Black Emanuelle's Box, Volume 2:
Getting the unnecessary deluxe box treatment are three mid-'70s exploitationers sharing the name Emanuelle in the title. Emanuelle had a long and schizoid life in trash cinema history - the original series (spelled Emmanuelle and played mostly by Sylvia Kristel) and the 'Black Emanuelle' series of knock-offs, both about women who share a love of stripping naked to masturbate or have sex with anyone at any time in a matter of seconds. Laura Gemser's version, Black Emanuelle, (it's a skin color thing) is an 'investigative journalist' who mixes it up on the international scene with various baddies, but mostly has softcore sex.
Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade:
The white slave trade in this case consists of rich men bidding on nearly narcoleptic nudie cuties who will serve on their pleasingly mellow sex-farms cum high-class resorts. I gotta take the puns where I can get them, people. Suffice it to say, there's very little actual intrigue here, no peril a little sex can't help, and the worst dubbing this side of The Flying Guillotine.
Directed by Joe D'Amato, (good old Aristide Massacessi) Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade is another silly, sloppy and slap-dash affair. As production values go, yes the international locations add cache, but otherwise we're talking low-rent. Breezy but pedestrian shots betray D'Amato's skill vis-à-vis lightning fast shooting schedules - set the camera up and 'boom' you're done (unless you want to zoom in on the sex and briefly lose focus). But what kills this one is the dubbing, I'm not even sure Gemser did her own overdubs as it sounds like someone else, and most of the other voices are awful too; simpering, stupid, stereotyped and out-of-sync.
On the other hand you get a sex scene or some other form of female full-frontal nudity more than every eight-minutes, far more. Gemser is undeniably beautiful, although her bemused, thoughtful skyward glances and long, straight hair echo Marcia Brady more than Exotic Journalist. Also, she's so thin you can see her ribcage above her breasts - not so hot, I say. Luckily every other lass that doffs dress (and there are a lot) is certifiably cute, especially Ely Galleani who in the first half hour of the film shags a mechanic, showers and shags Emanuelle, has a couple of three-ways and runs naked across the veldt before disappearing from the picture. A karate-kicking transvestite, light-hearted gang-rape and Emanuelle paying passage on a fishing vessel with sex round up the catalogue of cretinous canoodling and casual sex that is the only reason to enjoy (and you will) this stupid-bad sexploitation romp.
Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 ratio. Released in 1978, it's showing its age; film-grain, slightly washed out color and a tiny bit of damage here and there, but overall it looks pretty good. This claims to be the first time the movie has been released uncut in America, so this is surely much better looking than any foreign VHS or Video Search dubbed copy you may have uncovered.
You might be happy with the Dolby Digital Mono Audio Track - it softens the blow of the sweet but dunder-headed porn-jazz lite and a disco song about cheetahs that is heard frequently throughout the film. Dialogue is clear and adequate, but from the poorly dubbed print, so nothing to shout about (maybe cover your ears?)
A tweleve-minute, casual home-video 'Interview' filmed at someone's apartment features D'Amato and a few beer-drinking journalists chatting about his career. D'Amato fans and scholars of his wide-ranging career - 'Euro-trash horror' to porn - will really enjoy this - especially if they want to know why D'Amato includes animal sex in Caligula 2. The Theatrical Trailer tells a better story than the movie itself. The big extra (included with this DVD) is a Music CD, Getting Down With Black Emanuelle Volume 2, featuring over an hour of Nico Fidenco's cool disco-porno-jazz from Black Emanuelle in America, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, and Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade. As groovy, camp '70s Euro-pop, it sounds better on the iPod than in the movie.
D'Amato seems like such a pleasant Italian pragmatist that it's hard to say that probably no one watches his movies expecting quality. Actually, the quality expected is of the so-bad-it's-good variety, crass, cheap, shocking, prurient, haphazard and (hopefully) full of beautiful naked women. Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade fits the bill, though low on the shocking meter, as 90-minutes of soft-core crotch rubbing while Rich Men do Bad Things. On its own, you might want to Rent it.
Black Emmanuelle / White Emmanuelle:
From Fellini screenwriter Brunello Rondi (8 ½, La Dolce Vita) comes the truly disorienting pervo-soap-opera Black Emmanuelle / White Emmanuelle, a movie that takes the Emmanuelle series to a slow-burn, 'luude-fueled, weirdo-sex 'n' spectacle arena unheard of to most movie viewers.
After a three-minute, grindingly portentous opening sequence that has almost no bearing on anything, we only have to wait another 90 seconds for our first shot of gratuitous nudity. For no discernable reason Emmanuelle (now the world's most beautiful model), and her insane Svengali-like photographer Carlo (Gabriele Tinti) join a hot-momma and her two hotter daughters, a washed up old actor and a nut-case, oversexed, ascetic guru on an aimless trip through Islamic Africa to look at temples and sexually denigrate each other.
Much of the fun in store comes from Carlo, a psychotically abusive rapist / world class fashion photographer who likes to scream that Emmanuelle is a bitch while forcing her to pose nude with massacred bodies of Arab children. Emmanuelle is reasonably upset and stares pensively into the distance while winds howl and camels cackle gutturally in the background. Then Antonio (Al Cliver of Fulci fame) convinces ultra-hot Magda (the wonderfully named Ziggy Zanger, eerily looking like a mannequin) to go down on him while Vangelis-style new-age disco music pulses loudly. Ultimately Antonio hypnotizes everyone in a show-stopping slo-mo freak-out that causes Emmanuelle (Gemser) to sacrifice a goat, drinking its blood before disappearing.
