They don't make 'em like this anymore. Emanuelle Around the World (1977) was something like the 18th of more than 25 Emmanuelle/Emanuelle movies produced over six short years between 1974 and 1979. Gorgeous Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel starred in the ground-breaking Emmanuelle (1974), a French production that despite its relative explicitness attempted to introduce a level of classiness and mature adult sexuality to an increasingly coarse porno industry. Looking at it now, that film's sex scenes are frequently silly but its ambitious nature and exotic travelogue aspects (appealing perhaps to sophisticated Europeans but lost on the American raincoat crowd) make it something of a curiosity today. In any case the film was a gargantuan international success, and begat dozens of imitators.
Although Kristel stopped playing Emmanuelle (for a time) after just three films, the character continued in other forms, most famously in the persona of exotically beautiful Indonesian Laura Gemser, who starred in an imitation Italian-produced series generally known as "Black Emanuelle" (note the single m). Black Emanuelle (Emanuelle near, 1975) was the first, and Gemser went on to play the character in eight more films, while in at least another four her character's names were misleadingly changed to Emanuelle when they were dubbed into English.
Emanuelle Around the World was the fifth "Black Emanuelle" movie, and one of five directed and co-written by the infamous Joe D'Amato. Born Aristide Massaccesi, D'Amato had rather peculiar notions of eroticism, frequently adding graphic horror elements to the mix, most famously in the appalling Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali , 1977). Emanuelle Around the World is similarly contradictory, with Emanuelle (Gemser) a photojournalist on a crusade against the exploitation and humiliation of women in a film that outrageously exploits and humiliates women during the course of its 102-minute running time.
Where the French Emmanuelle movies were generally about one woman's sexual liberation, and the lovemaking on a mutually consensual basis, scenes of Emanuelle Around the World's heroine enjoying sex whenever, wherever, and with whomever she pleases shares screentime with multiple gang rapes and, among other things, forced sex acts with various animals. D'Amato clearly intends for male audiences to find such violent and disturbing scenes titillating, but instead such footage is merely execrable.
Except for its most brutal vignettes, by today's blunt hard-core standards, Emanuelle Around the World (original title: Emanuelle - perché violenza alle donne?, or "Emanuelle - Why Violence Against Womankind?") is almost tame. Severin Film's all-region DVD offers the "XXX European Version," but in fact there's probably less than 15 minutes of anything like hard-core sex. Intercourse scenes with Gamser are simulated, though other scenes involving lesser players and extras clearly are not.
The story has globe-trotting Emanuelle on the trail of a white slave ring with similarly beautiful reporter Cora Norman (Karin Schubert). Her research does indeed take her around the world: the film was shot in both New York and San Francisco, in India, Italy, Hong Kong, and Iran, and the locations, both exteriors and interiors, are well-chosen.
The film's script, however, is not one of its greater assets, mainly because Emanuelle's battle against men who sexually abuse women is so patently phony and insincere. (Mild Spoiler: The film ends with Emanuelle, having blown the lid off the white slave trade and the scandal "spreading like an oil spot," is last seen aboard a yacht sailing past the Statue of Liberty, with by sheer chance a huge industrial fire in the background, an oddly apropos image given its big gang rape-by-U.S. Senators finale.)
Video & Audio
Emanuelle Around the World is given a fine 16:9 widescreen transfer at 1.77:1, approximating the film's original 1.85:1 release. The transfer uses French title elements, where it was called Le Vice dans La Peau, or "The Vice in the Skin," and apparently exhibited at 1.66:1, at least based on the title graphics. The titles are on the soft side, but the rest of the film looks great. The English mono is okay, but the Italian mono track (with optional English subtitles) is superior. There are no Extra Features
Emanuelle Around the World is recommended for those curious about '70s era erotic cinema and for fans of actress Gemser, whose beauty far eclipses everything else about the film. All others are duly warned.
Film historian Stuart Galbraith IV's most recent essays appear in Criterion's new three-disc Seven Samurai DVD and BCI Eclipse's The Quiet Duel. His audio commentary for Invasion of Astro Monster is due out in June.