As one of the most well-known and successful cinematic institutions of Britain, it probably wasn’t surprising that the Carry On… films would eventually turn their attention to euro-softcore hit Emmanuelle. Released in 1978, Carry on Emmannuelle (note the two m’s and n’s) parodied the hugely successful French film, turning Emmanuelle from shy and sexually inquisitive into Emmannuelle (here played by Suzanne Danielle), confident and sexually predatory. More openly sexual than its predecessors, the feature effectively, and very obviously in terms of logical inversions, mocks the film that would also go on to have its own long running series. Full of some great double entendre that prehaps loses a bit of its bite in such a setting, Carry On Emmannuelle is a welcome, and occasionally much needed, break from the original film and its many successors…
Quite aptly for me, Black Emanuelle 2 (aka The New Black Emanuelle) opens with a statement by Freud that best describes my experiences in watching the Emanuelle/Emmanuelle films; ‘The sickness that disturbs me most is myself’. As someone who pretty much can’t stand the plethora of Emanuelle/Emmanuelle films that have been made, I sure as hell make sure I watch a lot of them. And, in this instance, I have some positive motive to. Bitto Albertini’s 1975 release Black Emanuelle, a semi-blaxsploitation spin on the original French Emmanuelle feature, is the only Emanuelle related film to date that I like. In this picture, actress Laura Gemser brings a sensual and human quality to the character that Sylvia Kristel’s version lacked in buckets. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that director Albertini had done a sequel the following year…
A sequel that lacks Gemser’s appearance. In Black Emanuelle 2, our titular lead is played by Israeli actress Shulamith Lasri (under the rather Western name of Sharon Lesley) with the story finding supermodel Emanuelle stuck in a Manhattan psychiatric clinic with a bad case of amnesia. Amnesia that can only be cured through Freudian disciplines that evoke a tonne of sexual flashbacks. Only Emanuelle’s version of events seem to differ greatly from the version expressed by the other person involved. Did her friend really take advantage of her? Is her father really an alcoholic molester? Quite frankly, I don’t care. A softcore porno with a lead that is clearly suffering from some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or a Schizoid-type of mental illness doesn’t really get my rocks off. Even if the film does include a bizarre scene with a male character using his erection to bench press a twelve pound weight (Am I impressed? No. Put some bloody clothes on).
Unsurprisingly enough, Black Emanuelle 2 is Lasri’s only film credit and this her only entry in the Black Emanuelle films. There’s no denying she is a stunner, with a wonderfully curvaceous body to die for, she just isn’t Laura Gemser who really makes the role her own. When you think of Black Emanuelle, you think of Gemser, and whilst Lasri certainly tries her best, Gemser never really had to. She just had it. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…
I have come to the conclusion that I must be some kind of masochist, because I still keep forcing myself to sit down and watch Emmanuelle films knowing full well they are going to be terrible. And guess what? Number three in the original French series, Goodbye Emmanuelle, is no different.
Hedonistic, spoilt brat Emmanuelle (a returning Sylvia Kristel, with an absolutely dire hairstyle) and her husband Jean (an also returning Umberto Orsini) are now living their decadent lifestyle of apparent nothingness in the beautiful Seychelles. It has to be said, terrible and monotonous acting and plot aside, the locations are, without a doubt, stunning and director Leterrier makes use of all the areas within the Seychelles islands. It’s just really sad to see such gorgeous locations with a bunch of ugly people dumped in the middle of them. I digress… Emmanuelle and her husband are continuing to live their indulgent lifestyle with a bunch of friends and fellow expats who like to play games too. For this bunch of sex obsessed, two-dimensional people, regular group orgies, arranging play dates for their other halves and ignoring their emotional well-being in its entirety are just part of the usual every day routine.
Enter film director Gregory who Emmanuelle becomes more than a little obsessed and attracted to. Cue a major problem in that, for the first time ever in their relationship, her attraction to somebody else makes Jean incredibly jealous and angry. Gregory initially treats Emmanuelle like a whore, questioning her motives and her feelings, asking her if she really desires and likes the way she lives. Unlike her, he can only love one woman at a time. However the more time they spend together, the more Emmanuelle wants to be with him with finally culminates in a bitter fight between Gregory and Jean. Emmanuelle eventually decides that she wants to be with Gregory and give up the emptiness of the life she has been living but Jean in a jealous rage, plots to try to keep Emmanuelle all to himself. It doesn’t work and she leaves him, hence the film’s title and the incredibly annoying title track on the film’s soundtrack by Serge Gainsbourg.
