In 1974, the controversial film adaptation of the equally-controversial novel “Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman” found its way to the big screen and was garnished with praise and scrutiny alike. Being good businesspeople, the Italians were quick to cash in on the international success the film had and a new exploitation franchise was born: Black Emanuelle (note the lack of an ‘m’ to prevent the lawsuit that would definitely have followed).
This DVD box set from the sleazemeisters at Severin Films brings us two ‘official’ Black Emanuelle films, (I‘m not sure if ‘official’ is the right word…this is exploitation cinema we‘re talking about) and Velluto Nero: a very bad, very stupid film that was also released as Black Emanuelle, White Emanuelle. Naturally, logic tells me to start with this film. Why? Because it was the first in the box, dummy, that’s why!
Black Emanuelle, White Emanuelle (1976):
Egypt. Crystal (Nieves Navarro aka Susan Scott) is a rich lady that likes to have sex with servant, Ali (Tarik Ali). Magda (the delicately named Ziggy Zanger) is some chick whose relation to the entire cast is never explained and to whom I shall refer to as The Third Wheel Lady. Enter Gabriele Tinti as abusive, dickhead photographer named Carlo and his real-life wife, Laura Gemser (who plays a model named Laura). Carlo overacts and forces Laura to pose next to a decaying dog carcass.
Relax…it hasn’t even started getting weird, yet. The great Al Cliver (Zombie) plays Horatio (he’s referred to as Antonio in the Italian dub), a wandering hippie mystic kind of dude who was on a spiritual journey with his disciples until he met and subsequently shacked up with Crystal. We first meet him standing in the desert with his Jesus Christ Superstar rejects before sending them all on their less-than-merry “where do we go from here, o great spiritual leader” way when they ask him to give up staying with the rich lady and a life of constant sex. Crystal comes over, kneels, he babbles some mumbo jumbo about spiritualism and promptly delivers an off-camera load of semen to her face (without any help from either of them…that’s either really impressive or the poor boy has a problem). For years now, people have been telling me to find some sort of religion. I think I found one: I want to teach whatever belief Al Cliver teaches in this film to wayward college cheerleaders and out-of-control female celebrities.
OK, so Magda teases the servant guy. Then there’s some implied off-screen sex. Next, we attend a party at Hal’s, an old gay Timothy Leary-looking guy (Feodor Chaliapin, Jr.) who is surrounded by young boys. Horatio, Crystal and Magda have a three-way. Hal rubs his hands all over them.
No, it still isn’t weird. Wait for it… Pia (Al’s real-life wife at the time, Annie Belle) shows up, strips naked and promptly takes a nap with her mom. Magda resents Pia (for some reason) and takes her frustrations out on poor Ali. Laura and Pia go joyriding in the desert with Carlo. The joyride is cut short when they encounter a large number of massacre victims rotting away in the sun. Not wanting such a bummer to ruin his day, Carlo again forces Laura to be photographed with the dead bodies of adults and children alike (you‘d think she‘d learn by now). After watching for what must only have been a few hours (and several costume changes on Laura‘s behalf), Pia finally objects to the whole idea. Then Laura begins to have a thought: “Maybe I should also object.” Carlo overacts, objects to the objecting, and rapes promptly Laura.
You’d think it was weird yet, but no…the girls ditch Carlo in the desert (a sign of near-intelligence on their part) and go shopping (OK, I take it back). They walk into a random house where people are having sex all over the place (no doubt a Chamber Mixer). Fortunately for the viewer, they stop to watch two hot chicks. A third hot chick walks in, provides Laura and Pia with a drink, and joins the other two hot chicks. Then we cut to Laura and Annie gettin’ it on. These scenes do not last long enough.
Well, after spiritual orgies, old queens with underage house servants, photo shoots amongst the newly dead and softcore lesbian sex, it’s time for a boat ride! The whole gang stop to check out a temple. Carlo and Pia fight. In the next shot, they’re sitting on the boat again. Hal, Pia and Magda go ashore to another temple. Sure enough, a bottle of J&B Scotch manages to show up (did J&B finance the entire Italian film industry in the 70s?) and, while Hal quotes Richard III, Pia wanders off to see Magda being gangbanged by two strangers. This brings about a heart to heart conversation between the girls about orgasms and feeling fresh (I seriously wondered if it was going to turn into a tampon commercial at several points in this film). Hal decides to stay at the ruins to die (some people can just turn of their life like a light switch, you know), but Pia brings him back to reality by telling him he’s a bad actor!
At this point, even the most patient viewer will no doubt throw their arms into the air and shout, “I just don’t know!” I know I did. Alright, alright, I’ve been avoiding this issue the whole time: this is a fucking weird flick!
