Theaters around the globe were energized by the success of 1974's Emmanuelle, a French production from first-time director Just Jaeckin chronicling the sexual adventures of its married but swinging young heroine (Silvia Kristel) in Bangkok. Inspired by the writings and purported life of real-life Thai-French actress and writer Emmanuelle Arsan (to make a long authorship story short), the film created a softcore template that turned into a cottage industry of numerous sequels and imitators. The most memorable and outrageous of its offshoots was easily the Black Emanuelle cycle, which dropped an "m" from the character's name (to avoid legal issues) and mainly spotlighting model-actress Laura Gemser, who had already appeared in a memorable sequence opposite Kristel in Emmanuelle 2 (a.k.a. Emmanuelle - Joys of a Woman). Featuring globe-trotting scenery, shocking plot twists, infectious soundtracks, a total lack of any series continuity, and occasional dips into extreme imagery and explicit sex, the series is celebrated like never before with Severin Films' 2023 set, The Sensual World of Black Emanuelle, which comes with 25 feature films and copious extras spread across 13 Blu-rays with two bonus CDS.
Also available in one of the label's most lavish bundles to date (complete with board game, passport, location stickers, airline bag, and magnetic fashion play set), it's a truly astounding feat if you're familiar with the bumpy history of these films on home video. Overseen by Kier-la Janisse (whose other home video miracles include the All the Haunts Be Ours and House of Psychotic Women Rarities Collection sets) from the extras to art direction to book editing, curating, and merch creating, this one has roots going back to Severin's pair of Black Emanuelle's Box sets on DVD back in 2007 each housing a trio of films in the series. With rights issues and film elements scattered all over the place, this one has been a long time coming but is more than worth the wait; it also comes with a very hefty and lavish illustrated 356-page book, The Black Emanuelle Bible, featuring writing by Kevin John Bozelka, Costas Constandinides, Rachel Harrison, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Janisse, Jennifer Moorman, Xavier Aldana Reyes, Jorge Rivera-Gutiérrez and Erin Wiegand, plus archival reviews by Bryan Connolly and Craig Ledbetter and interviews with Gemser and screenwriter Maria Pia Fusco. All the material here is substantial and interesting (though the main essays are best read after you've seen the films), and an extensive annotated filmography covers all the films here as well as the three that remain absent for reasons involving rights, film element issues, or age legalities (Emanuelle on Taboo Island, Emanuelle in the Country, and Emanuelle's Daughter: Queen of Sados). Hopefully if this does well, we'll all be blessed with another set of Emmanuelle-sploitation like Laure, Yellow Emanuelle, and so many more. Now, on to the movies...
Color, 1975, 96 mins. 49 secs.
Directed by Bitto Albertini ("Albert Thomas")
Starring Laura Gemser, Karin Schubert, Angelo Infanti, Gabriele Tinti, Isabelle Marchall, Venantino Venantini, Don Powell
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Optimum (DVD) (UK R2 PAL), Koch (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Laura Gemser's first outing doesn't waste any time introducing her on an airplane to Africa on one of her many professional trips across the globe. Here she goes by the professional moniker Emanuelle, the catchy calling card she uses for her career as a photojournalist instead of her real name, Mae Jordon. Upon landing in Nairobi, she witnesses a world of transplanted Europeans and stays with a diplomat and his wife, Gianni and Ann Danieli (Infanti and Schubert). The circle of free-wheeling associates also includes the more aggressive Richard Clifton (Gemser's real-life husband, Tinti, who appeared in most of her films), his exhibitionist wife Gloria (The Crimes of the Black Cat's Marchall), and the batty, wild-haired William Meredith (City of the Living Dead's Venantini, a real scene stealer here). Emanuelle becomes sexually involved with both of her hosts, while the culture clash around her proves to be both intoxicating and overwhelming.
Unlike the Kristel films which focused on extramarital experimentation, Gemser is never married in any of these films and instead represents varying shades of the emancipated working woman. Though Gemser is undeniably one of the most striking actors in European cinema and obviously very camera friendly, she also brings some interesting variations to her character with this representing one of the more thoughtful and sunny interpretations. Director Bitto Albertini had been mostly working on programmers for hire since the '50s including multiple Sandokan adventures and the 1971 crime film Human Cobras; interestingly, he doesn't seem all that invested in delivering sex scenes (it's half an hour before you get anything really resembling one), instead finding titillation in flirting and splashy party scenes. Aside from Gemser and Tinti, the big series contribution that came fully formed here was the spectacular score by Nico Fidenco, a popular singer-songwriter who ended up scoring all of Gemser's official entries along with other exotic erotica like Porno Holocaust, Images in a Convent, and Sesso Nero. The highlight here is the catchy "Black Emanuelle" theme song performed by Bull Dog, which transformed into the "Make Love on the Wing" theme that ran through some later entries.
Released in just about every major world theatrical territory at some point, Black Emanuelle has had a surprisingly sparse home video history in the U.S. with a very limited, slightly cut VHS from Magnetic Video in the early days being the best option for a long time (as well as a budget release from T-Z Video). Koch Media has kept it around in Germany where the film had significant censorship issues (as did most of its predecessors), so even the most recent Blu-ray there is cut. A U.K. DVD from Optimum was licensed from Studiocanal and represented the best-looking version of the film's softcore theatrical cut for several years; a ridiculous hardcore variant was also prepared to ride the porno chic wave at the time featuring body doubles (including a Caucasian stand-in for Gemser!) and can be found in some regions.
The Severin Blu-ray marks the film's first appearance on American home video in ages; also licensed from Studiocanal, it looks gorgeous and represents the complete original version of the film with English or Italian audio options (DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono, like the rest of the films in the set) with English-translated or English SDH subtitles. (A short dialogue scene after the main titles at the airport missing from most versions is here as well.) The hardcore inserts are also presented in SD in an 8m21s reel if you're so inclined and need a good laugh. A new audio commentary is included with film programmer Jazmyne Moreno; most of the track is dead space with a handful of very condescending remarks thrown in, so skip it. At the opposite end of the spectrum is a marvelous featurette, "Exoticizing Blackness and Erotic Sovereignty in Black Emanuelle" (33m20s), with adult film historian Mireille Miller-Young exploring the series' impact on Skinemax viewers, the portrayals of race and international culture in erotica, her own experiences with Manhattan naughty TV, and the post-'60s state of exploitation cinema that informed these films. An archival interview by Notturno with Gemser, "I Am Your Black Queen" (11m12s), is also included here and was previously on Severin's standalone release of Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (more on that one below). The new "The Reluctant Icon" (19m55s) by Janisse, Stephen Broomer, and Manilo Gomarasca is a very solid place to start your journey in this set, especially if you aren't familiar with Gemser; narrated by Janisse, it covers all the important bases including her modeling career, her segue into acting, the cinematic climate at the time, and the longstanding romance she shared with Tinti that made them Eurocult's ultimate couple. Finally you get the trailer (an HD reconstruction) and an archival interview with Fidenco, "Black Emanuelle's Groove" (13m54s), about how his song career at RCA segued into soundtrack work on westerns and evolved into the scores for this series instigated by his friendship with Albertini.
BLACK EMANUELLE 2
Color, 1976, 91 mins. 56 secs.
Directed by Albert Thomas (Bitto Albertini)
Starring Sharon Lesley (Shulamith Lasri), Angelo Infanti, Don Powell, Dagmar Lassander
Severin (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1/1.78 :1) (16:9)
After the success of the original Black Emanuelle, the series quickly diverged into two paths -- one considerably shorter than the other. First Albertini delivered the Gemser-free Black Emanuelle 2, bringing back Infanti but diverging completely from the storyline of the first film. Instead they found a new "star," one-hit sexploitation star Shulamith Lasri (christened here as "Sharon Lesley") who, to state the obvious, is no Laura Gemser thanks to a script that makes her more of a tragic cipher. Fortunately the sequel offers a string of other insane ingredients to compensate, starting with an opening montage showing our new heroine in a variety of ridiculous degradation scenarios ranging from a police state inquisition to a Southern plantation. It turns out these scenarios are all part of the warped psyche of our title character, who's suffering from a series of sexual neuroses and acute amnesia at a posh mental clinic. Her doctor, Paul (Infanti), tries to get to the bottom of her problems which cause her to hit on anything in pants but then go batty when things get physical. Through a series of flashbacks (starting in Beirut!) she uncovers her traumas, which include a New Orleans jazz musician father (played by Don Powell, who also composed the eccentric music score and crooned dozens of Italian movie themes), who apparently spent his spare time puking in the gutter. Of course when dad really shows up, it turns out she made the whole thing up. Oh, and you also get a hot and heavy session with a basketball player, not to mention guest star Dagmar Lassander in one of her last real sexpot roles.
Black Emanuelle 2 comes packed with lots of fake-Freudian gibberish including this priceless opening title card: "The sickeness that disturb me most is myself - Sigmund Freud" [sic, obviously]. As a result, the frequent chit chat sessions about Emanuelle's uneasy state of mind result in some priceless hilarity, with the hefty amounts of nudity (Ms. Lesley spends at least half of her screen time disrobed) keeping everyone distracted from the fact that nothing's really happening. Cable viewers probably didn't care, though some of the more sadistic moments wound up getting excised from many TV and video prints. This one first turned up on DVD in the U.S. from Severin as part of Black Emanuelle's Box 2, and customers who snagged the box instead of the individual films were also treated to a bonus CD containing the bulk of three Fidenco scores. Fortunately Severin's presentation appears to be complete, and trash fans should find plenty to enjoy. The anamorphic transfer on the DVD looked fine at the time given the source, though the photography is pretty much confined to bland medium shots. The audio is dubbed English only. Extras include the English theatrical trailer ("Love and cruelty can unite in the strangest of human needs!"), which packs in as much skin as possible for three and a half minutes, and "Diva 70" (15m52s), a very interesting Nocturno video interview with the chain-smoking Lassander, who talks about her career, her middle class husband's hot-and-cold relationship with her work, being five months pregnant and still acting, doing club appearances, acting for Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci, and the reasons she appeared in this film (her agent told her to do lots of cameos).