Looking like a hot cross between Annie Lennox and Neve Campbell, the stunning 'White Emmanuelle' Laure (Annie Belle, with her own series of Eurosex movies) adds an entirely new level of drool-inducing weirdness and attitude, playing some undefinable, disco-dancing force for change or something. Truthfully, there's little point in trying to understand what's going on or what it means, it's best to just sit back, get a little lubricated (not necessary, but recommended) and let yourself be ravaged by the sensuous insanity.
Presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen ratio enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs, Black Emmanuelle / White Emmanuelle looks pretty fabulous (especially Belle and Zanger). The image is nicely clear and pretty crisp, and colors are fairly deep and vibrant. The aspect ratio does great service to masterful cinematography.
A Dolby Digital Mono Audio Track with the original Italian language dialog (and English subtitles) is strong and sharp. An English language track is incomplete and gives the characters different names. All dialog is loud and clear and the either thuddingly grandiose or groovily spaced-out songs from the soundtrack are up front and overwhelming. The movie would lose 33% of its charm and power with a different soundtrack.
A series of Interviews collectively titled Black Velvet blends the reminiscences of Gemser (audio interview with clips) Cliver (video interview) and Belle (phone interview with clips and stills) in an 18-minute look at the backgrounds of the stars vis-à-vis working with each other before and after the movie, what they think of Black Emmanuelle / White Emmanuelle and its sundry aspects. The interviews are subtitled in English from Italian, and are relatively interesting, not 100% captivating, but informative. The Theatrical Trailer is included, as well as the aforementioned option of watching with the Italian Audio Track with English Subtitles or with the English Language Audio Track. Light extras for an astounding movie.
An awesomely monolithic soundtrack, whacked-out psychosexual drama and reliance on gorgeous, languid camera work make everything in Black Emmanuelle / White Emmanuelle so fine. Sure, it bears little relation to the series, including being fairly light on softcore sex and nudity, but it makes up for it through Belle and Zanger's smoldering looks and by being wildly artistically skewed and focused on twisted sexuality. Hypnotic, wandering and perverse, this might be the best Emmanuelle movie ever! On its own, this one is absolutely Recommended.
Black Emanuelle 2:
This movie has the onscreen title Black Emanuelle No. 2, which is far more charming and descriptive than the title on the box. A charming title is one of the few things going for Black Emanuelle 2, however, a relatively daft and boring entry into the cycle.
"The sickeness (sic) that disturb (sic) me most is myself" is the Sigmund Freud quote used to start off the movie - more charm, but it's the last you'll see. For the remainder of the movie we get the usual mix of awful dubbing, performances that range from somnambulistic (Sharon Lesley as Emanuelle) to ridiculous (Angelo Infanti as Emanuelle's doctor Paul) and a plot comprised of silly melodrama, tepid sex and endless, numbing flashbacks.
With a little too much Laugh-In-style camera work for my liking, the best Black Emanuelle 2 can do is frequently uncover what can only be described as Lesley's mind-boggling chest. Otherwise, there's tons of mileage covered by principals staring intently at each other in medium shots while trying to figure out why Emanuelle doesn't remember much except how to be a tease. Was she affected by a modeling stint in the midst of a Lebanese firefight? Or was it something entirely unrelated and improbable?
Really, who cares, as the ridiculous inanitites pile on (and not in a good way). How about this exchange between Emanuelle and an oversexed psych-hospital roommate: Roommate: "That body - you're like the queen of the night ... or a panther!" Emanuelle: "Grrrr." This turns the two girls on so much that they dance naked to funk music while having an impromptu body-painting party.
I know it sounds good, but it isn't. Emanuelle 2, for all its loopy, perverted charm, is flat, tedious and barely thrilling. There are other bad movies better than this, for sure.
A widescreen presentation in the 1.85:1 ratio, enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs fills the screen just as nicely as Lesley's chest (my apologies) and does service to this fine-looking transfer. Colors are relatively rich, film grain is present but minimal and the transfer is clean and clear, if a little soft, which is probably due to the source.
Another loud and clear Dolby Digital Mono Audio Track, the music is upfront, even a bit strident, and the dubbing is too well understandable. It's not an audiophile's dream (and if audiophiles dream of great sound from an Emanuelle movie, they're in trouble) but it's a welcome relief for schlock fans used to scratchy, drop-out-riddled VHS copies.
A 15-minute Interview titled Diva 70, with co-star and lesser-Eurosex-light Dagmar Lassander, accompanies the Theatrical Trailer as the only two extras on the disc. Speaking in Italian with subtitling, Lassander talks about the origins of her career, her life in European Cinema, her approach to her craft and what happened after. It's nothing too exciting, but interesting to see how time has treated her.
Despite the ample charms of Lesley, Black Emanuelle 2 is by far the least of the Emanuelle films I have had the pleasure of watching. Tame sex with a schoolboy's sense of humor, a mystery that gets more and more irritating and a general lack of excitement outweigh the few forehead slapping moments that we come to expect from this type of cinema. Definitely for completists only, otherwise, Skip it.
Box Set Final Thoughts:
Black Emmanuelle / White Emmanuelle is so astounding that it carries the weight of this otherwise just passable collection. While it's always fun to dip into D'Amato's weird mind, I'm not sure owning many of his films is mandatory, and as for Black Emanuelle 2, probably OK to rent with a bunch of drunken friends, but just barely, and aren't you too old for that? The music CD is a great addition, but the extras per DVD are definitely underwhelming. Additionally, the box set is packaged as three standard DVD cases in a paperboard cover with a fold out so you can ogle Gemser's top half, it seems cheap, but maybe that's just me. I'm not a fan of this packaging, preferring either slim cases or gatefold packaging. Ultimately, this modest collection of cinema oddities that mostly deserve obscurity squeaks by wth a Recommended, but only for hardcore fans.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com