The Emanuelle series certainly started off innocently enough. Hell, by today's standards those ol' Krystal flicks are positively mild in comparison to the post prime-time line-up on Cinemax on any given evening. So while those first three entries in the Emanuelle series were certainly the most polished and refined, adult audiences wanted something decidedly more...adult.
Enter Bitto Albertini's Black Emanuelle (1975); Portrayed by the lovely Indonesian actress Laura Gemser, this new exotic direction spawned over a dozen sequels and countless imitators, and helped carry the Emanuelle brand name well into the early nineties. The man who carried the mantle the furthest (and most often) was Joe D'Amato (aka; Aristide Massaccessi). Already a veteran of more films than many director's make in an entire career, D'Amato took the reigns of the series for it's sequel (Emanuelle in Bangkok), wound up making three more (Emanuelle goes Japanese, Emanuelle's Revenge, and Emanuelle in America) , in just over a year, and forged a friendship and partnership with Gemser that would last until D'Amato's death in 1999. While Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals proved to be the most popular of their collaborations thanks to mondo fans and gorehounds, the rarely seen uncut version of Emanuelle in America is D'Amato at his sick and twisted zenith.
Globe trotting photo-journalist Emanuelle is investigating a crime lord's modern day harem in New York. When circumstances take her to Venice, Emanuelle spends a few days with an aristocratic couple whose orgies attract the European elite. It is here she discovers an island compound where wealthy women pay for a weekend of sex with the partner of their choosing. While Emanuelle snoops around the premises snapping photos with a concealed camera, she stumbles upon one couple who are making love while a snuff film plays in the background. Emanuelle is appalled, but before she can get out of the compound, she is captured, stripped, and forced to face dire consequences if she doesn't hand over her film. Of course, being Emanuelle, she seduces her abductor (in this case, a matronly woman), escapes, and heads back to America to begin her investigation into the mythical world of snuff cinema.
Emanuelle in America is, at times, offensive, arrousing, inept, ridiculous, disgusting, and laugh out loud funny. What it never is, however, is dull. This film is a hoot from soft core start to grisly finish and is, perhaps, one of the most schizophrenic and disjointed cinematic ventures I've ever witnessed. For the first 20 minutes or so, Emanuelle in America is no more or less offensive than it's progenitors, with loads of tease and titilation, but of the softest core variety. Then, all of a sudden, there it is, as if my DVD player skipped to another disc mid film.
A woman gives a horse a handjob. I shit you not. This is not a special effect. This is bestiality. Sure, I'd seen my share of this stuff at bachelor parties, and in hideous e-mail practical jokes, but not in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd actually be viewing something like this on a DVD of my own volition. It was positively fucking surreal.
From then on, Emanuelle gets racier (albeit within our own species), with loads of hardcore sex, gratuitous violence (beyond anything you can possibly imagine) and....cripes....I think I'm going to hell for this one.
As alarming as this film may sound, I stand by my statement that Emanuelle in America is an astoundingly entertaining flick. It's just so out there, so completely devoid of any sense of morals or integrity, that it's impossible to look away. I mean, c'mon, after that horse scene ANYTHING was possible, and D'Amato is NOT afraid to show us that.
This DVD from Blue Underground officially grants them the title of batshit mavericks of home video entertainment. Someone give Bill Lustig a big hug for me, because this is a man who knows how to get the most out of his first ammendment rights, rights that Emanuelle in America just barely stays within the bounds of. B.U. presents the film in a gorgeous widescreen transfer, uncut, unedited, and unapologetically, with a short interview with the late D'Amato, an audio interview (accompanied by a lovely slide-show) with Gemser, a very thorough text essay about the Emanuelle series, and a bio/filmog of D'Amato. While not as loaded as the lion's share of Blue Underground discs, this is still an above average set.
Emanuelle in America is a film that will enrage and offend virtually anyone with a pulse, but that's half the fun. Watch it with someone you love. Believe me, if they're still with you after it's over, you've got yourself a keeper.