The Severin Blu-ray (which shares space on the same disc with the first film and runs 20 seconds shorter due to dropping the opening FIDA logo) mattes the film back to its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 versus the DVD's windowboxed 1.78:1, and it's very significant visual improvement with deeper blacks, a great deal more detail, and a richer color scheme. The addition of the Italian dub here with the English one is a welcome touch, too (especially since that's how Lassander delivered her lines), and both sound very good. In addition to the preexisting Lassander interview and the trailer, here you get a fascinating look at the director, "Adalberto AKA Bitto" (36m18s), with film historian David Pulici covering the first two films' placement in the filmmaker's genre-hopping career, the imposition of the hardcore material without his participation, and the impact the first film's massive box office success had on his career. Also included is a reel of sorta-hardcore material (6m45s) with body doubles used to spice up the film for the adult theater crowd, and again it's a good thing this wasn't incorporated back into the main feature.
EMANUELLE IN BANGKOK
Color, 1977, 94 mins. 28 secs. / 91 mins. 33 secs.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Ely Galleani, Ivan Rassimov, Venantino Venantini, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Debra Berger, Chris Avram
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
With Black Emanuelle 2 proving to be an oddball one-off, producer Edmondo Amati brought Gemser back and teamed her up with a filmmaker who would prove to be the most significant director of her career: Joe D'Amato, also credited often under his real name as cinematographer Aristide Massachesi. Already proven in the exploitation field with the dreamy Death Smiles on a Murderer and the insane Emanuelle and Françoise (a.k.a. Emanuelle's Revenge), D'Amato took to the series like a duck to water. Shot in 1976 but released in many territories much later, Emanuelle in Bangkok is basically the Dr. No of the Gemser-D'Amato saga (outdone by its successors but the one that laid the groundwork) as Emanuelle hits the Far East in search of her latest interview conquest, the elusive King of Bangkok. Hot-to-trot masseuses, loudmouthed tourists, and horny politicians soon enter the mix, along with some out-of-left-field mondo footage of a mongoose ripping a snake to shreds in a cage. Oh, and in a nod to the original Just Jaeckin film's notorious "cigarette act," lucky viewers get a naughty nightclub performance involving female privates and ping-pong balls.
D'Amatao manages to keep the proceedings unpredictable and spicy (note the early piston-pumping sex scene on a ship), with a random sexual assault detour that's fairly typical for the series. On the other hand, it provides a surprisingly progressive depiction of a lesbian relationship in the second half, which of course also still functions as a good excuse to show Gemser and another woman getting it on. As usual Gemser gets to enjoy some screen time with Tinti as her archaeologist buddy and potential love interest, while the cast is peppered with welcome faces like Venantini (making his second series appearance), Ely Galleani, Ivan Rassimov, and Giacomo Rossi-Stuart.
Severin's first release of this film on DVD kicks off on a distressing note with video-generated French credits obviously lifted from an old videotape, but after this sequence the film thankfully shifts to a vastly superior, fresh new transfer from film that kills all those old VHS editions. (The brief closing titles are also sourced from the same tape but are less intrusive.) Again the English and Italian audio options are presented with optional English subtitles; this time the English track is really the way to go as the Italian version feels rather forced and artificial. Fidenco's romantic score (with a solid theme song, "Sweet Living Thing," and some hilarious aping of Piero Umiliani's "Mah Nah Mah Nah") comes through just fine either way and enhances the mood quite nicely. Extras include a 12-minute Joe D'Amato interview videotaped at a 1995 UK Eurofest convention (in which he talks a bit about his most popular leading lady and his softcore work), with a few glimpses of other Italian-related guest appearances at the show; you also get a non-anamorphic trailer sourced from tape but looking quite watchable all the same.
The Severin Blu-ray is a big step up all around, correcting the film's running time to 94m28s versus the PAL-mastered 91m33s DVD. The English and Italian tracks here both sound excellent, the film looks far superior in every possible way, and the (now English) credits are sourced from film. A new commentary by Aaron AuBuchon is a solid companion to the film sifting through historical influences on the film at the time, the various artistic elements at D'Amato's disposal to craft a sort of cinematic expedition, and the scholarship around these films versus their grubby reputations for such a long time. In "A Reflection of the Times" (6m52s), actress Debra Berger chats over Zoom about the heyday of Italian film, the path she followed from her father William Berger, and her thoughts about the portrayal of her sexually fluid character. In the archival 1999 interview "Ivan the Terrible" (7m9s), Rassimov looks back at his fun experience making the film, his fondness for the director and cast, and the lighthearted nature during the shoot even during sex scenes. A lo-res home video promo is also included.
EMANUELLE IN AMERICA
Color, 1977, 100 mins. 23 secs.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Laura Gemser,
Gabriele Tinti, Roger Browne, Lars Bloch, Riccardo Salvino, Lorraine De Selle, Paola Senatore
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Excessive Pictures (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL), Blue Underground (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), Koch (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/ PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Nobody could have predicted where D'Amato and company would head next with Emanuelle in America, the most infamous film in the entire series and arguably its finest film as well. Heavily censored in most territories upon its original release, the film spawned tales of its more extreme excesses involving a graphic (but fake) snuff movie and a stable interlude with Pedro the horse. Of course, once home video allowed us to set us on the full-strength version that all turned out to be true, and the film has since stood proud at the top of the genre-defying Eurosleaze heap.
After fending off a gun-wielding prude in her car, Manhattan fashion photographer and reporter Emanuelle goes on an assignment to look into the weird world of ultra-rich Eric Van Darren (Bloch) and his sexual playground for the social elite. Going undercover, she crosses paths with a more noble duke (Tinti) and a harem of women with few moral limits (including Cannibal Ferox's De Selle). After more misadventures including a frosting-heavy orgy, Emanuelle stumbles on the existence of a snuff movie ring that leads all the way to the highest corridors of American power.
A rare film that more than lives up to the flamboyant shocks you'd imagine reading about it, Emanuelle in America is an unforgettable experience that somehow keeps a light, cheerful attitude (in part due to one of Gemser's most enthusiastic performances) despite its jolting dips into gut-wrenching horror. The score by Nico Fidenco is one of his very best, and the soundtrack album has long been a favorite of collectors without a single throwaway track. This one also broke the mold of the first two films by having brief hardcore moments shot by the director himself (though Gemser herself never participated), though it really says something that the traditional XXX material isn't even close to the most attention-getting footage here.
After a number of home video releases edited to varying degrees, Blue Underground surprised a lot of folks in 2003 by issuing the film on DVD completely uncut with extras including a 13-minute excerpt from the Totally Uncut doc (more on that below), the Gemser audio interview, and filmographies. Eurocult fans were delighted at the time, and somehow that title sitting on the shelves of brick and mortar stores all over the country didn't raise any red flags at all. In 2019 after the film passed over to Studiocanal, Mondo Macabro issued a Blu-ray in 2019 featuring an impressive scan that improves in all the ways you'd expect; completely uncut, it features the English and Italian mono tracks with optional English subtitles and a new commentary by this writer and Cinema Arcana's Bruce Holecheck. Video extras include the "Erotic Experience" cut of the Nocturno doc Joe D'Amato: Totally Uncut (62m21s) with the director going through the majority of his 1970s career, and "From Two 's to One: The Story of Em(m)anuelle" (35m30s) with David Flint charting the strange history of the cycle from the real Arsan through Kristel and the Gemser series. A 2023 German mediabook edition from Excessive (with a variety of four different covers) features two Blu-ray containing the uncut version, the audio commentary, a new German commentary by Lars Dreyer-Winkelmann, a "Blue Extasy" 84-minute featurette with the cast and crew (which was divided up into the featurettes on the Severin disc below), the Super 8 31m22s version, and the 92m93s German theatrical cut.
The Severin edition (paired up on disc three with Bangkok) comes from the same Studiocanal scan and looks extremely similar apart from some additional element cleanup and slight color timing adjustments, most obviously in the swimming pool sequence (see comparison below). The English and Italian tracks are included with the usual English sub options, and the commentary is ported over. A new commentary with Kat Ellinger is filled with her enthusiasm for D'Amato and other taboo pushers like Jean Rollin, Georges Bataille, Walerian Borowczyk, and Jess Franco, with other topics including the contrasts in European Gothic cinema and bestiality in Euro cinema. In "The Danish Man" (10m39s), Bloch looks back at his Euro acting career (where he felt qualified mainly by being able to memorize lines) and reflects positively on D'Amato, a sentiment shared in "The Confessions of Diana Smith" (16m31s) with actress Maria Piera Regoli looking back at the colorful nature of '70s Rome and the networking tricks needed to mount a career. In "The Art of Sexy & Gore" (25m14s), art director Marco Dentici recalls working on two of D'Amato's films with this one in particular posing some satisfying challenges with its studio and apartment settings that called for some naughty decorative touches ("without being vulgar"). He also talks about creating the torture chamber setting for the snuff film, which resulted in an irate actress during one mishap. In "The Cutting of the Flesh" (10m36s), legendary effects artists Giannetto De Rossi looks at his own contributions to that infamous sequence and the verisimilitude that landed him in court. In "The Devil's Trick" (8m29s), makeup artist Maurizio Trani adds to those accounts with his own memories of working quickly with D'Amato and De Rossi to come up with a gruesome array of prosthetic trickery like the mouth restraint. In "The Journalist" (13m23s), screenwriter Maria Pia Fusco and Piero Vivarelli provide (somewhat noisy) audio accounts of ending up with Amati, the revenge aspect that was behind this story, the state of feminism at the time that allowed Fusco to "let off steam" by having a woman in charge, and the transformations that came up along the way to the end product. Finally in "The Naked City" (26m15s), Michael Gingold provides a tour of the filming locations seen in the film (sometimes more than once) with ties to a few other surprising titles and cameos in other series entries. The theatrical trailer is also included.
Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray)
EMANUELLE AROUND THE WORLD
Color, 1977, 102 mins. 18 secs. / 97 mins. 20 secs.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Laura Gemser, Ivan Rassimov, Karin Schubert, Maria Luigia, Stefania Pecce, George Eastman, Paul Thomas
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
A strong contender for the second most outrageous entry in the Gemser-D'Amato cycle has to be Emanuelle Around the World, originally released in Italy as Emanuelle - Perche Violenza Alle Donne? (or, roughly translated, "Why Is There Violence Towards Women?")-- which pretty much encapsulates the entire focus of the story. Once again a globe-hopping photographer, pretty and curious Emanuelle (Gemser) is first seen tumbling around naked in the back of a truck in New York with her latest conquest, played (uncredited) by porn actor-director Paul Thomas (most notorious for starting his film career in the G-rated Jesus Christ Superstar). When she gets wind of an international human slavery ring that preys on nubile women, she decides to recruit her blonde friend, European activist Cora (Schubert again), for an expedition into the darker side of human nature. Their exploits range from a visit to an Indian orgy orchestrated by a sex guru (Anthropophagus himself, George Eastman), an all-girl sex school equipped with giant phalluses, and the notorious finale beneath the Brooklyn Bridge in which a bunch of drunken senators decide to gang rape Carol. PC it ain't, but that's the '70s for you.
A perfect tour of all things wonderful about the Emanuelle series, Around the World features one of the series' finest score by regular composer Nico Fidenco, with an ABBA-esque theme song, "A Picture of Love," you'll be humming for days. That "Black Emanuele's Groove" featurette first turned up on the label's DVD of the theatrical cut, which was quite fine; apart from some print damage in the opening shots and somewhat hazy French credits, the quality is nice with rich colors that blew away all those miserable VHS bootlegs. The film can be played either in Italian or English (with optional English subtitles translated from the Italian track); it's dubbed either way, and personally the English track feels a bit more in keeping with the tone of the film, but opinions may vary. Along with the Fidenco interview, the disc also includes a blurry-looking, non-anamorphic U.S. trailer (with that great Jerry Gross Organization tag) under the same title.
Apart from that release included in one of the boxed sets, Around the World was also available separately in a rarely-seen, alternate "XXX European Version" (no extras) containing some hardcore footage obviously shot during filming. The sex guru scene is considerably more explicit and marks a rare occasion in which Eastman is clearly seen in the same frame with actors having unsimulated sex; Gemser still refrains from going all the way, of course (apart from an obvious, much paler body double), but there's enough grinding and pumping on display from everyone else to make you avoid screening this in mixed company. In either incarnation, this entry represents the best of what the spin-off Emanuelle series has to offer; it's fast-paced, aware of its own absurdity, and still just socially acceptable enough for its target audience (i.e., no fake snuff footage).
The Blu-ray edition from Severin contains only the extended hardcore version, looking excellent here with better detail and color timing than the DVDs by several degrees. The English and Italian tracks are both here with English sub options, plus four solid new featurettes. In "Around the World with Emanuelle" (31m3s), Stephen Thrower provides an interesting analysis of the film including its shift in the attitude of its main character, the eccentric manner it hops around the globe with some questionable professional behavior at play, and the truly bizarre sexual assault scene that plays out even weirder in the uncut version. In "I'm Not a Guru" (13m54s), Eastman a.k.a. Luigi Montefiori delivers another of his trademark candid, hilarious interviews, here tracing his professional relationship with D'Amato going back to the western Ben and Charlie and leading to some really nutty acting and screenwriting gigs for him. Then in "The Beautiful One" (13m56s), actor Gianni Macchia chats about some of his key Italian films, his bumpy first meetings with D'Amato and Fernando Di Leo, and his memories of doing a nude bathing scene with Gemser and Schubert. Finally in " A Tribute To Karin Schubert: The ‘Nackedei’ Actress" (19m18s), Janisse and Stephen Broomer deliver a survey of the magnetic star's rocky life and career (written by Jean-Luc Marret, author of Pornification: Vie De Karin Schubert) which ran the gamut from major all-star international productions to a plunge into '80s pornography due to tragic family circumstances. A digitally recreated trailer is also included.
EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS
Color, 1977, 93 mins. 12 secs.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Susan Scott, Donal O'Brien, Percy Hogan, Monica Zanchi, Annemaria Clementi, Geoffrey Copleston
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), 88 Films (Blu-ray) (UK RB HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), Neo Publishing (DVD) (France R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
And now for something completely different... Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals offers a ridiculously enjoyable hybrid of softcore sleaze and Italian cannibal mayhem rushed quickly into production to cash in on the same year's Jungle Holocaust. Having just pushed the series as far as it could go in terms of out-there sex scenes, D'Amato and company decided to take a different tactic for box office success and ended up making a wild choice with the cannibal craze that would keep on escalating well into the early '80s. Not one to go for animal violence in his films (apart from the mongoose bit in Bangkok) and even avoiding a hardcore variant for this one, D'Amato ended up making one of the more accessible films in both of the areas he was exploiting.
Still hot on the trail of new, tantalizing stories around the globe, photojournalist Emanuelle (Gemser) smells a lead when a blonde woman brought back from years of being brought up in the Amazon ends up in a New York insane asylum and displays a tendency to bite off random body parts. Emanuelle infiltrates the hospital and snaps some photos courtesy of a clever camera doll, followed by some magic finger soothing on the poor girl. An unusual tattoo above the girl's crotch points to a supposedly extinct tribe of cannibals, so it's off to consult with the erudite and frisky Professor Mark Lester (Tinti, of course) who ends up bedding our heroine over and over after showing her some raw footage of cannibals slicing off genitalia. (Why not?) Since he's an authority on tribal customs, Mark joins Emanuelle on an excursion to the Amazon where they cross paths with hunter Donald McKenzie (O'Brien), his wife Maggie (Scott), traveling nun Sister Angela (Clementi), and Isabelle (Zanchi), daughter of their ill-fated guide. Of course, it isn't long before all hell breaks loose in this green nightmare as cannibals emerge and start dining on the intruders.
If there were any doubt that Italian cinema was going a little insane trying to satisfy audiences by any means necessary by this point, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals provides solid proof as it stitches together elements that don't seem like they should exist within miles of each other. Anyone paying money to watch Gemser do her sexy reporter bit will get ambushed halfway through, and even more strangely, it features an outrageous turn by giallo queen Susan Scott (or Nieves Navarro), sporting darker hair than usual here to perform a graphic solo routine in a tent and a couple of really dubious sex scenes before undergoing a vicious fate at the hands of the cannibals that's the exact opposite of what you'd expect from an erotic film. Once again composer Nico Fidenco performs scoring duties with another dance-friendly rendition of his familiar "Make Love on the Wing" theme, adding to the bizarre atmosphere and laying the groundwork for his later score in the much-loved Zombie Holocaust.
Trying to market this film proved to be a real challenge outside Italy since you're dealing with a film whose first half is basically the usual softcore interludes, interspersed with a couple of shockers like that opening sequence and Tinti's home movie reel (some of which turned up the same year in Sexy Night Report and the one surefire giveaway that this is from the same hand as Emanuelle in America). The film didn't hit America until 1984, just barely, under the title Trap Them and Kill Them and was promoted strictly as a horror film (even by an apparently oblivious Famous Monsters magazine in its final days). Apart from a handful of scarce VHS releases, the film wasn't easy to see on home video either until the 2003 DVD from Media Blasters featuring the English dub, a trailer,a minor image gallery, and a very drab transfer. The first Blu-ray of Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals hit shores in 2016 from U.K. label 88 Films, which was bare bones apart from the theatrical trailer and alternate Italian credits but did include the welcome gesture of featuring both the English and Italian dubs with optional English subtitles. The transfer didn't really set anyone's world on fire at the time, improving in detail over the DVD but still looking muddy with very flat black levels.
In 2018, Severin Films brought the film back to the U.S. for the first time in over a decade with its usual multitude of buying options depending on your level of dedication including a limited edition slipcase Blu-ray, a DVD, and a Laura Gemser Deluxe Bundle with Violence in a Women's Prison. You could also snag a Laura Gemser pin to wear to your next PTA meeting. Image quality is a major improvement with superior contrast, better colors, and finer detail; it still isn't a pretty film by any means (and that stage blood is still a funky color as always), but it's quite remarkable how good it looks here if you're familiar with the history of the film. The English and Italian dubs (both of which are ridiculously loose and sloppy, with particularly dazed line readings for Gemser in English) are included here in DTS-HD MA mono options with English subtitles translated from the Italian track (and quite different from the 88 ones). In addition to the trailer, the release adds a whopping five new featurettes, making this firstborn fide special edition ever for this film. "The World of Nico Fidenco" (27m4s) is more of a career-spanning interview with the composer and popular vocalist, who recounts how he wound up getting a shortcut to Italian record chart stardom and parlayed his success into a long, very fruitful career working on films including all of the D'Amato-Gemser Black Emanuelle films. "A Nun Among the Cannibals" (22m53s) is a surprisingly funny and candid interview with Clementi who talks about getting an agent and landing her first role, her natural affinity for acting without training, her gratitude for post-dubbing on her films ("I have the memory of a goldfish"), and her reaction to being covered in animal guts. O'Brien turns up next for "Dr. O'Brien MD" (18m47s) with the future Zombie Holocaust star, sporting a beard and shot in SD at a restaurant, chatting about his start in the industry, early roles in The Train and Run Man Run, and collaborations with directors like D'Amato, Lucio Fulci, and Sergio Sollima. Next up is Monica Zanchi with Notturno Video's featurette "From Switzerland to Mato Grosso" (18m40s), with the Swiss-born actress sharing stories about how she got into acting and ended up appearing in films like Hitch Hike and Sister Emanuelle. She chats a fair bit about this film including her crush on Tinti and a fight with a costumer, as well as her views on doing nudity. Finally, the reclusive Gemser is represented with the "I Am Your Black Queen" archival interview mentioned above.
