Color, 1975, 98 mins. 16 secs.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring George Eastman, Rosemarie Lindt, Annie Carol Edel, Patrizia Gori, Maria Rosaria Riuzzi
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), X-Rated Kult (Blu-ray & DVD (Germany R0 HD/PAL) / WS (1.85:1)

Just Emanuelle and Françoisebefore he embarked on an outrageous five-film cycle of Emanuelle and FrançoiseBlack Emanuelle films starring Laura Gemser (and a few sort-of connected additional films as well), Italian exploitation maestro Joe D'Amato actually chimed in on the rapidly growing European erotica craze inaugurated by 1974's Emmanuelle with his first bona fide collision of shocking sex and violence. Better known to American video hounds as Emanuelle's Revenge, Emanuelle and Françoise found him working for the fifth time with his most famous leading man, Anthropophagus and Absurd star and screenwriter George Eastman. Surprisingly, this one is almost as extreme as those later outings with its initially sexy antics soon turning sadistic before plunging into outright horror territory for the final half hour.

Deriving its plot wholesale from the Greek sexploitation film The Wild Pussycat, our sordid tale begins with sweet model Françoise (Cry of a Prostitute's Gori) shopping around to find just the right cigar for her boyfriend, Carlo (Eastman). Unfortunately she comes home just in time to catch him in the sack with another Emanuelle and Françoisewoman, which prompts him to kick a despondent Françoise out on the street. Desolate, she reacts by hurling herself to her death in Emanuelle and Françoisefront a train, leaving behind a letter about her recent tragedies to be read by her sister, Emanuelle (Who Saw Her Die's Lindt). As it turns out, Carlo was even worse than he appeared as he debased and mentally abused the poor girl in a string of increasingly seedy forced sexual situations, so Emanuelle decides to get even. That entails getting to Carlo close enough to drug him and imprison him at a remote villa in a soundproof room complete with speakers and two-way mirrors, so Emanuelle can torture him with an escalating series of sexual encounters that soon cause him to detach from reality quite violently.

Though it certainly works well as a softcore sex film, Emanuelle and Françoise really comes into its own once Eastman's ordeal really kicks in and he starts hallucinating mass orgies, a crazed cannibal dinner, a bloody machete attack, and plenty more. It's little wonder the film failed to really catch on with sex-seeking audiences at the time as it really bares its teeth in that final stretch (to such an extent it was released on British VHS as Blood Vengeance), but now of course it's a pure sleazy delight with enough nasty twists to keep seasoned Eurocult vets on their toes.

Emanuelle and FrançoiseThe first DVD release came from German label X-Rated Kult complete with a non-anamorphic letterboxed transfer (with Italian, French and English audio options), German trailer, a batch of more explicit insert footage crafted for the German theatrical version by Erwin C. Emanuelle and FrançoiseDietrich (including a different title sequence, a young Brigitte Lahaie, and a really irritating new score), a 7-second bit of innocuous dialogue from another alternate cut, the English opening titles, the German trailer, a quick 7-second lost scene, a gallery, and a D'Amato video interview that isn't English-friendly at all. The label brought the film to German Blu-ray in 2018, albeit with no English options for the feature or extras; however, if you speak German, it does add a commentary track by Lars Dreyer-Winkelmann. There's also a sampling of five soundtrack excerpts pulled directly from the film, whose amusing hodgepodge of music (credited to "Joe Dynamo") is a mixture of uncredited songs, probable library tracks, and preexisting Gianni Marchetti cues from Il sole nella pelle and Milano: il clan dei Calabresi.

Emanuelle and Françoise finally received its first official U.S. release from Severin Films in 2019 in Blu-ray and DVD incarnations as well as a limited slipcase edition. The transfer looks solid given the film's earthy, desaturated look that seems to be accurate based on past presentations; clarity is fine as well given the tendency to shoot the film with a soft look except in exterior scenes. Anyone who's suffered through earlier releases should be more than pleased. Audio is presented in DTS-HD MA English or French mono with optional English subtitles respective to each track; both are equally dubbed and wildly mismatched at times to the actors' lip movements, so you're fine watching it either way. However, the French version differs noticeably at times in the meaning of its dialogue, so it's fascinating to compare the two. The English track sounds more Emanuelle and Françoisedegraded with a fair share of damage, Emanuelle and Françoisethough it's still clear and legible with a kind of grubby vibe to it. "Three Women and a Mirror" (14m31s) features actress Maria Rosaria Riuzzi chatting about her short but vivid decade-long career in Italian films, which started off when she was a minor and ended with D'Amato's Images in a Convent with films as diverse as Salon Kitty and Profumo di donna along the way. She has particularly positive memories of this film (in which she has a memorably steamy lesbian three-way) with D'Amato treating her well on the set, and she even offers a bit of impromptu commentary watching her big scene on an iPad. Then "The Other Side of the Mirror" (15m21s) features a typically candid chat with Eastman about his early collaborations with D'Amato before this and his thoughts on the film, including Bruno Mattei's work on the script and his distaste for some of the gorier indulgences in the finished product. He's also quite complimentary to his leading ladies in the film, which wasn't always the case later on. You'll even find out which actor ended up in an asylum later, too, and he reveals an earlier alternate ending that was thankfully changed to the one we have now. The alternate German scenes are also included as a reel (14m14s) in all its VHS-sourced glory, along with the German trailer. A gallery of images is also included along with a five-track soundtrack selection of cutes pull straight from the film soundtrack.

Reviewed on May 2, 2019.