Moving on: during a dinner/celebration thing, Crystal utters “There’s just endless, immeasurable, eternal boredom.” (oh, how true…). Horatio takes his messiah complex to the next level and makes everyone express their fears or dreams (or something like that) by simply pointing at them (again, either impressive or problematic). The already annoying music becomes almost unbearable. Laura decides she’s had enough of this movie and sacrifices a goat in order to leave. Carlo overacts (again). Pia dances to disco music when Horatio is unable to control her: “My powers are stronger than yours,” she says (it’s official, folks: lesbianism is more powerful than mysticism).
The remaining gang visits another goddamn temple where Pia decides to jump the fence and make out with Horatio (if you’ve ever wanted to see Al Cliver completely naked, here’s your chance: run, don’t walk to the nearest video store.) Pia then persuades Al to leave Crystal because they’re in love now! Sensing a little late in life that this film will ruin her career, Crystal runs to the top of the temple (and she runs quick, too, as it‘s a big temple!) and threatens to jump off. Like any good daughter that naps naked with her mother, Pia merely dares her to do it. She doesn‘t (damn). No, instead she falls to her knees and cries. Pia breaks up with Al (yes, just like that…typical) and walks off into the desert with Laura.
That’s it, folks. If you’ve never seen a Black Emanuelle film, do not watch this one first as it is not part of the legacy, but rather a bizarre, flick full of nudity, sex (most of which is implied or short-lived) and not much else. Perhaps it was supposed to be a social commentary on the lifestyles of the rich. Perhaps it’s just a really ineptly-made, inane film. I’m going with the latter. Enjoy. Next film, please…
Black Emanuelle 2 (1976):
Get ready for a wild, confusing ride in this sequel to the first Black Emanuelle film (which itself was available from several independent distributors before they went out-of-print). After being injured in Beirut on a photo shoot, Emanuelle (this time played by Sharon Lesley) finds herself a patient at a psychiatric clinic (that, or it’s a hotel with really aggressive bellhops…they look like bellhops…the patients even have phones in their single-occupant rooms…I was never privy to such high-class accommodations) with a bad case of selective amnesia (and a case of bad acting).
Emanuelle’s doctor, Fred (Angelo Infanti) attempts to put the pieces of her past together by visiting people from her past: her photographer, her father (Don Powell, who also wrote some of the score), her ex-husband (Percy Hogan), etc. Her memories of each person varies (she thinks she was molested by both the photographer and her father, she thinks her father is her ex-husband, she doesn’t remember being married, yada yada yada.) and we jump from scene to scene in a vain attempt to grab hold of a plot…any plot.
There’s nothing exceptionally spectacular here, other than Lesley’s fabulous figure and Dagmar Lassander shouting the line “Up your fat fanny with you and your Freud!” Other highlights of this film include Emanuelle and Fred’s niece Sharon (Danielle Ellison…at least, I think that’s who plays the part) hitting it off with some body painting, dancing to funky disco music and the inevitable (but nonetheless appreciated softcore lesbian scene), awful dialogue that’s supposed to be humorous but misses the mark so badly that it actually becomes funny, the obligatory bottle of J&B Scotch (several times!), a softcore three-way muscular guy that supports a 12lb anchor with his penis, a hot nurse, two comic relief characters (an old general and the one and only security guard on the premises) and a plot twist or two. Yes, it’s a bit on the dull and bland side, and I’m sure that’s why the franchise would take such bizarre twists in later installments like many of the entries from Joe D’Amato like Emanuelle And The White Slave Trade.
Emanuelle And The White Slave Trade (1978):
The late, great Joe D’Amato brings us his final directorial effort with Laura Gemser as Emanuelle in the ultra-sleazy Emanuelle And The White Slave Trade (it’s nowhere near as sleazy as some of his other collaborations with Gemser that preceded this).
Our rather vain search for a plot begins with journalist Emanuelle (Laura Gemser again) in Africa (I’m guessing it’s Africa, at least: there are natives, safaris and giraffes everywhere during the opening credits) trying to grab a snapshot of International gangster Giorgio Rivetti. When she and her friend Susan (Ely Galleani) are asked to leave the grounds, they drive around for a bit talking about stuff (I couldn’t concentrate on the dialogue as the camera in that scene was situated in the back seat, the actress was doing her own driving, and the other drivers out there didn’t seem to take notice of lights, signs, oncoming traffic, etc. – it is quite possibly the scariest scene in the movie). Anyway, Susan’s car (conveniently) has some trouble and she promptly has sex with a mechanic (the coroner from Fulci’s Zombie – he keeps his pants on).