The Severin Blu-ray in the boxed set (paired up with Around the World) sports the same transfer and language options while porting over the Fidenco, Clementi, O'Brien, and Zanchi featurettes plus the trailer, but a couple of substantial, welcome bonuses have been added as well. Thrower returns here and provides one of his rare audio commentary excursions; he's good company parsing out the queasy relationship between sex and violence in D'Amato's cinema, the violation imagery that runs parallel to the ethnic subtext in the film, some of the more elliptical narrative choices, and the various shooting locations. In "Dressed to Eat" (18m46s), costume designer Silvana Scandariato praises D'Amato as both a director and cinematographer while recalling the family-style atmosphere on the multiple projects they made together ranging from wholesome comedies to... well, this film.
88 Films (Blu-ray)
PORNO NIGHTS OF THE WORLD
1977, 88 mins. 19 secs.
Directed by Bruno Mattei (and Joe D'Amato)
Starring Laura Gemser
EMANUELLE AND THE PORNO NIGHTS OF THE WORLD
Color, 1978, 85 mins. 53 secs.
Directed by Bruno Mattei (and Joe D'Amato)
Starring Laura Gemser
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
The Black Emanuelle films always had a whiff of the mondo movie about them with their focus on exotic travels, local customs, and interloping European onlookers, with D'Amato pushing things even further with his shock tactics. The series finally went full mondo when D'Amato came up with a new template that he exploited multiple times with collaborator Bruno Mattei in varying degrees, starting with 1977's Notti porno nel mondo (or Porno Nights of the World, a.k.a. Sexy Night Report) featuring newly-shot host segments with Gemser, rampant stock footage, and a few new sequences (mostly shot in nightclubs) showing various kinky activities in action. Gemser mostly hangs around her dressing room commenting on what we're about to see, and then we get pelted with a stripper doing a routine with a very bored Great Dane, naked rollerskating, a naked magic routine, mud wrestling, a sex marathon, and so on. Some of the footage is culled from the West German sex comedy Penthouse Playgirls, other bits are from the sex comedy If You Don't Stop It... You'll Go Blind, and the rest... God only knows. None of it really earns the term "porno" at all except in the softest sense, but the result is hilariously goofy if you're in the right frame of mind. The same approach was used by D'Amato for the far more explicit 1978 film Follie di notte (now on U.S. Blu-ray as Crazy Nights) hosted by Euro pop star Amanda Lear, which really has to be seen to be believed.
Meanwhile Gemser came back for the inevitable sequel, Emanuelle and the Porno Nights of the World (or Emanuelle and the Erotic Nights as it's called on the Blu-ray transfer), which finds her again beaming a huge smile as she pontificates about the loopy sexual peccadilloes of the world's inhabitants. Ostensibly staged around the strip in Las Vegas, this one is much weirder in its approach, kicking off with a naked occult ritual before moving on to a nudist contest, horrific boar violence, an implied donkey stage act, and other stock footage highlights. The undeniable show stopper here is a very fake, insane surgery scene involving a guy hoping to get a penis transplant, which must have caused quite a ruckus in the few theaters where this played.
Neither film has a very long home video history, with both getting brief VHS releases; the Severin Blu-ray pairing them up will be a first-time watch for most viewers (and a relief to anyone who suffered through dupey bootlegs). Both the English and Italian tracks are included here with English SDH subtitles; you might as well go with English since the soundtracks were cooked up entirely in post-production anyway. The transfers for both look great given the piecemeal nature at hand, with the original footage looking color and impressive. In "Master of the World" (8m41s), Mattei talks about first meeting up with D'Amato, their mutual ability to shoot very quickly, the scramble to get the first film up to feature length via a deal in Switzerland, and the research involving in coming up with the kinkier material. In "At the Dining Table" (18m46s), producer Franco Gaudenzi offers his own showbiz story stemming from his love of cinema, his salvaging of various projects, his collaborations with directors like D'Amato and Antonio Margheriti, and some of the other odd titles like Black Killer scattered along the way and his later big hit with D'Amato, 11 Days, 11 Nights. In "The Naked Eye: Sex and the Mondo Film" (43m29s), Elizabeth Purcell, Mark Goodall, and Joe Rubin deliver a visual survey of the more titillating side of the mondo film, its intersection with the sexploitation market, the origins of early exploitation that used exotic settings to get away with taboo material, a detour into nudist camps, burlesque shows, and gay erotica, the apex of the craze in Italy in the '60s, and the value of capturing a snapshot of the world at a specific point in time. In "Crazy, Crazy World" (13m33s), makeup artist Pietero Tenoglio chats about working on both films, meeting D'Amato on White Fang, and admiring the director's cinematic economy. The archival "After Hours with Joe D'Amato" (12m28s) is the D'Amato Eurofest interview previously seen on Severin's Bangkok DVD; also included are the English main titles for the first Porno Nights (as Sexy Night Report) and trailers for both films.
Color, 1977, 92 mins. 7 secs.
Directed by Giuseppe Vari
Starring Laura Gemser, Monica Zanchi, Gabriele Tinti, Vinja Locatelli, Pia Velsi
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Another World (DVD (Denmark R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
It was just a matter of time before Gemser donned a habit for some nunsploitation; thus we were given Sister Emanuelle, which also makes a lot of room for the naughty antics of Monica Zanchi. Gemser's co-star from Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals plays wanton young teen Monica, whose propensity for luring young boys into public group sex lands her in a convent. Monica tries her best to break Sister Emanuelle, who quickly winds up in hot water with the Mother Superior for exposing her decidedly verboten garters and silky undies during a cat fight. Pretty soon Monica's watching after a hunky convict (Tinti) hiding on the premises and luring Emanuelle into sins of the flesh which may force her to break her vows forever.
Complete with a Stelvio Cipriani score that huffs and puffs to duplicate that Fidenco sound, this would-be Emanuelle entry has nothing to do with the rest of the series (heck, Gemser isn't even a reporter this time, for obvious reasons), but the leading ladies still make it a worthwhile outing. D'Amato's outrageous sensibilities would have no doubt resulted in a more fascinating product (as he demonstrated with his own nunsploitation outing, Images in a Convent), but at least Vari has the good sense to just strip everyone down whenever the plot threatens to grind to a halt. The barn love scene in the third act is the obvious highlight, with Gemser finally giving in and doffing her habit to do what she does best; it's also one of her more interesting performances, as Gemser is forced to convey a broader spectrum of emotions that usual.
Severin's 2007 DVD presented a beautiful transfer that made for a welcome reprieve after the very fuzzy VHS editions (including a U.S. one from Private Screenings). The English dub is quite well done and works best here again; extras include the theatrical trailer and four bits of alternate and deleted footage from the Italian VHS, including some brief pseudo-hardcore insert footage that was left out of the main feature.
The Severin Blu-ray features a fresh 2K scan from the negative with the footage from the Italian tape now integrated back and sourced from film. In addition to the usual English track, the Italian one is added here with English sub options; both sound very good and it's a toss-up which one is preferable. Lindsay Hallam provides a terrific and very thorough new commentary analyzing the film's place in Italian history at the time, her analysis of how Gemser's character balances between this series and the requirements of nunsploitation, the shift in how her gaze is used here without a camera in sight, the depiction of morality here versus primal impulses, and the backgrounds of the main participants. An English trailer is also included.
EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE
Color, 1978, 88 mins. 45 secs.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Laura Gemser, Ely Galleani, Gabriele Tinti, Venantino Venantini
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Full Moon (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade is the last and least seen of the Gemser/D'Amato Black Emanuelle films. Originally released as La via della prostituzione, the film once again features Gemser as the titular photojournalist who bounces from one locale to another, this time driven by an episodic plot straight out of a '60s Olga roughie. While doing research for a story on organized crime, the nosy Emanuelle hooks up with her modeling buddy Susan (Galleani again). "You still go in for a lot of lovemaking?" asks Emmy, which nympho Susan answers by pulling over into a garage, flashing her undies, and nailing the mechanic. Then they head to the airport where the women spy a wheelchair-bound young woman traded off for a big wad of cash by a suspicious lothario (Tinti), but they're too busy posing as a couple of stewardesses and eyeballing a wealthy polygamist Arab to do much about it. Then they go off to a plantation where they take a sexy shower together. For vague reasons they decide to hop on a plane to Africa where they get involved with fashion shoots, bed down with more guys, and notice Tinti and the same sold woman. Emanuelle follows them and witnesses a boardroom sales session in which young women are trotted out and stripped in front of decadent European buyers, all involved in a white slavery ring. Further snooping brings her face to face with Tinti, lots of open hotel doors with naked women getting felt up inside, the usual implied gang rape scene, a lesbian nurse, and an authoritative transvestite who partakes in the funniest bowling alley fight ever committed to film.
Pretty much even with the other D'Amato/Gemser titles in terms of outrageousness and quality, Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade inexplicably became very difficult to see after its initial release and circulated for ages to die-hard collectors in a terrible Greek VHS transfer. D'Amato keeps thing moving fast and hilariously throughout, and the dubbing is even more absurd than usual with the quick-to-peel Galleani saddled with one of the goofiest British accents you'll ever hear. Nico Fidenco's score is easily his most disco-influenced, dropping the familiar "Black Emanuelle" theme in favor of a bouncy, wildly overplayed ditty entitled "Run Cheetah Run." At this point it's also worth mentioning that whoever designed the menus for this set was understandably a big fan of the infectious "Sweet Disco Funky" track from this film since it's used on all the main menu screens. Interestingly, the brutal violence which had slowly infiltrated the series (most obviously found in Emanuelle in America and Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals) is pulled back a lot here, with only the bloody but cartoonish bowling alley scene reminding viewers how over-the-top these films can become. Gemser and Tinti have even less interaction than usual, mostly observing each other covertly or from afar and sharing an occasional drink here and there; luckily the story itself is so lunatic that most viewers won't even notice. It's also fun to see Venantini making a return to the series, here getting a hefty amount of screen time and even a couple of sex scenes this time around to boot.
