When Just Jaeckin’s glossy exercise in softcore, Emmanuelle, earned boffo box office in 1974, imitators piled on, and no imitators anywhere were as shameless as the Italians, who began the Black Emanuelle series (note the missing “m”). Laura Gemser starred, and Joe D’Amato directed many of the entries (though not the first). This set offers three.Both the double-“m” and single-“m” series were characterized by the heroine having sex in exotic locales, and the travelogue aspect is most dominant in Emanuelle in Bangkok (1977). Plot here is almost nonexistent. Photojournalist Emanuelle begins to run afoul of political skullduggery in Thailand, but before anything really develops there, she leaves town. The film is little more than pretty landscapes interrupted by frequent nudity.
Emanuelle Around the World (1977) has a bit more of a storyline, though it is still very picaresque in nature. Picturesque as well. Our heroine becomes outraged by the sex traffic of women, and so travels from location to location, exposing the evildoers. D’Amato (who also directed the previous entry) here rather unconvincingly dons a pseudo-feminist stance, but there are moments actually approaching suspense. The sex scenes of both these films are, for the most part, laughable, though occasionally well shot. Any sense of eroticism is thanks to Laura Gemser, whose ethereal beauty and grace are such that she moves through the films as an almost divine presence, above and untouched by the events around her.
Sister Emanuelle (1981) sees Joseph Warren (Giuseppe Vari) taking up the directorial reins. Emanuelle gives up the sins of the flesh and becomes a nun in a school for girls. Temptation abounds, natch, particularly in the person of the rebellious and sexually uncontrollable Monica Zanchi. The result of the storyline is to sideline Emanuelle in her own film, reducing her in many ways to a supporting character while Zanchi steps into the spotlight. All well and good, I suppose, but she’s no Gemser.
This is an interesting collection, providing a nice sampling of once very profitable exploitation franchise. One can’t help but bemoan, however, the absence of both the first (Black Emanuelle) and most notorious (Emanuelle in America) films in the series.
The sound is in mono, and is generally serviceable, but no more. Around the World‘s music is a bit muzzy, for instance, but the score in Bangkok is quite crisp and very loud. There is a bit of background hiss, but nothing severe. The dialogue is available in both English and Italian version, and both are equally obviously post-synched and quite silly. The shortcomings of the sound are also clearly problems with the source material rather than the transfer.
The credit sequences can be pretty rough, as are a few other moments here and there: soft to the point of being blurry. Print condition is generally very good, though there are some instances of guitar strings now and then. Pixelation is noticeable in the red-lit scenes. Generally, though, the image is sharp and the colours very attractive. The films no doubt look as good as they did upon initial release.
Each disc has a couple of extras. All three have their respective trailers. Bangkok has a rare English-language interview with D’Amato, which is very interesting, but is much more about his horror films than the Emanuelle films. Around the World has a fairly extensive interview with composer Nico Fidenco, and comes with the real treasure among the extras: a second disc that is a CD of soundtracks for Black Emanuelle, Bankok and Around the World. Put the sub-ABBA “A Picture of Love” on at your next party and watch the jaws drop. Finally, Sister has some deleted scenes. To top everything off, some lobby cards are included in the box. Nice touch.
A valuable exploitation release. I could wish for the inclusion of a couple more titles, but I don’t want to be churlish. For fans of nostalgic sleaze, this is pure gold. And a look at Severin’s film site promises more to come.