing
with that special someone. This is what sex films can be when
they strike the right notes.
But as I advanced to the next film in the
set, Emanuelle Around the World
(onscreen title Le Vice Dans La Peau), I find that director
Joe D'Amato (real name Aristide Massaccesi) opted for something
different this time out. He decided to have not only conflict,
but a story! Not necessarily a bad idea, but a funny thing happened
on the way to a plot. While Emanuelle
in Bangkok was fun in a silly way, by injecting a serious
tale of white slavery into Emanuelle's world the tone goes from
silly to stupid. While EIB was
ham-handed in its construction and character motivations (when
there were any), it didn't matter so much as we weren't being
asked to take things seriously at all. But in EATW
we are confronted with all kinds of sexual cruelty that repeatedly
destroys the occasional eroticism. At best we are placed in
the arena of the drooling voyeur crudely trying to see where
that banana is going to be shoved. It’s a film at least as technically
accomplished as EIB but it is just not enjoyable in the same
The film starts with Emanuelle arriving in
San Francisco after having spent a few months out of touch with
the world living on a desert island. D'Amato uses the first
few post credit scenes to get across a coming change in tone
with E telling a friend, "I was looking for happiness
but I got lost." It's almost as if both director and
star are symbolically throwing away Emanuelle's old values of
'looking for love' anywhere and everywhere to do something positive
for society. Of course the subject they tackle is white slavery.
Big shock that it would be something that involved naked women,
huh? In Frisco Emanuelle talks with her colleague Cora Norman
(Karen Schubert, Black
Venus) a crusading reporter famous for crime exposés.
A letter from her New York editor begs Emanuelle to come back
to work, so she flies there in the company of a new acquaintance,
Dr. Malcolm Robertson (Ivan Rassimov, returning to the series).
Robertson works at the United Nations on third world policy
focusing on hunger relief. Emanuelle tells him how she’s never
wanted to be a serious reporter and likes the fame her sexy
photographs bring. In keeping with her past adventures the newspaper
sends her to India to interview a new guru. The fellow (played
by George Eastman looking like a sexy Jesus!) has a 'School
of the Kama Sutra', teaches tantric sex and turns out to be
a pretty crappy lover. He does stage an interesting "orgasm-free"
After this sad encounter our feisty girl
reporter decides she wants to do something important with her
life and selects violence against women as her target. She travels
to Rome, meets up with Cara who is already working on a white
slavery story and in short order has gotten herself kidnapped
by bad guys. It's as easy as looking for a white Rolls Royce!
The abduction turns nasty with an unnamed scar-faced scumbag
raping a young girl before we jump cut to the next day. We're
told the cops arrived, the bad guys have been arrested and everything
is wonderful again in Rome —
I'm not kidding. The movie completely skips from scumbags raping
girls to "Aren't we lucky Emanuelle had that guy follow
us when we were kidnapped." It ignores the chance for
suspense, tension or anything approximating excitement just
to get on with things. I guess it's just not that kind of movie.
Instead we're treated to Cora getting raped by more white slavers
as a lesson to her not to interfere. Or something like that.
I wasn't really clear why she got raped other than it just seemed
like ALL the female characters in this film get raped.
Clearly emboldened by their success (and
forgetting the rape, I suppose) the two reporters follow another
lead to Hong Kong, where they dig into the Oriental white slavery
market. Here we witness more rape and some forced bestiality
with a German Shepard before we learn that an Arab emir is the
true beneficiary of the slave trade. He turns out to not be
too bad a guy; in exchange for sex with both Emanuelle and Cora
he ends the white slavery ring operating out of Macau! Is there
nothing that woman's moist nether regions can't accomplish?
After this triumph Emanuelle gets a lead on a crooked politician
in Washington so it's off to D.C. for another bout of rape courtesy
of a group of bums enticed by a naked girl forced to dance before
them. Once again we jump to the next day, with the cops having
arrived to fix everything and Emanuelle getting out of the situation
with little more than another rape or two. At this point the
film has passed the 90 minute mark so our intrepid do-gooder
sails off into the distance with Dr. Robertson for a vacation.
After the casual sexual shenanigans of Emanuelle
in Bangkok this one was a bit of a shock. The same playful
tone is present at first, but with the shift to pursuing criminals
it takes on a nasty feel that no amount of poorly written moralizing
can purge. By the fourth or fifth rape I began to feel like
I was being asked to witness evidence in a sex crime trial.