Severin's DVD release from 2009 didn't really have much competition on the home video market, but the anamorphic transfer was a godsend back then for fans tired of squinting through shoddy bootlegs. It's uncut and anamorphic, the English dub sounds fine, and apart from the obvious and beloved grain present in the recycled travel footage, there's nothing wrong with the film elements. Extras include the lively Italian trailer and the "After Hours" D'Amato interview. In 2022, Full Moon released a Blu-ray featuring lossy Dolby Digital English audio (2.0 and pointless 5.1 that just shifts the left channel off in volume a little) and no significant extras. You can skip that one entirely and go for the Severin Blu-ray (on the same disc as Sister Emanuelle) which improves in the usual areas with more image info in the frame, better color timing, and finer detail, plus richer black levels. The English and Italian tracks are both in fine shape with the usual English sub options. A new audio commentary by Lars Nilsen is packed start to finish with an often bemused overview of this sort-of swan song in the series, the working and travel habits of Gemser and Tinti, the cast connections to other Eurocult films, the often jovial nature of these productions, and the experience D'Amato brought to films like this with his background. "The Bohemian" (10m27s) is a very energetic and candid recollection with Venantini about his three Emanuelle films as well as his role in Emmanuelle II opposite Kristel.
Come In Un Film: La Vera Storia Di Gabriele (Gastone) Tinti (50m26s), a 2016 documentary by Riccardo Marchesini, is a wonderful tribute to the late actor with a number of friends and scholars looking back at his life and personality, including a great on-camera interview with Gemser herself. The English theatrical trailer is also included.
VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON
Color, 1982, 98 mins. 50 secs.
Directed by Bruno Mattei
Starring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Maria Romano, Ursula Flores, Antonella Giacomini, Françoise Perrot, Lorraine De Selle, Franca Stoppi
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/0 HD/NTSC), 88 Films (Blu-ray) (UK RB HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), X-Rated Kult (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
And now for some Bruno Mattei women in prison madness, ladies and gents. By the time 1982 rolled around, the Black Emanuelle cycle seemed to have run its course. However, that didn't stop grunge auteur Mattei and his frequent writer and co-director Claudio Fragasso (Troll 2) from giving the idea a new spin, namely cranking out a pair of films placing our photographer heroine in a women's prison. The first one was the wonderfully lurid Violence on a Women's Prison, an intentionally excessive wallow in violence and perversity geared to cash in on the recent women-in-prison revival going on with titles like The Concrete Jungle. Mattei had already dipped his toes into this material a little with the aforementioned mondo movies with Gemser, but having just found his real cinematic voice with the outrageous Hell of the Living Dead and The Other Hell, Mattei and his cohorts were really ready to pull out all the stops.
Convicted prostitute Laura Kendall (Gemser), whose real identity and profession you can probably guess in the first two minutes even if it's saved as a third act surprise here, winds up getting bussed to a brutal prison overseen by the sweaty voyeuristic guard Rescaut (Beyond the Darkness' marvelous Stoppi), and her stern commandant warden (De Selle) who likes to spend her nights in fancy black lingerie. Laura is quickly mired in a hotbed of lesbian gropings and boundary-ignoring prison staff, quickly snapping one day when she flings a bucket of excrement at two jailers. That leads to the world's nastiest twist on mud wrestling and gets her thrown in solitary confinement where she's swarmed with rats (complete with Red Hots stuck over their eyes), after which she does strike up a rapport with Dr. Moran (Tinti, of course, looking tired here), a physician doing time at the men's jail next door. It isn't long before Laura and her fellow inmates start to get fed up with all the brutality, and her true mission starts to come to light.
Unlike the previous Black Emanuelle films (with which these aren't usually considered part of the "official" series), this one makes little attempt to be erotic in any way whatsoever. There's bare skin and some softcore coupling, sure, but it's all so grungy and strange that it's hard to imagine anyone looking for sexy thrills getting much out of it. In fact, the most significant Gemser nude scene ends with her barfing into a toilet in graphic detail, which should give you some idea of what to expect. Any regular viewer of Italian exploitation films should be able to spot the difference between Joe D'Amato (the director most closely associated with the series) and Mattei, which is glaringly obvious here as the previous globe-trotting and exoticism is exchanged for multiple cat fights, lots of stage blood, and the most dingy, dour sets imaginable. In other words, it's the perfect Mattei film.
This sleazy gem was released as Caged Women in U.S. theaters by Motion Picture Marketing and debuted on DVD under its original European title from Media Blasters in 2002 featuring a 4m52s Mattei interview. In 2018, Severin Films reissued the title in a significantly improved presentation with much better colors and detail. The original grainy, cheap veneer of the film has been left intact, a wise choice compared to the attempts to smooth over Women's Prison Massacre on the American Blu-ray release. The English DTS-HD MA mono track sounds good for what it is, especially when it comes to that low-rent but effective score by Luigi Ceccarelli (who would go on to glory with Rats: Night of Terror). As usual this comes with multiple buying options including a Blu-ray, a DVD, and a Laura Gemser Deluxe Bundle with Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals plus that Gemser pin. On the extras side, "Brawl In Women’s Block" (29m3s) features Fragasso and usual co-writer Rossella Drudi, plus their adorable, camera-hogging orange cat, talking about how they first met (under false French pretenses) and worked their way up the Italian exploitation ladder with Fragasso doing a lot of directing for Mattei on multiple films. They also reveal the origin of the infamous blade concealing scene (you'll know it when you see it), opining that "women have these kind of thoughts!" Next up is the brief Mattei interview (2m47s) featured on the old Media Blasters disc, basically explaining how he wanted this to be a Gemser vehicle from the start; a radio spot is also included. In 2020, 88 Films released a U.K. Blu-ray featuring a new 2K scan, a booklet with an essay by Andrew Graves, the English audio track (LPCM 1.0 mono) with subs, an audio commentary by Samm Deighan, a "Clyde Anderson's Jail" (44m25s) interview with Fragasso, a "Dawn & Anderson" (26m47s) interview with Gianni Leacche, "Franco Caracciolo - The Gay Prince" (29m22s) with Andrea Meroni hosting a look at the actor with interviews subjects like Sergio Martino, and the trailer.
The reissue in the Emanuelle box features what's advertised as a new 2K scan for this collection, plus the Mattei and Fragasso/Druidi interviews and radio spot plus the trailer. What's interesting is that all four releases are reported to be different scans from the negative, but in the end they all look remarkably similar with nearly identical color timing (the DVD is a few clicks darker) and just slight variations in framing. Again this has the English and Italian tracks as well, so take your pick (though the English one is a lot more entertaining). New here is "Two for One" with producer Roberto Di Girolamo (11m50s) explaining his professional memories of Mattei, working in Italy and America, and coming up with wild ideas on very limited budgets.
Severin (2022 Blu-ray)
88 Films (Blu-ray)
Severin (2018 Blu-ray)
Media Blasters (DVD)
EMANUELLE IN PRISON (WOMEN'S PRISON MASSACRE)
Color, 1983, 88 mins. 24 secs.
Directed by Bruno Mattei
Starring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Ursula Flores, Maria Romano, Lorraine De Selle
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Scream Factory (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Shock-o-Rama (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Vipco (UK R2 PAL)
Shot back to back with Violence in a Women's Prison and playing like some sort of deranged sequel with much of the same cast, Women's Prison Massacre (known in Europe under the far more evocative title, Blade Violent, and retitled Emanuelle in Prison for the packaging only in the Severin set) ramps up the action and bloodshed levels along with flashes of visual style unheard of in a Mattei film. Once again playing a plucky but decidedly humorless journalist, Emanuelle winds up in a framed drug bust and sent to prison where the haughty warden (De Selle) turns a blind eye to the oppressive bullying of tactfully-named, pigment-challenged Albina (a scene-stealing Flores). Oh yeah, and they occasionally put on make-up for performance art that looks like an unholy fusion of Cafe Flesh and Caged Heat. Things get even more out of control when a bunch of convicts led by "Crazy Boy" (Tinti) break into the prison during a fouled-up getaway and start taking hostages. A few sex scenes ensue when the characters aren't shooting, biting, and maiming each other on the way to a gory climax.
Obviously geared to the drive-in crowds of the early 1980s, this late-era Emanuelle film operates at a level of near-constant hysteria that's almost wondrous to behold. Here we get a much tougher, grittier approach, more fast-paced and outrageous with funky, bass-heavy synth music occupying the background. Gemser is watchable as always (though for some reason she leaves all the naked bumping and grinding to supporting cast this time out), but Tinti and Flores really steal the entire show as dueling psychos with their own sociopathic agendas. Loads of fun and irredeemably nasty, this one's a keeper.
First issued under the Retro Shock-a-Rama banner on DVD in an edited R-rated version, this title was given a new digital overhaul in a 16x9 widescreen edition with all of the much-needed gore and skin fully restored (the one with "Unrated" and "16x9" stamped in huge type on the cover). A now rare European "happy" coda was also around at one point but hasn't turned up on any releases in ages, for the record. The disc also includes trailers for Slime City and the great Criminally Insane / Satan's Black Wedding package.
