Review by Rod
for entire set
Cheese" icon does not apply to BLACK EMANUELLE/WHITE EMANUELLE
has graced the world with a second volume of "Black Emanuelle"
movies, bringing another three titles in this very loose series
to Region 1 DVD. They've done a great job presenting the films
but this dip into the erotic pool is less fun than the first.
Not that the box set is without its pleasures, but it gets pretty
strange this time out. Art and sex just don't always mix satisfactorily.
The first film in this new collection is
called Black Emanuelle/White Emanuelle
on the packaging but the onscreen title, in Italian, is Black
Velvet. (There actually isn't a character named "Emanuelle"
in the pic at all.) Directed by a collaborator of Fellini, the
1976 film seems to be trying desperately to say something but
I was never sure what that might be. For the most part it's
the usual amalgam of attractive women going to beautiful places
to do very little. Plot? We don't need no stinking plot! We
have four gorgeous women willing to parade around naked at any
time and in any place. That's all the damned plot we need! Of
course, one might argue that this is true of most of this kind
softcore sexploitation but this one tries so hard to be... something...
that it's never any fun. It's so serious that it slides repeatedly
into the silly category best termed "Artsy Fartsy"
— and that means dullsville, friends!
The very attractive Susan Scott (AKA Nieves
Navarro) plays a middle-aged woman living in a seaside villa
in Egypt. She and her nymphomaniac daughter Magda (Ziggy Zanger)
are waiting with some trepidation for a group of weekend visitors
to arrive. One of the visitors is the youngest of Scott's children,
Pina (Laure's Annie
Belle), who was last seen running off with her dear mother's
third husband. That she's coming to visit with a lesbian lover
does not seem to reassure anyone. The other visitors are model
Laura (Laura Gemser) and her jerk of a photographer Carlo (Gabriele
Tinti, Gemser's frequent co-star and real life husband). Carlo
seems to revel in taking "important pictures" of naked
chicks next to dead bodies, both animal and human. He also likes
abusing his models while commanding them to pose in certain
ways. By the time he chases a crying Laura into the desert and
rapes her I was sure something was being said about art
and ego — but I couldn't have cared less.
So the couples meet at the villa and are
introduced to Horatio (Al Cliver - Zombie,
mystic holy man with a following of locals in awe of his...
I was never really sure why Horatio had followers. He
never said anything revelatory or insightful. Or interesting.
At any rate, he's Scott's lover and it's obvious he doesn't
give a damn about her and is using her for her money. I figured
he was a complete fake until he exhibited some hypnotic abilities
at a party. In this scene he is able to force the people at
the party to reveal their hidden fears and act like morons.
I'm not sure if they were supposed to act like morons but they
did anyway. This party is thrown by expatriate American actor
Hal Burns (Theodore Chaliapin) who appears to be retired from
his career. This character is in the movie to prove that someone
present can act even if he simply fluctuates between under and
overacting with little reason for either style. I'm not sure
that occasionally breaking into random lines from Shakespeare
qualifies as highbrow but these certainly stand out as the more
coherent lines spoken in the film.
The movie meanders along with Scott's character
afraid her daughter will run off with Horatio the same way she
took her third husband. Laura finally tells Carlo to go to hell
and he acts like an idiot. Scattered about are various sex scenes
with the supposed highlight being the sadly dull lesbian encounter
between Belle and Gemser. Neither actress seems very enthused
about being nude with each other so it turns out to be pretty
bland. There seem to be several attempts to make important points
about life, love and sex but they're all so sloppily laid out
that I ended up vacillating between scratching my head and rolling
my eyes. Striking Egyptian locales are shown to no effect and
artfully photographed scenes are constantly undercut by ridiculous
actions from the characters. There is nearly no internal consistency
to the way people interact with each other with every single
decision made by the characters seeming to be completely random.
If some of the odd goings on were supposed to be symbolic or
intellectually insightful I guess they got past me. Sometimes
a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes a sex film just needs
to figure out what it is and get to the point. Merely wandering
around wallowing in decadence and ennui can be pretty damned
2 (1976) is another thing entirely. The movie is sex
happy and proud of it but can't stop shoving its hysterical
plot in the way of the nudity and groping. Luckily the story
is extremely silly and played with such a straight face that
the film becomes an unintentional comedy. There are few things
funnier than stiffly emoting, poorly-dubbed actors going on
and on about the sexual hang-ups of a woman hopping from bed
to bed. It might be "an erotic odyssey" but it's pretty
far from drama. Here our eponymous Emanuelle is played by Sharon
Lesley, making this the only film in the box set not to star
Laura Gemser in the role. Ms. Lesley is certainly a gorgeous
lady with an amazing body but her face is both less interesting
and less striking in its beauty. Gemser is often referred to
as too skinny but Lesley certainly can't be said to have that
flaw. Voluptuous best describes her... This is a woman
with some very nice curves.
