Black Emanuelle (1978)
By: Mr Intolerance on November 4, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Beyond Home Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. 1.78:1 (Non-anamorphic). English 2.0. 91 minutes
The Movie
Director: Albert Thomas
Starring: Laura Gemser, Karin Schubert, Angelo Infanti, Isabelle Marchall
Screenplay: Bitto Albertini, Ambrogio Molteni
Country: Italy
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Let me explain a bit of background for you: in the '70s, an arty soft-core director called Just Jaeckin (The Story of O, amongst others) made a film called Emmanuelle (notice the different spelling from that in the title of this film), where the main characters would nude up, roll around soft-core style, attend lavish parties and generally live the jet-setting high life. A number of these films followed, some starring Sylvia Kristel (the original Emmanuelle), others not. Bitto Albertini instigated this particular film for the Italian market, and then the undisputed King of Italian sleaze, Aristide Massaccessi (under his better known pseudonym Joe D'Amato) decided to keep the series afloat, starring the exotic and rather sultry Laura Gemser in the title role. The ideas are much the same, basically, but with D'Amato at the helm, you know that exploitation is the name of the game. That's not the case here – in the D'Amato films in the series, Emanuelle is a total slut who'll fuck anything that moves, and if it doesn't she'll push it until it does; here she shows a slightly more sensitive demeanour. That's not a good thing – exploitation displaying restraint and taste is about as welcome as herpes at an orgy. What do you mean there's no hardcore sex, snuff, cannibalism, horse-masturbation or snakes being inserted into vaginas here? Afraid not, sleazehounds, and this movie suffers for it. It's an outrage!

Our heroine starts off the film reading porn on a jet plane on the way to Africa on assignment. A photo-journalist by trade, Emanuelle is always up for anything, sex-wise. When on the plane she sees a couple having abit of a fumble, she has a brief flashback to finger-diddling herself, and obviously feeling a bit toey, walks around the plane looking for fun. The first fella she meets however is a missionary priest in civvies, so that's a bit of an own goal.

She's met at the airport by Gianni and Ann Danieli, rich farmers she'll be staying with. It never fails to amaze me that everyone in these films has about all the sexual morality of an alley-cat – I've seen almost all of the Black Emanuelle films (I've still got the one set in the women's prison to go), and it never takes too long before the indiscriminate rooting begins – and so the story slows down to a crawl. I've got no problems with soft-core, besides the fact that I like a story to keep moving. When it's sex for sex's sake, as here – it's initially interesting but once you get an hour in, when the next sex scene rolls around, you groan inwardly and wait impatiently for the story to continue.

On her first night in Nairobi, Emanuelle hops with the jet-set at a lavish and extravagant party that reeked of 1970s excessitude – you hate these people as soon as you look at them. The party is full of stereotypes we've all seen before – the drunken Scotsman (played by Gemser's real life partner Gabriele Tinti, whose obviously un-Scottish looks are meant to be counter-balanced by constant referencing of Scottish poets like Robert Burns – it doesn't work), the crazed Dali-esque artist, the cheating wife who gets drunk and makes a scene. It eventually ascends/descends into an orgy (depending on your point of view) of sorts, although all that's kept off-screen. Sexual jealousy and tension abound, kids. I must say, I thought the coyness with which the sex is dealt with was very un-sexploitation, most directors in this genre are absolutely fearless in the face of the censors if it meant turning a buck. I'm wondering if this print is censored, or if this is how it was meant to look.

Ann decides to root the local leering gas-station attendant, simply because she can (unintentional social satire on the mores of the idle rich?), a scene that's intercut with a petrol pump being put into a gas tank and the price going up – how subtle – which Emanuelle sees while wearing the most abbreviated pair of short shorts I've seen in a while. Yum. Y'know, she does dress like a hooker – the short shorts, the halter top and the high heels are exactly the kind of thing I see the "ladies" on the street wearing every night in King's Cross when I come home from work.

The air of wife-swapping and unfaithfulness and, well, swinging is practically tangible in this movie that practically breathes deeply at you like a dirty phone call. At a dinner party Emanuelle goes to on her second night in town (having still not taken a single shot) there appears to be a tacit agreement that anyone can fuck whoever they want to, and no-one gives a shit. Without probably even realising it at the time, Albertini has made a pretty condemnatory and acerbic statement about sexual relationships in the mid 70s.