In 2015, Scream Factory released a no-frills Blu-ray under the Women's Prison Massacre name with the U.S. title card and nothing specific about the source; the 2022 Severin version comes from the same source and lists it as a 2K scan of the original camera negative by FilmExport Group. The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track is fine for what it is and, as always, makes one really wish that Luigi Ceccarelli's fantastic score would get a release someday (preferably along with his work on Rats: Night of Terror). A new commentary between AGFA's Anne Choi and film editor Perri Pivovar is a loose and conversational survey of the film pointing out its differences from the rest of the series, the signifiers of Mattei's cinema (and Fragasso's and Drudi's), and the mingling of exploitation and artistry in films like this. Speaking of Ceccarelli, "Jailhouse Rock" (39m2s) is a thorough video interview with the composer about his self-taught training, his first meetings with Mattei and Fragasso, the attitude he thinks is required for film scoring, and the tricks for working on rapidly dwindling budgets. "Razor Blade Smile" is a 14-minute interview with actor Pietro Angelo Pozzato about his experience rising up for working as an extra and musician to acting training and his entry into the Claudio Fragasso repertory company (including a cross-dressing character he inhabited even off camera at the time). In the video essay "Franca Stoppi: Matron of Hell" (17m13s), Rachael Nisbet delivers an informative overview covering the imposing actress' remarkable performances in films like Beyond the Darkness and The Other Hell along with some other lesser seen roles-- and her turn as the head matron here, of course. An English trailer (as Blade Violent) is also included.
Scream Factory (Blu-ray)
Color, 1976, 96 mins. 57 secs.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Jack Palance, Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Michele Starck, Sigrid Zanger
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Code Red (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Cinekult (DVD) (Italy R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
It's hard to believe D'Amato was less than three years into his official directing career when he took on this sexy potboiler, shot back to back in 1976 with Emanuelle in Bangkok. Here he and Gemser join forces for a non-Emanuelle tale of Eastern sex and sin, originally released in Italy as Eva Nera and in America as Black Cobra before being circulated on home video under such titles as Black Cobra Woman and, in its Blu-ray debut, Emmanuelle and the Deadly Black Cobra. (There's still no Emanuelle here, and the spelling change in the character's name here would have probably incited legal action a few decades earlier.) Adding considerable marquee value is American star Jack Palance, who was enjoying a stint in Italy at the time making this in quick succession along with such films as Rulers of the City and The Cop in Blue Jeans.
In swinging '70s Hong Kong, wealthy and sometimes idle magnate Judas Carmichael (Palance) likes to spend his downtime tending to his collection of large, exotic snakes. Meanwhile nightclub performer Eva (Gemser) jets into town while hooking up with Jules's black sheep brother, Jules (Tinti, Gemser's real-life husband), who's on a five-year probation before he's eligible for his family's inheritance. The two brothers go to see Eva's nightclub act, which spurs Judas to offer her an extended stay at his penthouse where she's free to indulge in wild snake fantasies and explore her bisexual side without any sexual obligations to her benefactor. However, something sinister may be afoot with Judas's reptile obsession bound to end in violence.
Filled with bare skin, travelogue footage, and dreamy easy listening music by Piero Umiliani (recycled from his superb scores for La ragazza dalla pelle di luna, Witchcraft '70, and Sweden, Heaven and Hell), this film is prime Eurosleaze with Gemser at the peak of her allure here and D'Amato clearly enjoying himself. It's more than a little odd to see Palance (probably roped in by the uncredited partial financing by Harry Alan Towers) thrown into the mix of what could have been a standard softcore offering eventually destined for cable TV, but his presence gives the proceedings a bit more of an edge than you'd expect.(It's also nice to see him veering away from the usual straight-up bad guy roles he was known for at the time. The kinky snake angle is presented here with relative tact, all things considered, certainly more than it would have been if the film had been made a few years later. (For proof, look no further than the incredibly trashy Libidine from 1979.) That said, the really perverse comeuppance for one character is still a pretty audacious touch and wouldn't be out of place in the directing filmography of this film's editor, the outrageous Bruno Mattei.
Finding a good quality English version of this film proved to be impossible for decades, with the only decent video transfer ever issued on DVD coming from the notoriously anti-English Italian label Cinekult. The Code Red Blu-ray from 2017 was a welcome development at the time with detail and color accuracy greatly improved across the board, and it's fun to finally make out little signs and architectural touches in the Hong Kong exterior footage. The darker scenes have a grit to them likely due to the Italian scanning equipment as usual, though it's fairly subdued here compared to some of the more notorious offenders out there. The sole audio option is the standard English track (DTS-HD MA mono), featuring Palance's original voice apart from a few amusing (and very confusing) instances in which a completely different voice actor does his lines off-screen. The track sounds like it was pulled from a theatrical print and is clear enough despite some obvious crackling around the reel changes. A now infamous audio commentary is also provided by Mirek Lipinski goes into detail about the shots done in Rome versus Hong Kong, Gemser's history and (shy) personality, her relationship with Tinti, and his now about '70s female pubic grooming, among many other topics. His speculations get quite amusing at times (especially regarding the reason Gemser wears sunglasses while driving), and you really have to hear him grappling with a critical reading of Tinti's big scene at the end. He also admits a lack of professional knowledge about types of snakes, bringing in tips from another expert to explain the functions of the various reptile actors throughout the film. Also included are the film's Italian trailer and bonus ones for The Curious Female, After the Fall of New York, Blastfighter, and Hands of Steel.
The Severin disc in the set appears to be based on the same scan from the negative, here improved with slightly punchier color timing. A much bigger upgrade is the English track, which is now crystal clear and clean throughout; the Italian track is also thankfully included here for comparison, plus English SDH subtitles. Samm Deighan provides another of her trademark commentary tracks balancing critical insight with scholarship, here doing a perceptive job of digging through the film's odd relationship to the Emanuelle cycle, the implications of the main character's bisexuality, the box office demands of the period (especially in Italy), and the depiction of Hong Kong within the narrative. In "From Prague to Hong Kong" (12m58s), actress Michele Starck chats at an outdoor restaurant about her background, the international travels that kept her outside of her native Prague, and the circumstances in Europe when she went into acting and landed roles in films like this. Also included is the actual panel appearance by D'Amato at the 1995 Eurofest (11m57s), sourced from rough VHS but great to have here for posterity. The Italian trailer (featuring the Bee Gees!) is also included.
BLACK VELVET (BLACK EMMANUELLE / WHITE EMMANUELLE
Color, 1976, 96 mins. 48 secs.
Directed by Brunello Rondi
Starring Laura Gemser, Annie Belle, Gabriele Tinti, Al Cliver, Susan Scott
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Full Moon (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Another 1976 Gemser film riding her box office popularity wave was Black Emmanuelle / White Emmanuelle, better known to cable and VHS fans under such titles as Black Velvet and Emmanuelle in Egypt), which teams up her with Laure starlet Annie Belle. Though no character in the film is actually named Emmanuelle, director Brunello Rondi (best known for writing lots of Fellini films) keeps things well within the series template by including lots of travelogue footage interspersed with plenty of softcore sex scenes. The real curio factor here is the fact that Gemser and Belle happen to be teamed up with their real-life romantic partners at the time, Gabriele Tinti and Al Cliver respectively, though oddly enough their screen time together ranges from static to flat-out unpleasant.
There's very little plot here (surprise!), as model Laura (Gemser) and her pal Pina (Belle) go to Egypt for some photo spreads in the desert with a jackass photographer (Tinti) who enjoys degrading Laura in front of the camera and eventually forcing himself on her. They also spend some time with new age mystic Horatio (Cliver), who expands his spiritual horizons by having public three-ways in an Egyptian temple, and Laura and Pina make out here and there. Other miscellaneous supporting characters including giallo staple Susan Scott drift in and out, usually without even getting character names, and... well, that's pretty much it. Apart from the Tinti-led photo sessions in which he forces a topless Gemser to pose with a worm-ridden jackal carcass and a big pile of camel poop, the weirdest highlight of the film is easily a druggy sequence in which Gemser attends a cult ceremony where she chugs goat's blood, hallucinates an attack by her evil doppelganger, and gets molested by a bunch of priests. One of the biggest assets here is the magnificent score by Dario and Alberto Balden Bembo, which still hasn't really gotten its due.
Usually circulated in drastically edited prints which excise most of the good stuff, the film was also one of the few Gemser vehicles shot in scope and has naturally suffered terribly via lousy pan and scan transfers for years. Severin's disc offers a much-needed restoration of the original framing as well as all of the steamy footage, including a flash of semi-fluffed Cliver bound to disorient Lucio Fulci fans. The image quality ranges from scene to scene depending on the film stock and lighting conditions, but the transfer itself looks fine (albeit interlaced for some reason). Surprisingly, the disc includes both the familiar English dub (which isn't bad) and the Italian dub track as well, with optional English subtitles. Both ways work fine, though the latter feels a bit classier with better-matched voices. Bonus features include the Italian trailer (under the title Velutto Nero) and an interesting if somewhat disjointed featurette, "Black Velvet" (18m26s), which features an on-camera Cliver intercut with audio interviews with Gemser and Belle as they discuss the making of the film, the director, Cliver's role in Visconti's The Damned, the ramshackle production's impact on parallel Joe D'Amato projects, and Gemser's illness going in and out of the Morocco shoot.
As with Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade, this one first turned up on Blu-ray from Full Moon but fares much better here. Running at the correct film speed, 96 mins., versus the 94m6s of the DVD, it looks superb here with a great deal of additional image info and a colorful, detailed appearance throughout. We get the hybrid English-Italian option here as well as the full Italian track with subtitles, and the "Black Velvet" featurette is ported over. In "The Roots of Evil" (17m14s), biographer Alberto Pezzotta addresses the film's strangeness, its status as director Brunello Rondi's sort-of final film, the original script called The Group: The Roots of Evil, the obvious visual connections to Pasolini, and the literary references sprinkled throughout the film. In "A Relationship of Confusion" (17m16s), critic Joseph Fahim studies the film as a kind of preservation of an Egyptian locale, population, and culture at a moment that can't be repeated. Also included are the Black Emanuelle / White Emanuelle English credits sourced from rough VHS, the Italian trailer, and a fantastic English trailer (as Black Velvet, White Silk).