The film begins with famous model Emanuelle
having checked herself into a private psychiatric clinic. She
was recently in Beirut where she witnessed a terrorist bombing
and now is having trouble remembering her past. Her psychiatrist,
Paul (Anglo Infanti), digs into the tales she relates about
her life but finds that her spotty memory differs sharply from
the reality laid out by her family and friends. In a plot conceit
that shamelessly steals from Citizen Kane
the doctor goes around questioning people to get their stories
about Emanuelle in an attempt to make sense of what's happened
to her. And, hysterically, the film also steals from Rashômon
the idea of each person telling E's story with the details shown
often being very different from her version. (Rip-off from the
best, I guess!) A photographer friend of Emanuelle's tells of
a night together in Venice that resulted in her freaking out
and screaming at the poor guy while E's story paints this mild-mannered
fellow as a predator. Emanuelle tells the doctor that her father
is a drunken bum living on the street, but instead he's a sober
professional musician who has taken care of his daughter her
whole life. And she professes not to remember her husband Fred
(Percy Hogan), who recounts her voracious sexual appetite that
only kicked in once they were married.
And the doctor has problems of his own on
the home front. Foxy wife Susan (Dagmar Lassander of Forbidden
Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion) is angry that he's spending
so much time at work, ignoring her needs. (If I had her at home
I think I'd be spending more time around the house.) But wifey's
petulant attitude is just a distraction for the dedicated shrink
as he tries to concentrate on Emanuelle's trauma.
Doc's investigation is complicated by the
arrival at the clinic of his nymphomaniac niece, who checks
herself in occasionally to rest and make passes at her uncle.
Soon the girl is convincing Emanuelle to play around in restricted
areas and get naked together. Ah... the joys of multiracial
lesbian pseudo-sex. The lusty duo sneak out of the clinic and
have a threesome with a sailor who can dangle a 12-pound anchor
from his manhood. And then it's back to the doctor to finally
pull the deep dark secret out of E's tortured psyche that explains
why she is so traumatized. Ridiculously, her father could have
cleared this problem up with a simple mention of siblings when
this mess started but then we'd have had a pretty short film.
This information allows Emanuelle to make a breakthrough in
her therapy and then all she has to do is decide with who she
wants to ride off into future happiness.
Calling this film silly is an understatement.
It gets to be so laughable that I kept waiting for talking animals
to start popping up in Emanuelle's flashbacks. And if I'm ever
in a mental hospital I hope the security is as lax as it is
in this one. If the night guard isn't off screwing a nurse he's
prattling on about the long hours he works. And somehow I doubt
most of these kinds of clinics come with hot & cold running
nymphomaniacs — although a guy can dream, I suppose. Overall,
it's a funny but dumb movie that I actually enjoyed for its
sheer goofiness. It's not good by any real measure but it is
The third film in the set was like returning
to an old friend. The last film of the series to be directed
by the amazing Joe (Images
in a Convent) D'Amato, Emanuelle
and the White Slave Trade (1978) has Laura Gemser again
playing her signature role, that of a crusading — and extremely
horny — American photojournalist. Much like previous Emanuelle
collaborations between these two the film unfolds like a loose
collection of sequences masquerading as a story. You almost
get the feeling that the entire tale might have been made up
after the fact when they were dubbing the dialog. For me this
adds rather than detracts from the fun. After all, the point
here is the scenery and even as the story veers into dark territory
it remains oddly light. And damned silly as well!
The film opens with Emanuelle in Nairobi,
trying to get an interview with wealthy recluse Giorgio Rivetti
(Valentino Venantini, The Beast in
Space). Turned away from the man's house without even spotting
him, E and her ex-model friend Susan (Ely Galleani) pose as
stewardesses to get close to Prince Arausani (Pierre Marfurt).
The prince is being wined and dined by Rivetti to influence
him to ink an oil deal with Kenya. The charming Prince sees
through the girls' subterfuge but after talking to them agrees
to introduce the bikini-clad ladies to Rivetti any way. At first
Rivetti is angered at having a journalist in his home but he
slowly softens, soon enlisting Emanuelle to help him convince
Arausani to sign the oil papers. She agrees for the right to
an interview and soon the four of them are off on a photo safari
and gliding over the African veldt in a hot air balloon. Of
course, sex is the next logical step. Soon the happy prince
has signed on the dotted line and gone home, leaving Susan and
Emanuelle time to have a drug fueled threesome with Rivetti.
I love a happy ending. Oh, wait! That's only the first 30 minutes!
Now for the plot.
Before Emanuelle goes back to America she
spots for a second time a woman involved in a shady public money
drop on the streets of Nairobi. Rivetti tells her that the man
she notices with this woman is named Francis Harley (Tinti again)
— who's rumored to be involved in the white slave trade. E arches
her eyebrows and begins to think.
Back home she starts looking into Mr. Harley's
activities. Following him around town she's able to surreptitiously
watch him participate in a slave auction — right in the heart
of Manhattan! (The things they keep off the tourist routes...)