Emanuelle wants to fuck Gianni's brains out, although she is a bit of a bit of a cock-tease about it, but won't do it back at the Danieli ranch, so Gianni tries to get a loan of his crazy artist mate's bachelor pad in order to do the business. Meanwhile, Emanuelle is also finally beginning her actual journalistic assignment – trying to find out about the origins of African civilisation, by going to the ruins of an ancient Temple, supposedly haunted by spirits and genies (can I just point out at this juncture the obvious product placement inherent to Italian exploitation films of the time – J&B scotch and Marlboro cigarettes both rear their welcome heads here, and have done so many times leading up to this point). I was expecting at this point some kind of horror scene, but nope. The Temple appears to be local colour and little better. Bugger. Actually, it's the only sequence in the film where Emanuelle's reason for being in Africa is properly addressed, and one of the very few moments of any real interest in this train-wreck of a film.

Gianni and Emanuelle do the deed, the soundtrack again searing our ears like a red hot poker, and the film stock which was awful to begin with has degraded to the point where the colour has becomes completely unnatural, and the two lovers are the same colour as oompa-loompas. That's about as sexy as sticking your cock into a three week old plate of baked beans.

Emanuelle and Ann head off into the countryside so that Emanuelle can take photos of the real animals and the gratuitous stock footage, and we get our first real lezzo encounter, what with Emanuelle having convinced Ann to get in the nuddy and prance about the savannah. She doesn't need a great deal of convincing, and the reason becomes rapidly apparent. Ann like to munch the rug, to chow down on carpet, to eat box, and Emanuelle's not averse to a bit of that either. Hooray!

Emanuelle goes through a bit of a weird dream sequence, and it's basically a melange of the previous hour or so of footage, whilst she finger-bangs herself to the tune of African tribal music, intercut with her fucking a tribal witch doctor. Dr Freud, your patient is ready…

The plot thickens with Gianni being called by his mistress and being berated for ignoring her since Emanuelle's appearance (which Emanuelle is privy to, hearing herself referred to as a tramp by Gianni). She runs out on Gianni, fucks some random who picks her up when she's standing by the side of the road, and then confronts Gianni's mistress, while laying nekkid next to the pool with her. They swap notes about Gianni and then have some implied lezzo sex, observed by creepy servants, who then go off and have a root of their very own. Emanuelle's character is changing here gradually into the sexually voracious manipulatrix she becomes in the latter films of the series.

The sexual jealousy angle is played up even further between Emanuelle, Gianni, Ann and Gloria, the mistress, and we can see that even the wife-swapping people crave a person of their own. A mistaken topless CPR routine is all it takes to ignite a slow-burning powder-keg. Emanuelle and the gang all end up in a tribal African village drinking what is effectively bong water, and having offended the shaman, have to make amends – Emanuelle strips off again at this point, showing off yet again her bodacious tar-tars. It's a good thing.

The party is about to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, which seeing as none of them are mountaineers, strikes me as practically suicidal. But Emanuelle fucks off, which kills the expedition, and leads her to a train carriage full of what appear to be hockey players who want a piece of her fantabulous arse. That's not good for her. Can you spell gang-rape, kids? And it's intercut with locomotive action in a stupendous display of directorial subtlety, with much footage of pistons and such. Or is it rape? That's a matter for yourselves.

The ending is left ambiguous in terms of how you see the character of Emaneulle. Personally, I see her as a slut of the highest order, but you may see it differently.
Awful. Presented in a non-anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio, it's like watching a movie in a fog. Crackle, shimmer, lines, speckle, soft image and grain. Was no effort made to clean this up at all? Considering the restoration job Blue Underground did with Emanuelle In America, or the recent Severin Black Emanuelle's Box (chortle, chortle, fnarr, fnarr) volumes 1 and 2, this made me wince.
As with all of the Black Emanuelle films, the soundtrack dates the film terribly, and is about as listenable as someone beating a cat to death with a baby. The 2.0 audio is barely serviceable.
Extra Features
Nothing really worth mentioning. There's a still gallery of badly taken pictures with a soft, poor picture quality. Pathetic. When you look at some of the other releases of the Black Emanuelle films, this is an embarrassment.
The Verdict
A terrible print of a movie I wasn't too keen on to begin with, this edition of Black Emanuelle is one worth avoiding. Bad picture, bad sound, bad acting, plodding direction – all add up to poor quality writ large. There are better entries in this series – check those ones out instead.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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