PORNO ESOTIC LOVE
Color, 1980, 103 mins. 26 secs.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Dirce Funari, Mark Shannon, Annj Goren
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD)
EMANUELLE'S PERVERSE OUTBURT
Color, 1983, 97 mins. 37 secs.
Starring Laura Gemser,
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Laura Gemser, Annj Goren, Mark Shannon, Gabriele Tinti
By the time you get to Joe D'Amato's career in the '80s, things get very strange as he alternates between internationally distributed horror and sexploitation films, under the radar porn, and bizarre patchwork films that defy any explanation at all. Be it stitching together new footage with the remnants of a Jess Franco film to make Justine or cobbling together pieces of his own films and new footage to create entirely new adult film narratives like the two movies on our next Blu-ray in the set, you can get quite a headache trying to make sense of it all.
Pulling together footage from Black Cobra with new scenes filmed during his sex film jaunts in the Caribbean, Porno Esotic Love follows Eva (Gemser) on a quest to expose the drug dealers responsible for the death of her friend Iris, which leads to lots of digressions and flashbacks including scenes with reliable D'Amato hardcore performer Mark Shannon in action. Then to make matters even more muddles, footage shot for this film, plus Black Cobra, White Slave Trade, Last Cannibals, and Sesso Nero ended up getting tossed in a blender to produce Emanuelle's Perverse Outburst, or Manuela's Perverse Outburst, or The Unleashed Perversions of Emanuelle, or just Manuela. Here Gemser is Emanuelle (or not, depending on the language track) who's hunting down a microfilm from the Big Apple to Hong Kong while a Russian agent (Shannon) is already busy having sex with all the women she intends to interview. Or something like that.
Both of these baffling concoctions were given marginal VHS releases in Europe and bootlegged widely enough to appease D'Amato completists, but they look pretty incredible here in fresh 2K scans assembled from combinations of the best available materials (original negs and dupe negs for the most part). Porno Esotic Love comes with the English and Italian tracks with subs, while Outburst has French or English tracks with subs; all the options sound good for what they are. A new audio commentary by Bryan Connolly and Amber Adams for Emanuelle's Perverse Outburst is a lighthearted cruise through the world of hundreds of Em(m)anuelle movies, the process of identifying all the titles involved in the film and rebuilding sequences from better source materials, the sexual politics of erotica, the bizarre crossovers with other franchises like James Bond,the logistics of shooting in airports around the world, and plenty more. Really fun stuff. In "The Lovemaker" (10m45s), Shannon talks about the origins of his stage name courtesy of The Dogs of War(!), his annoyance with D'Amato constantly recycling his scenes without paying him, the ups and downs of having to do scenes multiple times, his favorite fellow actors like Moana Pozzi, and a funny story about having his manhood chomped off by Gemser in Erotic Nights of the Living Dead. A trailer for Porno Esotic Love is also included.
DIVINE EMANUELLE (LOVE CAMP)
Color, 1981, 99 mins. 24 secs. / 104 mins. 23 secs.
Directed by Christian Anders
Starring Laura Gemser, Christian Anders, Gabriele Tinti, Simone Brahmann
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), Media Blasters (US R1 NTSC)
After the Jim Jones cult tragedy in Guyana, it didn't take long for exploitation cinema to cash in everywhere from made-for-TV movies to Italian cannibal films like Eaten Alive. One of the weirder entries (and certainly the most amusing) is Love Camp, a Gemser vehicle that follows the template of her Black Emanuelle films even if her character doesn't have a name this time. Not surprisingly, some editions including the U.S. home video releases have christened the film as Divine Emanuelle: Love Cult-- presumably to avoid confusion with Jess Franco's Love Camp, which is another ball of wax entirely. Austrian-born actor, crackpot author, and pop singer Christian Anders steps into the director's plate here (with some purported help from Greek sexploitation pro Elia Milonakos) to chronicle the story of the Children of Light, a sex-driven cult led by "the Divine One" (Gemser). Her Aryan boyfriend, Dorian (Anders), is responsible for scouting out new members, and anyone who doesn't screw like a bunny or dares to develop a monogamous attraction is trussed up in front of everyone else and viciously whipped. (That'll get 'em in the mood, eh?) Things get considerably more complicated when Dorian initiates a senator's daughter, Patricia (Trance's Brahmann), and begins to fall in love with her; however, when they decide to leave, they find the cult's "pro-love" stance only extends so far...
Packed with sex, nudity, and oddball performance art/dance numbers, this film is a prime example of early '80s Eurotica at its strangest. Gemser's icy demeanor serves her well here, and as usual Tinti pops up for a steamy sex scene as only these two could deliver. Most of the carnal encounters are fairly graphic and push the softcore limits about as far as possible (no wonder this rarely made the rounds on cable!), and Gemser fans will certainly get an eyeful. Anders doesn't ally excel in any of his capacities (though he comes closest by singing the catchy theme song, "Love Love Love," which was released as a 45 single!), but he keeps things bouncing along nicely by throwing in a sex scene or goofy dialogue exchange whenever the pace threatens to flag.
Though the back of the DVD box from Media Blasters from 2005 indicated an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer, the film was actually presented at 1.33:1, leaving lots of extraneous room in the upper and lower portions of the screen. Image quality is very sharp and colorful, far exceeding the very soft past VHS releases, while the English-dubbed audio sounds... well, goofy as always. Extras include a whopping 7m23s of deleted and alternate scenes (mostly dialogue without English audio, though, so keep that fast-forward button handy), additional sexy outtakes of Gemser and Tinti, promotional trailer outtakes, a hefty photo gallery, and trailers for other titles in Media Blasters' juicy "Exploitation Digital" catalog.
The Severin Blu-ray proves to be the real dark horse in this set, featuring a radically improved transfer of the film framed at 1.66:1 (adding more info on the sides, trimming down the excess headroom, and fixing some obvious vertical squeezing). The English and French audio tracks are included with English SDH subtitles, and the quality here is gorgeous thanks to a 4K scan of the original negative. But that's far from all... Anyone familiar with Anders' prior (and only other) directorial effort, the completely lunatic West German martial arts extravaganza Roots of Evil, had to wonder how he ended up doing a more straightforward sexploitation film. Well, as it turns out, what we've been watching (even the extended German VHS version) wasn't his cut at all; extensive reshoots and cuts at the producers' behest added several secondary sex scenes with German smut film vets (most recognizably Vampire Ecstasy's Nico Wolferstetter). The very different, much longer 104-minute version has been reconstructed here under the title Fanatico... When the Goddess Calls, listed as a work print but looking pretty completed here in equally immaculate quality. Watching Anders' martial arts disco music sex cult epic this way is a truly dizzying experience, and if enough folks make it this far into the set, this one should pick up a far more substantial cult following in the future. This astounding feat of restoration is seriously worth picking up this set all by itself. An extra 2m30s of one deleted scene and a sex scene from the German version are also included, plus the trailer.
Media Blasters (DVD)
EMANUELLE: QUEEN OF THE DESERT (THE DIRTY SEVEN)
1982, 88 mins. 36 secs. / 96 mins. 22 secs.
Directed by Bruno Fontana
Starring Angelo Infanti, Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Giovanni Brusatori, Salvatore Lago, Vassili Karis
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)
Another Gemser project passed off as an Emanuelle film arrived in the early '80s from one-shot director Bruno Fontana (adapting his own novel) with a Cyprus-shot World War II action drama filmed under the Italian title La belva dalla calda pelle ("The Hot-Skinned Beast") and initially circulated in English as The Dirty Seven. In what amounts to a gritty, sexed-up combat take on Snow White, Gemser gets dropped in the middle of a tense group of mercenaries as Sheila, their guide and a disruptive presence among the men who vie for her attention. The most benevolent of the bunch is Bony (Tinti), while the much more malefic Falk (Infanti again) has other plans. Much gunfire and occasional nudity ensue.
Presumed to be in the public domain, this one has turned up in really miserable VHS-sourced copies over the years either as a standalone title or stuck in various collections. With its arid setting and talky script, this was never much of a favorite among fans of the series since it was obviously a straightforward combat drama being shoved into a series with awkward results. The original cut as The Dirty Seven is a more coherent affair, telling the story in chronological order and introducing Gemser well into the story; the version entitled Emanuelle: Queen of the Desert tightens up the pace by 8 minutes and is recut to put Gemser more front and center right from the beginning. Both versions are included on the Severin Blu-ray, looking about as good as they could via 2K scans from film prints with English audio.
In "Violent Cyprus" (21m58s), actor Giovanni Brusatori looks back at his career acting in Cyprus, the hot shooting conditions, the producer's attempts to put some models in the film, and his rapport with the other "mercenaries." Then in "Sunlight and Violence" (15m43s), cinematographer Nino Celeste talks about the issues and positives of working with the Cypriot crew, the arduous shooting conditions, and the language barriers faced on set. A lengthy Dirty Seven trailer is also included. The big extra here is one that's been around on the VHS swapping and bootleg circuit for ages: Looking Good (60m58s), an '80s workout video hosted by Laura Gemser in the wake of the fitness craze inaugurated by Jane Fonda. Colorful, typical of the era, and strangely dubbed, it's a real pop culture curio with lots of slow motion and bright decor. The image quality here is excellent and much better than the copies we've had floating around for ages. This one comes with an audio Commentary with Made for TV Mayhem's Amanda Reyes and The Hysteria Continues' Erik Threlfall who have a blast delivering the definitive track about leotards, '80s fitness, the appeal of playing an aerobics dominatrix, and the function of leg warmers.