At the airport, Emanuelle notices a wheelchair-bound woman being handed off from a mysterious man to another in exchange for a briefcase. The police arrest the guy with the briefcase. Hmmm…what could it mean? Well, the girls find a way in to Rivetti’s estate with Prince Arausani (Pierre Marfurt). At first, Rivetti (Venantino Venantini) objects to the girls’ being there, but that all changes after we cut to a scene of Emanuelle and Susan in the shower together (he must have a peephole somewhere). Then, Rivetti takes everyone on a safari (for being reclusive, he sure gets out a lot), followed by a native ritual, followed by two softcore sex scenes with our newfound couples (Emanuelle with Arausani and Susan with Rivetti).
At a marketplace somewhere, Emanuelle sees the woman from the wheelchair on her feet being carted off by the mysterious man and put into a car. As suspicious as this may seem, the devoted journalist decides to get high and have a three-way with Susan and Rivetti (it is a requirement in these films that somebody have sex or get naked every five minutes or else the audience might get bored). Emanuelle ventures to New York City (actually, it’s some shamelessly re-used footage from Emanuelle And The Last Cannibals re-dubbed for this film). Emanuelle makes some inquiries about the mysterious man and, soon enough, she discovers the horrid truth: the mysterious man is named Francis. Worse still, she learns that Francis Harley (Gabriele Tinti) is in the white slavery/prostitution business (hey, nice work if you can get it). Ever the newshound, Emanuelle befriends Harley and is on her way to entering the racket so that she can expose it to the public. Along the way, there’s a sex scene, a transvestite, a sex scene with the transvestite, more sex scenes, a fight scene (golly!) in a bowling alley with the transvestite, a gang rape scene, a sex scene, and Emanuelle’s eventual escape from the bad guys and subsequent sexual glory with a group of horny sailors.
Bad? Most definitely.
Black Emanuelle, White Emanuelle:
Black Emanuelle, White Emanuelle is presented in it’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio (16×9 enhanced). The transfer is surprisingly good looking with some defects here and there. The badly dubbed English 2-Channel Mono audio stinks to high heaven (in a good way, of course) and there are English subtitles are provided during the Italian 2-Channel Audio. Since the entire film was never shown uncut in America, some scenes in the English dub (maybe they recorded the dialogue in a wind tunnel) are in Italian. This will annoy those of you who don’t speak the language as Severin didn’t bother with placing some much-needed English subtitles at these brief points in the film (not that there’s a plot anyway).
Black Emanuelle 2 / Emanuelle And The White Slave Trade:
Both Black Emanuelle 2 and Emanuelle And The White Slave Trade are presented in their anamorphic 1.85:1 ratios with dubbed English 2-Channel Mono soundtracks. Both transfers look and sound decent for only being 2-Channel Mono. Neither contain any subtitles. Black Emanuelle 2 is a Region 0 release, the other DVDs in this set are Region 1.
Black Emanuelle, White Emanuelle:
Thrill to the original Italian theatrical trailer (which is much better than the actual film…mainly because it‘s short), “Black Velvet”, an 18 minute featurette consisting of an interview with Al Cliver and clips of audio interviews with Annie Belle and Laura Gemser set to scenes from the film.
Black Emanuelle 2:
Black Emanuelle 2 includes the 16 minute featurette “Diva 70: An Interview with Dagmar Lassander” in which the now very big actress recalls working in the film industry during the 70s (she doesn’t offer a whole lot of information on this particular film in case you’re wondering). The featurette cuts between footage from the interview to scenes from the movie and is in Italian with English subtitles. Also included on this disc is an International Trailer.
Emanuelle And The White Slave Trade:
Extras on the third movie include “After Hours With Joe D’Amato”, An Interview With Director Joe D’Amato. In 1994, following a Eurofest convention in England, director Joe D’Amato met with some admiring Brits over a few drinks and this interview was recorded (apparently, it was one of D’Amato’s favorites). It runs just over 12 minutes and is a very good interview: he talks about including a hardcore sex scene for the French release of the film and his transition into the hardcore industry. There is also a Theatrical Trailer (in Italian).
Also included with Emanuelle And The White Slave Trade is a Bonus CD: Getting Down With Black Emanuelle, Volume 2. It contains 25 tracks from three different films (Emanuelle In America, Emanuelle And The Last Cannibals, and Emanuelle And The White Slave Trade) composed by Nico Fidenco and is a real treat to play for your soon-to-be-former friends at your next party.
The Bottom Line:
Do you like sleaze? Nudity? Softcore sex scenes? If, so Black Emanuelle’s Box: Volume 2 is for you. Cheers.
Features – 1.5
Video – 3.5
Audio – 2.5
Extras – 4.0
Overall – 3.0
Audio: English 2-Channel Mono (all), Italian 2-Channel Mono (Black Emanuelle, White Emanuelle only)
Subtitles: English (Black Emanuelle, White Emanuelle only)
Runtime: 276 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: November 13, 2007
Production Year: 1976-1978
Released by: Severin Films
Region: 0/1 NTSC