(Italy - 1977)
Directed by Joe D'Amato (Aristide Massaccesi). Written by Maria Pia Fusco. Cast: Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Paola Senatore, Roger Browne, Riccardo Salvino, Lars Bloch, Maria Piera Regoli, Matilde Dell'Aglio, Stefania Nocilli, Giulio Bianchi, Efrem Appel, Lorraine De Selle, Salvatore Baccaro, Renate Kasche, Pedro the Horse. (Unrated, 100 mins)
The most notorious of the tenuously-connected BLACK EMANUELLE series--at least in its uncut version--EMANUELLE IN AMERICA is, for the most part, another globe-trotting travelogue with freelance photojournalist Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) engaging in the usual spontaneous sexcapades. Made as a direct response to Just Jaeckin's X-rated, 1974 global phenomenon EMMANUELLE with Sylvia Kristel, 1975's BLACK EMANUELLE (note one less "m"), directed by Bitto Albertini, showcased 25-year-old, Indonesian-born Gemser in the title role (around the same time, she had a small part in the 1975 Kristel sequel EMMANUELLE: THE JOYS OF A WOMAN). Combining the erotic elements of EMMANUELLE with a nod to blaxploitation, BLACK EMANUELLE was successful enough that Gemser was soon starring in all sorts of softcore erotica that were often exported as EMANUELLE movies even though she sat out the first official sequel. 1976's BLACK EMANUELLE 2, also directed by Albertini, saw Gemser replaced by the George Lazenby of the series, one-and-done Israeli actress Shulamith Lasri, credited as "Sharon Lesley." Gemser, meanwhile, was headlining a slew of unofficial follow-ups that were often shot under one title but released as EMANUELLE movies, like Brunello Rondi's BLACK EMMANUELLE, WHITE EMMANUELLE (1976), which paired her with French actress Annie Belle and reinstated the extra "m" to the title; Enzo D'Ambrosio's boring EMANUELLE ON TABOO ISLAND (1976), which featured five-time Oscar nominee Arthur Kennedy at an all-time career low; Giuseppe Vari's nunsploitation outing SISTER EMANUELLE (1977); Mario Bianchi's sex comedy EMANUELLE IN THE COUNTRY (1978); and the Greek-made drama EMANUELLE'S DAUGHTER (1980). In 1978, perennial D-list producer and later serial Bruno Mattei enabler Franco Gaudenzi (STRIKE COMMANDO, ROBOWAR) tried to get a piece of the action, taking an unreleased mondo documentary and having Gemser host introductions to its segments, releasing it under the title EMANUELLE AND THE EROTIC NIGHTS, which received a US release in 1983 as an early acquisition of Bob and Harvey Weinstein's fledgling Miramax Films. So popular were these EMANUELLE films that Albertini would even be hired to direct Chai Lee as an Asian Emanuelle in the 1977 offshoot YELLOW EMANUELLE.
EMANUELLE AROUND THE WORLD (released in the US in 1980), and the cannibal horror hybrid EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS (released in the US in 1984, after the craze had passed, as TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM, presumably to draw in the MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY crowd). The final installment, 1978's EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE, was a quickie padded with significant amounts of recycled and redubbed footage from previous Gemser EMANUELLEs. Another Gemser/D'Amato collaboration, BLACK COBRA WOMAN (1976), co-starring a slumming and probably shitfaced Jack Palance, was sold in Japan as an EMANUELLE film, and several years later, Gemser would resurrect the Emanuelle-as-crusading-reporter act without D'Amato for a pair of Bruno Mattei women-in-prison movies, 1982's VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON (released in the US in 1984 as CAGED WOMEN), and 1983's immortal WOMEN'S PRISON MASSACRE (released in the US in 1985).
|Gemser and offscreen husband and frequent co-star Gabriele|
Tinti. They were married from 1976 until his death in 1991.
"Run Cheetah Run" from EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE, it's got a great catchy, "English-as-second-language" Nico Fidenco-penned theme song in "Celebrate Myself." But D'Amato just goes too far for the audience that watched these softcore Euro imports on late night Showtime back in the early '80s. Of course, the hardcore elements would've been trimmed (and were only shot by D'Amato as alternate takes for different territories in the first place), but while I see the demand for cum shots if there was potential for this on the XXX circuit, who other than Pedro really wants to see Paola Senatore (who, big surprise, was doing porn a decade later) give a horse a two-handed tugjob? Between that and the disgustingly graphic and very convincing snuff film snippets that D'Amato shot, I question EMANUELLE IN AMERICA's definition of "entertainment." Gemser is as lovely as ever here, but the enjoyment is significantly hampered by all the extraneous shit going on. I'll take the drag queen bowling alley brawl in EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE any day. D'Amato would continue dabbling in all sorts of genres (zombies, cannibals, CONAN and ROAD WARRIOR ripoffs) before his death in 1999, spending the final years of his career in hardcore porn. Gemser would be an exploitation staple well into the '80s, with appearances in 1976's VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED, the 1981 Rankin/Bass period epic THE BUSHIDO BLADE, and an unlikely co-starring role with Michael Landon in the 1983 NBC TV-movie LOVE IS FOREVER (where she was credited as "Moira Chen" when producers didn't want her sexploitation notoriety to be a distraction) representing her only attempts at mainstream crossover. A devastated Gemser would retire from acting when 59-year-old Tinti died of cancer in 1991, though she worked behind the scenes as a costume designer on a few more D'Amato productions (including the legendary TROLL 2) before withdrawing from movies altogether in 1993. Now 65, Gemser lives completely out of the public eye. She gave an audio interview for EMANUELLE IN AMERICA's 2003 DVD release, but her last on-camera appearance to date was in an interview for EMMANUELLE: A HARD LOOK, a 2001 British TV documentary about Sylvia Kristel's EMMANUELLE films by REPO MAN director Alex Cox.