Sadly, this is another vapid and incredibly bland entry in the Emmanuelle franchise which, irritatingly, has no decent sex scenes to compensate with. It’s a shame that nothing a little more serious was done with the script or story considering it involves Emmanuelle rejecting a lifestyle so drastically that she spent two movies hyping up so much. But then again, an empty film just mirrors the emptiness of the characters and the story. Yes, they’re all living this incredibly sexy and indulgent lifestyle but none of them are really happy. If this film teaches you anything, it’s that empty sex doesn’t equal a happy life, whether that be in a committed monogamous relationship (I’m not even sure Emmanuelle knows what that means…) or an open orgyfest. Even better, it’s all one big fucking lie. It’s not a goodbye at all, she bloody returns eventually for four more sequels in this franchise alone…
Whilst the term ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ is a pretty solid and correct statement, sometimes I feel that it should really be ‘Don’t always judge a book by its cover but there may be one or two that you really should’. In this case, the latter statement can be quite easily applied to Ilias Mylonakos’s 1980 release Emanuelle’s Sweet Revenge aka Emanuelle’s Daughter (its actually Emanuelle’s step-daughter) aka Emanuelle, Queen Bitch (relatively accurate) aka Sexy Moon (just go straight to trading standards on this one, there is no moon…). What sounds like a sexy thriller is actually a wet blanket of a sexploitation film and one of the worst entries in the Black Emanuelle film franchise.
In fact, it’s slightly debatable whether or not it can be considered a Black Emanuelle film. Whilst it stars the always present Laura Gemser in the lead role, on a few occasions during the picture she is referred to as Emanuella and is married which seems completely out of character considering we all know what Emanuelle likes to get up to… Still, the film finds Emanuelle married to a really horrible, abusive older man who owns an orange factory. After being brutally assaulted by her husband and his co-workers, she persuades a stranger (through sex, obviously) to kill him and she eventually inherits his estate and becomes legal guardian to his moody teenage daughter Livia (Livia Russo).
Simple story which played out well could be full of erotic tension but instead plays out like a bloated village idiot trying to be sexy when everyone else is watching uncomfortably. The stranger Emanuelle hired to kill her husband follows her around and becomes interested in Livia, except that he has sex with pretty much every woman he meets. Not much tension going on there. Emanuelle gets it on with one of her late husbands friends in a rather predictable and very obvious piece of story development and everyone else wanders around trying to work out whether they signed up for a sleazy thriller or a piece of pure sleaze. Even the idea of Emanuelle trying to screw over her husband by selling off and changing his established business seems a bit silly, there’s not much punishment a dead man can get through that. There does, however, appear to be some potential audience tension in the fact that Russo looks incredibly young (we’re talking pre-pubescent) and her character appears topless, has a sex scene and gets raped. The version I have appears to be cut as none of this was present in the feature I watched but be warned if you buy this under a different title or uncut. The idea of watching what sounds like a young teenager getting exploited isn’t one that appeals much and one that I had hoped the Emanuelle series wouldn’t have stooped down to (then again, we do have the horse masturbation scene inEmanuelle in America…).
Extended sex scenes are great (and if its one thing this film has, it’s longer sex scenes than some others had at the time) but they ain’t so hot when you end up seeing some blokes squashed scrotum. The best revenge for that is avoiding this crap installment and seeking out the better Emanuellefilms instead.
Does it make you horny baby? No? Me neither. Executively produced by David Sullivan, London’s premier men’s magazine publisher, Emmanuelle in Soho (1981) was one of the last British sex films to be made and released at the end of a successful five years for British sexploitation films. Originally intended as a vehicle for Sullivan’s girlfriend and muse Mary Millington, the film went into pre-production in 1978 after the success of an earlier collaborations of theirs Come Play With Me (1977). Sadly, Millington killed herself in 1979 and what was meant to be her first shot at some serious acting never came to fruition.
Instead the lead role went to model Julie Lee, who had some pretty looks but no real talent or ability to act. In the nicest way possible, watching her feels incredibly awkward, something you don’t really want to feel when you’re trying to watch a sex film. She’s as wooden as an impotent’s erection and this was unsurprisingly her only film role. Instead Lee’s role was swapped somewhat with that of another character and new star Mandy Miller, nicknamed ‘Randy Mandy’ was bought in. Billed on posters as’The NEW Mary Millington’, Miller just doesn’t have the charm that Millington had, even though her acting fares slightly better. Slightly.
The film saw Lee playing wife Kate to Kevin Fraser’s Paul. Paul is a struggling photographer on the sleazy London sex scene and can’t stop taking pictures of his lodger Emmanuelle, played by Miller (there, folks, is your link to the Emmanuelle/Emanuelle franchises and a poor link at that, only needing the name to generate money). Paul’s photographs are bought cheaply with the view to be sold on again for greater profit and soon he finds himself involved in a blackmailing scheme. And an orgy.
As with all of Sullivan’s films, publicity had Emmanuelle in Soho being advertised as ‘the hardest film ever released in Britain’. It wasn’t and further hardcore scenes were shot for overseas sales. The movie was still successful, opening at the Eros Cinema in Piccadilly Circus (the porno theatre featured in John Landis’ 1981 horror feature An American Werewolf in London) and running for a substantial number of weeks before transferring to the Moulin in Great Windmill Street. Sadly for Lee, she never got the acting career she desired and passed away after a horrific car accident two years later in 1983.
In Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976), director Joe D’Amato and lead actress Laura Gemser continue their quest to take the intrepid reporter Emanuelle worldwide. On another journalism assignment, Emanuelle finds herself in Thailand where she does little professional work but learns a lot about herself personally… And takes the odd photograph or two.
So what can you expect from this entry into the Black Emanuelle film series? Pretty much the same as the rest of them. Opening with a Suspiria inspired shot of an incredibly bored looking Emanuelle trying to develop her photographs whilst her suitor tries to seduce her (she has a face like a slapped arse that screams ‘Fuck off‘), D’Amato instantly sets the tone for the rest of the film. Yes this is Emanuelle but it has none of the eroticism that Bitto Albertini and Gemser displayed in Black Emanuelle which was only released the year before. The sex scenes feel like neither party can really be bothered, wanting to get it done and out-of-the-way quickly because they both have work the next day. An orgy scene in particular finishes as quickly as it started and feel’s as wooden as your friend with erectile dysfunction’s penis. Exactly what you want to pay for when you go and see a sexploitation/softcore porno… Gemser even struggles to try to look like she’s interested, let alone enjoying, the full body massages she gets, as if fed up of their monotony. As much as I don’t like it, credit must be given to Just Jaeckin who at least managed to get his Emannuelle (Sylvia Kristel) seduced not only by her love interests but by the city of Bangkok itself and the culture. Here it just feels like Emanuelle the character and D’Amato couldn’t give a shit about anything.
It’s a real shame because Laura Gemser shines as the Black Emanuelle, her beauty and natural sensuality making her far more superior than the original Emmanuelle Kristel from which the Black Emanuelle series stemmed from. Whilst Gemser looks gorgeous here as she usually does, she’s absolutely wasted acting wise with scenes that are lack lustre and a plot so threadbare (something about a lost passport… I think…?) it makes other sexploitation films with no plot look like The Godfather. Gemser is far better in Black Emanuelle and Emanuelle In Prison, whilst a more competent Gemser/D’Amato collaboration would be Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, a fantastic film released the year after Emanuelle in Bangkok. If this is Emanuelle trying to sell me Bangkok, I’d rather go to Skegness.
God bless Laura Gemser’s intrepid investigative reporter Emanuelle, for it is her adventures in the Black Emanuelle spin-off films that provide the most entertainment out of the entire Emmanuelle/Emanuelle film series. Emanuelle in Prison (aka Emanuelle fuga dall’inferno, Emanuelle Escpaes From Hell) is the 1983 picture that see’s Gemser’s iconic portrayal transported to the realm of Women in Prison films.
After being sent to a Female prison and witnessing her fellow inmates being abused by the Guards, Emanuelle tries to blow the whistle on what really happened, only to be at the hands of the same wardens herself. She also has to deal with ‘Top Dog’ inmate Albina who is determined to put Emanuelle in her place. Eventually our protagonist begins to suspect that someone is trying to beat her down, someone possibly linked to the corrupt official she was trying to expose before being framed. Life in the prison is, however, interrupted when four male death row inmates break into the prison…
Cue violence, and plenty of it. No Women in Prison would be complete without a few bloody scenes and Emanuelle in Prison delivers throats being bitten out, torture, Russian roulette and razorblades being hidden inside inmate’s vaginas. Add to that a hefty dose of rape, sex being used by sex-starved prisoners as a prelude to murder, sadistic wardens, cat fights and lesbian sex, not to mention a large amount of cheesy dialogue to match, and you have your typical Women in Prison exploitation flick. Expect anything less?
Laura Gemser is, as always when playing Emanuelle, fantastic. It’s refreshing to see an Emanuelle film in which the Emanuelle character spends a lot of time off screen, not that this diminishes her impact or the character itself in any way. This was the last Emanuelle related film Gemser would do and it’s nice to see her play the role with a hardened and tougher exterior than in previous entries. Gabriele Tinti, another veteran of the Black Emanuelle film series and Gemser’s real life husband, is also memorable as the leader of the gang of male prisoners. Other notable’s are the other female inmates played by Maria Romano, Antonella Giacomini and Ursula Flores as Albina, who in one hilarious cat fight, gets her wig pulled off.
Italian director Bruno Mattei worked across many exploitation genres and his experience shows in Emanuelle in Prison. Known for working with and occasionally filling in for other Italian directors such as Lucio Fulci and Joe D’Amato (who directed many of the films in the Black Emanuelle film series), Mattei has directed one of the better Emanuelle films that were released in the 1970’s and 80s. Whilst certainly heavy on Women in Prison qualities, the film has a narrative and structure that makes the picture feel a little more than just another exploitation flick, and provides the character of Emanuelle with a perfect last outing.