AMORE LIBERO - FREE LOVE
1974, 84 mins. 41 secs.
Directed by Pier Ludovico Pavoni
Starring Laura Gemser, Enzo Bottesini, Venantino Venantini,
EMANUELLE - A WOMAN FROM A HOT COUNTRY
Color, 1978, 87 mins. 18 secs.
Directed by José María Forqué
Starring Stuart Whitman, Laura Gemser,
Pilar Velázquez, Francisco Algora, Gabriele Tinti, Paola Senatore
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Best known for its astonishing music score, the debut solo effort for beloved Lucio Fulci composer Fabio Frizzi, Amore Libero - Free Love is also essentially a proto-Black Emanuelle film with Laura Gemser shining in her first screen role. Here she plays Janine, a young diver woman in the Seychelles who entrances new arrival Francesco (Bottesini), an engineer staying with duplicitous colleague Chavad (Venantini yet again!). Soon he learns that the local culture has very different values than his own, as well as religious practices that could prove to be his undoing. With its eerie third act detour into the supernatural and an atmosphere of humid eroticism, this is an early but fascinating entry in the tropical fantasias that populated Italian cinema throughout the 1970s including D'Amato's aforementioned sex films and gialli like Tropic of Cancer (with Jess Franco providing a few West German variants as well).
Prophetically billed as "Emanuelle," Gemser is already a compelling presence here even if the part doesn't require much more of her than to look beautiful and enigmatic. Venantini gets the juiciest part, not surprisingly, and really gets to cut loose during the climax doing a crazy Paganini routine. There's even a short but upsetting swerve into mondo territory with a native ritual involving bats that's definitely memorable, albeit not in a positive way. The real star here is that Frizzi score though, a longtime fan favorite with a main theme that will stick in your head for a very long time. Director Pier Ludovico Pavoni keeps things straightforward by mainly delivering pretty travelogue images, and the editing here was handled by none other than Franco Fraticelli who handled most of Dario Argento's films from The Bird with the Crystal Plumage through Opera. This one has been extremely difficult to see in a decent presentation anywhere, including an unauthorized Mya Communications DVD (as Real Emanuelle) sourced from an Italian VHS with English subtitles. The Severin Blu-ray is a real treat, finally allowing the cinematography to shine and including both the Italian track and the elusive English version with optional English SDH subtitles. The film was shot without live sound and dubbed either way, so the English audio is fine. In "The Seductress" (9m56s), Yugoslavian actress Olga Bisera delivers an audio interview about her experience on the film, her time in the Seychelles, her romance with a local bigwig just after ending her marriage to an Italian producer, and the problems they had when the film ran over schedule. Also included are an alternate English title sequence (as just Free Love) and an English trailer.
Also on the same Blu-ray is one of the most obscure films in the set, Emanuelle - A Woman from a Hot Country, a sexy alternate title for a Spanish melodrama originally entitled The Woman from the Hot Land (or La mujer de la tierra clienta, the title seen on the actual transfer here). Gemser doesn't even have a name here, instead playing an anonymous woman who splits a ride in a trailer being hauled by a truck along with fellow traveler Stuart Whitman (also nameless). While the two men driving them engage in slapstick shenanigans, the man and woman share their stories involving an unpleasant wife (Velázquez) and a journey into sexual servitude instigated by Gabriele Tinti, of course.
The book enclosed with the Blu-ray set describes this film as "ponderous," and who are we to argue? It's mostly a downbeat two-hander for its leads, though Gemser is fascinating as always even when she's dealing with Whitman being sweaty and even hurling out the side of the trailer seconds after meeting her. The score by Carlo Savina is really sparkling and probably the liveliest thing about the film. Like its co-feature, this is from a 2K scan from a nice quality print that's likely the best this will ever look given its meager home video history (limited mainly to a few German releases). The English and Spanish audio tracks are included, both dubbed, with English SDH subtitles and no extras.
BLACK DEEP THROAT
Color, 1977, 87 mins. 17 secs.
Directed by Mario Bianchi ("Albert Moore")
Starring Ajita Wilson, Richard Mardenbro, Patrizia De Rossi
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
PORNO NIGHTS OF THE WORLD N. 2
Color, 1978, 94 mins. 51 secs.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Ajita Wilson
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Our next Blu-ray brings us a double feature devoted to the personality most directly impacted by Laura Gemser and the Black Emanuelle cycle: Ajita Wilson, a trans American model and actress best known for exploitation favorites like The Nude Princess and Jess Franco's outrageous Sadomania. Her second film, Black Deep Throat (or Gola profonda nera), was produced by infamous showman Dick Randall (who was also behind that Feeling Good workout video along with his wife), and despite the title, it isn't hardcore and doesn't involve the title skill at all (though Wilson would go all the way in several later productions). Instead the title is apparently meant to evoke the newsworthy informer to Woodward and Bernstein about Watergate as reporter Claudine (Wilson) is insistent on defying her editor and investigating a prominent European actor connected to sex parties and the sad fates of multiple young women. Cue the orgies, a weird music trauma that triggers Claudine's libido, and some slack investigative reporting.
Never previously released in the U.S., Black Deep Throat made the rounds on VHS back in the day in countries like the U.K. and West Germany but never looked as good as it does here from a nice scope print of the full uncut version (with letterboxed VHS sourced from the opening and closing titles, which apparently no longer exist on film). The English dub is included here with English SDH subtitles.
On the same disc is another in the line of D'Amato mondo cut and paste jobs, Porno Nights of the World N. 2., with Wilson stepping into hosting duties here instead of Gemser. Here she's an airline hostess and striptease expert (dubbed by the unmistakable Carolyn De Fonseca) being interviewed in Hong Kong by porn star Marina Hedman, which segues into a variety of naughty nightclub sequences involving ping pong balls, living nude painted statues, grainy stock footage, belly dancing, cross-dressing lesbians, mud wrestling, German S&M parties, and a ridiculous horsey sex twist on Swan Lake. It's completely goofy and ridiculous as usual, and the 2K scan here from the original negative looks ridiculously good (apart from the inevitable stock footage bits, of course). The English and Italian tracks are both included with English SDH subtitles. Trailers for both films are included along with "Ajita Wilson: An Elusive Icon" (16m3s), a video essay by Matt Richardson covering the depictions of ethnic womanhood at the time, the conventions of blaxploitation during the era, the contrast between current trans personalities and the late '70s, and the possibilities offered by European cinema versus Wilson's native New York City.
INFERNO ROSSO: JOE D'AMATO ON THE ROAD OF EXCESS
2021, 72 mins. 34 secs.
Directed by Manlio Gomarasca & Massimiliano Zanin
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
SCANDALOUS EMANUELLE (PEEPSHOW)
Color, 1986, 97 mins. 7 secs.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Jenny Tamburi, Marino Masé, Sebastiano Somma, Laura Gemser, Lilli Carati
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Finally on the last Blu-ray we cycle around back to the great Joe D'Amato who takes center stage the 2016 documentary Inferno Rosso: Joe D'Amato on the Road of Excess, an entertaining Italian doc featuring archival snippets of the man himself along with interview with the likes of Michele Soavi, Eli Roth, Lamberto Bava, Claudio Fragasso, George Eastman, Alberto Di Martino, Jess Franco, Ruggero Deodato, Tinto Brass, Giannetto De Rossi, Gianlorenzo Battaglia, Franco Gaudenzi, Luca Damiano, Jean-Francois Rauger, Mark Shannon, Francesca Massaccesi, and Giuliana Gamba. It's a great deal of fun capturing his cinema-loving personality and life story as well as his gleeful indulgence in the crossroads of sex and violence on film. What emerges is a portrait of someone always changing gears and looking for something engaging, which resulted in a slew of films that are more popular now than when they were released. The doc doesn't shy away from his eventual shift to standard pornography but doesn't quite show anything super explicit either, so it makes for a pretty solid intro to him as well if you're a newcomer.
Anyone familiar with D'Amato's output had to cross paths at multiple points with Filmirage, his production and distribution company that started in 1980 with films like Anthropophagus but really became a name thanks to its very successful VHS titles in the late '80s and well into the '90s including 11 Days 11 Nights, Troll 2, Beyond Darkness, Ghosthouse, Witchery, and the masterpiece of the bunch, StageFright. A typical Filmirage erotic title closes out the entire set: 1986's Scandalous Emanuelle, a retitling of Voglia di guardare which was circulated in English as Peepshow (the actual title on the transfer here) and Midnight Gigolo. It's a fairly typical bit of classy softcore erotica with Jenny Tamburi (Smile Before Death) starring as Christina, a married bourgeois woman slowly lured into brothel work by shifty Adrea (Somma). Her activities ignite the passions of both her husband (Masé) and her best friend (Gemser), with the madam in charge (sex film favorite Carati) calling the shots.
It all has that soft focus look D'Amato brought to his erotic films around the time, and with Gemser around it's very much in the vein of his superior The Alcove from the previous year (also with Gemser and Carati). The transfer here (in English with SDH subs) is typical for most Filmirage HD scans, digitally scrubbed to death and bland, but at least it's better than the VHS copies that mostly died out ages ago. Extras for Inferno Rosso include a bizarre intro by distributor Nicolas Winding Refn at the Venice Film Festival premiere (1m27s), a "Two of a Kind" conversation (29m28s) between director Manilo Gomarasca and the Locarno Film Festival's Giona A. Nazzaro about D'Amato, a hefty 36m35s outtake reel of bonus interview footage, and a trailer. Extras for Scandalous Emanuelle include a trailer, a "Scandalous Christina" (9m26s) chat with Tamburi about her career and the basis of her stage name, and "Peeping Lilli" (12m26s) with Carati doing an audio interview about her own name change, the origins of her career, and the public persona she crafted in a number of successful '70s sex comedies and dramas.
Reviewed on August 9, 2023