Joe D’Amato (Aristide Massaccesi) was responsible for some of the most notoriously sleazy, violent, and controversial films to come out of Italy. From “Anthropophagous” to “Beyond the Darkness”, fans knew that when D’Amato’s name was associated with a horror film, they were in for quite a ride. When D’Amato’s attentions turned to his other genre, adult cinema, he carried over much of the gonzo sensibility that made his horror films so perversely entertaining, and this is perhaps no more evident than his work on The Black Emanuelle series.
While Bitto Albertini’s “Emanuelle Nera” - which starred Indonesian actress Laura Gemser as a decidedly more exotic version of the French character - may have introduced the world to “Black” Emanuelle, it would be D’Amato’s collaborations with Gemser that would solidify the character's place in the annals of erotic cinema history.
Severin Films has paired up two of D’Amato’s classics, “Emanuelle in Bangkok” and “Emanuelle Around the World” alongside Giuseppe Vari’s “Sister Emanuelle” for their salaciously titled new set, Black Emanuelle’s Box – Volume 1.
1976’s “Emanuelle in Bangkok”, D’Amato’s first film in the series, finds the globe-trotting photojournalist in Thailand to cover the story of a prince (played by Ivan Rassimov). During a political coup, Emanuelle is raped by militants (which would become a regular occurrence for the character during the D’Amato years) and robbed of her cameras and passport, which sends her fleeing to Casablanca where an archeologist friend is working on a dig. It is here that Emanuelle enlists the aid of a politician (played by Gemser’s real life husband, the late Gabriel Tinti) and also falls in love with said politician’s young daughter.
“Bangkok” is equal parts soft-core porno, travelogue, and mondo film, chock full of the craziness that makes this series so endearing (to sickos like me, anyway). The script is simply a series of sexual innuendos that tie together one sex scene after another, while any semblance of depth or pathos is thrown out the window (especially following the gang rape scene, in which Emanuelle happily thanks one of the rapists for escorting her to a car and bids him farewell with a wave and a smile). In other words, this movie is a sleaze classic in every sense of the word.
“Sister Emanuelle” finds Gemser escorting the daughter of a wealthy Venetian to a convent, where it is hoped that the young girl will accept God into her life. Of course, being an Emanuelle film, this doesn’t happen. Instead we get lots of softcore lesbian sex, lots of softcore straight sex (courtesy of an escaped prisoner Emanuelle helps hide in the convent), and a threadbare plot that barely holds it all together.
Giuseppe Vari’s approach to Emanuelle is very similar to the French films from which the series was “borrowed” (they simply dropped an “M”), so fans of the more farcical soft core stuff will no-doubt appreciate this one. Personally, I’m a D’Amato man, through and through, so, while still entertaining, I found Sister Emanuelle just a bit too “normal” for my tastes.
Such is not the case for the next film, though, as “Emanuelle Around the World” is quite possibly the most insane entry this side of the snuff-centric “Emanuelle in America” and the ultra-bloody “Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals”.
Emanuelle joins forces with a rival reporter to uncover a white slavery ring that has her facing off with sex gurus in India, bestiality enthusiasts in Hong Kong, and corrupt politicians in New York. Severin offers two versions of Around the World; the “unrated” edition featured in the boxed set, and a XXX version that sports some truly nauseating scenes of dog-on-woman sex, an extended gang-rape scene, and hardcore inserts shot for the sex-hungry French market.
While all of this may sound horrifying(and, at times, it is), Around the World is so absolutely out-there, so balls-to-the-wall insane, that one cannot help but to laugh at the randomness of it all. One second we are witnessing Emanuelle being forced to give a homeless guy oral sex, and in the next scene, she is laughing with her friends, unscathed by any of it. And, like all of the films in the series, Around the World’s ludicrously sugary pop theme (“Let's take a picture of looooove…”) pops up over and over again, as if to remind us that no matter what happens, nothing can change Emanuelle’s sunny disposition.
While I fully admit that I’m a total sicko and love these movies, I wanted to see how my wife would react to this stuff, so I asked her to watch this boxed set with me as part of an all-night, drunken Emanuelle marathon, and, for the most part, she was laughing nearly as hard as I was. While neither of us really respected ourselves in the morning, it was fun while it lasted, although these aren't the sort of films you want to break out for a romantic evening with your mate.
Severin presents the films in Black Emanuelle’s Box – Vol. 1 in a very nicely designed slipcase that sports a fold out cover that reveals a nice shot of Gemser in the buff. The films feature decent transfers that suffer from occasional bouts of scratches and artifacting (especially during reinserted scenes and credits sequences), but nothing too distracting. While there’s not a lot by way of extras save for a rare video interview with D’Amato, Severin does include a killer compilation CD called GETTING DOWN WITH BLACK EMANUELLE featuring newly remastered soundtrack music from composer Nico Fidenco.
I’d normally consider this genre a guilty pleasure, but when Joe D’Amato’s involved, it goes beyond guilty and into the realms of borderline criminal. I think that’s what it is that makes me love these flicks so much. It’s like the director just threw every single taboo he could think of at the wall and filmed whatever stuck. For jaded horror fans who think they’ve seen it all, D’Amato’s Emanuelle films – especially the uncut versions – are proof positive that you ain’t seen nothing yet.