Where's the fun? Where's the joy? Ah, Black Emanuelle —
where is the graceful abandon of consensual lust?
So following her conversion to conscience-driven
reporter it's a little easier to accept the major change the
divine Ms. E makes in Sister Emanuelle.
Having become disillusioned by her hedonistic lifestyle, she
has entered a convent and become a nun. Trying to put her lustful
past behind her, she strives to overcome her sexual desires
but this is made much harder when a new student is enrolled
in the convent's school. Monica (Mónica Zanchi) is a beautiful
young girl forced by her rich father to attend the convent.
Showing a healthy appetite for both sexes, Monica tempts Emanuelle
even before the girl climbs into her bunk on the train ride
to the school. The sister holds her off so she slips out to
have sex with the conductor. Nymphomaniacs just want to have
fun! Once at the secluded school the new student quickly seduces
her prim roommate and then by pure luck finds a fleeing criminal
named René (Gabriele Tinti) hiding in the woods nearby.
Working her considerable charms on the bankrobbing killer, she
sneaks him into the school and hides him in an unused tower.
(A girl's got to have some variety in bed.) Contriving to have
Sister Emanuelle find the two of them puts René in the
position of forcing the nun to keep silent by threatening to
kill everyone. Monica then informs Emanuelle that René
wants the virginal Anna (Vinja Locatelli) brought to him, prompting
the nun to offer herself instead. Monica brings Anna up to watch
E and René having sex but the girls are spotted by the
mute, guntoting groundskeeper. The resultant mess finally gets
the lascivious girl expelled but as Sister Emanuelle drives
her to meet her train a new surprise is in store.
The only movie in this set not directed by
Joe D'Amato, I really enjoyed this one as it managed to have
a story (if slight and ultimately shaggy-doggish) and be quite
erotic without the nastiness of EATW.
That Emanuelle is not the main lovely engaging in the romps
is also a nice change. Mónica Zanchi steps up to the challenges
of the central role quite effectively, bringing both a natural
beauty and a bed full of enthusiasm to every scene. Of course
it wouldn't be a Black Emanuelle film without Ms. Gemser showing
off her fine form and eventually making with the horizontal
bop, but the change of main feminine scenery was inspired. Having
the young nympho be a conniving pain in the ass also added to
the interest level, throwing a few curves that I really couldn't
see coming. There is very little wasted time in Sister
Emanuelle aside from the silly few minutes spent on an
older nun's bladder control problem (!); the film's conclusion
made me curious about the further adventures of the beautiful
Emanuelle. That's something I never expected to say about this
series of movies. I should mention that there is one odd moment
near the end where there is obviously some footage missing...
After Emanuelle strings Monica up in a barn the girl goes from
fully clothed to mostly naked with a jump cut that just screams
'trimmed for content'. With all the flesh on display I wonder
what might have prompted this edit?
DVDs of these films are on the whole very good. All have sharp
pictures except for the already mentioned credit sequences in
EIB. There are occasional scratches
or speckling but this is rare and not distracting. The letterboxed
anamorphic transfers are wonderfully colorful, with the often
amazing set design popping off the TV. All three discs have both
the English and Italian original Mono dubs (with optional English
subtitles for the latter). The extras are spread around all the
discs. On the first DVD here is a brief interview with D'Amato
recorded at a film convention. The camcorder footage is not very
good, with subtitles added even though both participants are speaking
English. This isn't a very informative piece — the interviewer
plays more to the audience than he should, coaxing applause and
wasting time but I'm glad to have the chance to see it. The second
disc has a very well done interview with composer Nico Fidenco
talking about his work on various films, including three of the
Emanuelles. Packaged in with Emanuelle Around
the World is an audio CD of his scores for these films;
this is easily the best of the bonus material here. Divorced from
the pretty images, this music proves to be great stuff that can
stand on its own. For obscure soundtrack aficionados this is one
to seek out.
is the only film to have some deleted/alternate scenes enclosed.
These four bits are mostly throwaway moments; there's some brief
hard-core footage in there but none of the stuff cut from the
barn sequence. Included inside the box are six reproductions of
various international posters for the three films. (They're a
nice addition but nothing special.) All three discs also contain
their respective theatrical trailers. Altogether this is a fine
package, even if I think they should have added the XXX version
of EATW to the set. At this price
you should really be getting the whole deal instead of having
to shell out more for the racier version.