The time is the 1930s, the setting Africa, as Mussolini attempts to recreate an Empire through the colonization of Abyssinia. An officer and poet Elio (Al Cliver) returns from the campaign with the spoils of conquest, one of which is Abyssinian princess Zerbal (Laura Gemser, of D’Amato’s Black Emanuelle films). The erotic heat in his home is already pretty torrid, what with wife Alessandra (Lilli Carati) carrying on with secretary Virma (Annie Belle). Zerbal’s arrival upsets the emotional apple cart, passions flare, and the supposed slave starts to exert more and more influence over the putative masters.
This Joe D’Amato effort sees the master of sleaze in lush, romantic mode rather than nasty and brutish. The settings, costumes and colours are all luxurious, and the film unspools at a langorous pace. As with his present-day-set Papaya, in and around the various softcore couplings is some rather interesting commentary about colonialism. Then there’s the story thread that sees Elio and household having to turn to the production of pornography in order to stay solvent. Amusingly self-reflexive elements (Alessandra wonders how they’re going to recreate 18th Century Venice in their home with no budget) give way to unexpected nastiness that is itself linked to the whole revenge of the colonized theme. Finally, the chilling conclusion (one that gestures to the ascendancy of a young generation of cold-eyed fascists) lingers in the mind.
There’s a lot of soft-focus going on here, which comes at the price of some considerable grain in a number of shots, and the blacks aren’t always as solid as they might be. There are also a few instances of troubling guitar strings. On the other hand, the colours and contrasts are quite lovely, and when the picture is good (which is much of the time), it is terrific, and the movie is consistently beautiful to look at.
A perfectly serviceable mono. Nothing to exclaim about, no, and yes, there are signs of age and modest budget (sibilance rears its ugly head once in a while). But the job gets done, and there isn’t much else one could ask for with this sort of a film. The dubbing is about par for the course.
Talking Dirty with Joe D’Aamato: (11:05) A 1990s interview with D’Amato covers such topics as Gemser, the Black Emanualle films, and his love of being a DP (his big influence is Caravaggio). The tape has aged, but this is a valuable piece.
Eurotrash with a brain in its head. Life is very, very good.