She disguises herself as a down-on-her-luck but still hotter
than hell gal alone in the big city. She's able to meet Harley
easily enough and soon he's making her an aboveboard offer of
work as a high class prostitute. Emanuelle agrees and she's
off to San Diego where she's ensconced in an upscale brothel
on a country estate. The place caters to very wealthy men and
lesbian Madam Claude of the house informs E that The Organization
frowns on people that talk about their business.
Emanuelle settles in, performs her first
trick (while the masturbating Madam watches) and finally sneaks
around the house to peep at the sexual shenanigans in the various
rooms. This is a standard D'Amato sequence, with Gemser snapping
pictures of sex scenes that could be filmed either hard or softcore.
Similar sequences turn up in at least two other of his Black
Emanuelle movies and I always find them welcome. But , of course,
I'm a perv.
Then poor Emanuelle is caught with the camera.
Things look bleak until she gains an unexpected ally in the
madam's cross-dressing second-in-command. He spirits her away
from the estate but the pair are then attacked by Organization
minions. This sequence is one of the funniest things I've seen
in years! There's nothing like seeing a man dressed in drag
whip out some kung fu badassness on a group of stuntmen. (At
a bowling alley, no less.) I watched this whole scene
at least three times and the violence gets funnier each time.
This needs to be on YouTube!
The evil minions rape Emanuelle (you didn't
think she’d make it through one of these movies without getting
raped, did you?) and ship her off to a private hospital. Here
she's scheduled for a nice little lobotomy but a randy lesbian
nurse provides an accidental way to break free. You gotta love
the old prison laundry truck escape. The film ends with our
lovely Ms. Emanuelle trading group sex with a boatload of fishermen
for a ride to Los Angeles. And she does it with a smile!
Wacky in the extreme, this is exactly what
I come to a Black Emanuelle film looking to see. Some exotic
locations, some gorgeous naked women, some lesbian sex, some
straight sex and ...uh... whatever else gets tossed in to fill
roughly 90 minutes. Globe hopping and bed hopping are the hallmarks
of these films, with the always game Ms. Gemser going about
it all with a twinkle in her eye. White
Slave Trade isn’t the best of the series in my opinion
but it is a good entry. Never boring and always in motion, the
film kept my interest with its crazy mix of off-the-wall elements.
It seems to be two separate story ideas welded together for
feature length but the enthusiasm and energy is infectious.
Special mention should be made of the insane song that plays
over the opening and closing credits, "Run, Cheetah, Run"
— one of the nuttiest bits of '70s disco funkiness I've yet
encountered. I'm pretty sure the vocalist was not well
acquainted with the English language. Few things make me laugh
harder than someone singing in a tongue in which they aren't
fluent, constantly putting the wrong inflection on words. Hysterical!
(You can give it a listen by clicking on the speaker icon near
the top of the left-hand sidebar.) This film is a fun bit of
Euro-sleaze and well worth checking out for anyone curious.
The fact that the back cover of the DVD case claims this complete
print was found in the private collection of a "depraved
European industrialist" just adds to the craziness. If
this is true, what other bits of trashy madness await us in
future Severin DVDs?
of the three films is given its own disc and each has its own
slight extras. All sport a short interview piece and a trailer
for the movie presented, often under an alternate title. The Black
Emanuelle/White Emanuelle interview is with actors Al Cliver
and Annie Belle. They talk a little about the experience of making
the film and relate the short form of their years-long love affair.
The Black Emanuelle
2 extra is a recent interview with Dagmar Lassander called
Diva '70. The retired actress is very open about her career
and has some fascinating tales. This interview I wished had been
longer and gone into her credits with more depth but what's offered
is very good. On Emanuelle
and the White Slave Trade the extra is a candid interview
with Joe D'Amato captured on a camcorder. Filmed in 1994 'after
hours' at a convention in London, the director is questioned about
his hardcore films and what he likes in his own list of works.
This is a very informal interview; even though he isn't entirely
comfortable speaking in English a lot of great information is
presented. As with Black
Emanuelle's Box, Vol. 1, a CD of soundtrack music from three
films in the series is included — in this case Emanuelle
in America, Emanuelle
and the Last Cannibals and Emanuelle
and the White Slave Trade (the latter under the title Life
Of A Prostitute). Again, this is a great extra and one that's
getting much play through my headphones.
This set is quite an addition to the Eurotrash
stack and Severin continues to do an exemplary job. Each film
is presented widescreen and enhanced for 16x9 TVs (of course).
Only Black Emanuelle/White Emanuelle
has more than one audio option, with both the Italian and English
tracks plus optional subtitles. The other two movies make due
with only the English dub jobs which are serviceable if not exactly
perfect versions of the dialog shown onscreen. Only White
Slave Trade had any picture or sound faults but they were
very brief. Overall this is a satisfying dip into the European
erotica pool but not as much fun as the first box set. I wonder
if there are plans for third...