Here’s one nobody has mentioned yet: Emanuelle In America!
(I guess the DVD box art had to be deleted for the answer to be shown? I’m done trying to understand the moderation bots logic. Enjoy my review below.)
Who or what is Emanuelle, first of all? The series started in France in 1974 with Emmanuelle, starring Sylvia Kristel as a wealthy and sexually frustrated lady of the world. This movie set a blueprint for “softcore” movies of the decade, and in a way was a groundbreaking movie for adopting women’s perspective on sexuality (well, trying to). Most importantly, it made a bucketload of money and set off a massive chain of sequels, that, if you grew up in the USA in the 80s, were quite popular on late night cable, too. The plots hinged on Em(m)anuelle, our sexy, slightly amoral heroine traveling around the world and finding misadventure at every turn. Like the titles say - to Africa, to Hong Kong, to Venice and Bangkok…and most bizarrely, to America.
Spoilers and Trigger Warnings Below!
This installment of the series starts with Emanuelle being accosted by a stalker who tells her about the oncoming apocalypse. So right away, you get the feeling you’re not watching a typical skin flick.
Emanuelle is a jet-setting reporter working out of NYC (hence the title, and cue lots of filler footage of scary, grimy Manhattan of the 70s!) whose first assignment is to investigate a wealthy tycoon with a sizable harem of women, and she goes undercover, letting herself be won in a poker game and admitted to his harem. (Yes, consider yourself warned.) Immediately, there’s lots of nude romping and bisexual play among the women, but the rich dirtbag in charge has much weirder fetishes to force them to indulge him with.
Which leads to our first trigger scene: a woman having intimate contact with a horse. Please don’t make me draw you a picture. Thank god this is not hardcore - yet - but it’s graphic and realistic enough to have feminists and animal lovers alike throwing their remotes at the screen.
But that’s not all! This story thread ends quickly enough, and through a maze of twists and turns, she ends up on a tropical resort island full of libertine tourists getting it on. BTW this installment of the series is not softcore at all! (At least the uncut print published on DVD by Blue Underground isn’t, though these movies tended to be recut for various audiences around the world.) So we get to enjoy some 70s XXX action for awhile, intercut by Emanuelle snooping around looking for her story.
And as she enters a room with some swingers having sex, she sees her story projected on a wall. They’re showing a snuff film on the wall as they have sex.
Yes, HERE is where shit gets out of control. HERE is the ultimate trigger scene, as we seem to fall into a different kind of movie altogether. As she chases the origin of the snuff film, you, you lucky viewers, are shown exactly what happens in it. Soldiers from a South American tinpot dictatorship rape a cave full of women to death, torturing them, mutilating them, suffocating them with burning oil. It’s a devastatingly real, bloody, horrifying and LONG sequence. And yes, it’s hardcore. Consider yourself warned.
Why is this more unsettling than, say, your average extreme torture/porn movie? I think it’s because it’s so out of place with the fun, sleazy 70s tone of the movie up to this point. It’s a big, gross bucket of brine poured on your head as you get off to some vintage porn.
It’s all in a day’s work for Aristede Massacessi, also known as Joe D’Amato, one of the most prolific and extreme directors of horror, porn and sundry trash of the 70s and 80s, too. The snuff sequence was so horrifying that cast members complained of suffering from what we call PTSD these days, and I don’t blame them.
But is it art?!? If I’ve described the plot as haphazard and pointless, well, it is. Laura Gemser is this year’s Emanuelle (complete with different spelling, you noticed) and she’s a beauty but…let’s just say, a limited actress. And there’s a lot of that in this movie. It’s competently filmed, though apparently edited with a hacksaw, and has it’s admirers. Like David Cronenberg, who saw an uncut print when it was illegal to have one in Canada and was inspired to make Videodrome because of the experience!! And, of course, Quentin Tarantino, who was pushing a “sexy 60s spy” project and citing the Em(m)anuelle movies as a reference. Can. You. IMAGINE?!?!?!
If you love your classic “Skin-e-max” softcore, check out Emmanuelle in Africa or one of the Sylvia Kristel episodes. But if you’re ready for the sleazy mindfuck stuff, try this or the one that’s a cannibal movie, because why not?!
They don’t make ’em like that anymore…thank god!!!