• Black Emanuelle’s Box Volume 1 (Severin Films) DVD-Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: April 3rd, 2007.
    Director: Joe D’Amato/Joe D’Amato/Giuseppe Vari
    Cast: Laura Gemser, Gabrielle Tinti, Ivan Rassimov, George Eastman, Karen Schubert, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Monica Zanchi, Paul Thomas
    Year: 1976/1977/1977
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    Black Emanuelle’s Box Volume 1 – Movie Review:

    While the statuesque Laura Gemser appeared in quite a few different movies during her heyday in the seventies, she remains best known for her stint as the Black Emanuelle (in the first film made by Bitto Albertini in 1975) and for the rather notorious sexploitation movies she made under that banner (many of them under the assured direction of the late Joe D’Amato). Severin Films has collected three of Gemser’s finest films from that run of sequels and knock offs and released them to eager fans in the appropriately titled Black Emmanuelle's Box Volume One.

    Emanuelle In Bangkok (1976):

    The first ‘sequel’ to Albertini’s film, Emanuelle in Bangkok was also the first in the series to be directed by D’Amato (who also shot the film). Gemser reprises her role as Emanuelle, the world's foxiest photojournalist and sexual adventuress. Along with an archeologist named Roberto (D'Amato regular Gabriele Tinti of Caligula: The Untold Story and The Untold Perversions Of Emanuelle), she heads off to Bangkok (Oriental city!), just as the title implies. Why? So that she can interview and photography the mysterious king of Thailand of course!

    Tracking down and exclusive with the king proves to be a little trickier than Emanuelle originally anticipated, but things are made a little easier for her once she makes friendly with Prince Sanit (Ivan Rassimov of Eaten Alive and The Man From Deep River), a relative of his royal highness. Through the good prince Emanuelle meets a lovely masseuse named Gee (Koike Mahoco) and the pair of lovelies soon prove to be closer friends than anyone realized, particularly when bath time rolls around. Meow!

    At any rate, Gee and Emanuelle and a couple of other goofy supporting characters wander the streets of Bangkok where they take in an exotic strip show where the first dancer does some nifty tricks with fire and the headliner does some even niftier acts with some ping pong balls! A bit more travelogue/adventure footage shows us how in Bangkok snakes and mongooses fight for our enjoyment and after that Emanuelle and friends are over at the prince's pad for a rousing evening of opium and group sex. What Emanuelle doesn't realize is that while she's out playing sexy tourist and hobnobbing with lesbians and royalty, some sinister thugs are running through her room and stealing her stuff and rather than stop there, these bastards take things one step further and gang rape the poor girl. Prince Sanit winds up in jail and the shit hits the fan so our heroine takes off to Casablanca, where time goes by until she makes sweet lady friend love to a hottie named the local ambassador's daughter, Debra (Debra Berger of The Inglorious Bastards). Once she's done with Debra she seduces Roberto's bride to be and wrecks his wedding plans. That Emanuelle... will she ever learn?

    The first of Gemser and D'Amato's Black Emanuelle films is a doozy. We get some lovely travelogue footage of Thailand in the swinging seventies, some mondo style (and all too real) animal on animal violence that's sure to ruffle a few feathers, a political plot that adds little to the story and a girl who can do amazing things with ping pong balls and her fun bits long proving that Wendy O'Williams wasn't the first to use that trick (see 1979's Candy Goes To Hollywood if you don't get it).

    The film is actually very well made despite the ridiculous plot, abundance of unnecessary (note: unnecessary doesn't mean unwelcome!) graphic softcore sex scenes and rather hammy acting. Gemser has got screen presence to spare and putting her alongside Italian genre stalwarts like Tinti and especially Rassimov, one of the most sinister looking leading men of the Italian film industry's heyday, does wonders for the picture. The sex is shot nicely and artistically and while it's all exploitation for exploitation's sake, at least there's a bit of class to the proceedings that elevates the movie above that of standard sexploitation fare. D'Amato did his own camerawork on this one, and his experience as a cinematographer shows in pretty much all of the footage used in the picture.

    Emanuelle in Bangkok was followed by the most infamous film of the bunch, Emanuelle In America, which is available on DVD in fine condition and completely uncut (that means more of a horse named Pedro than you'll probably ever want to see!) courtesy of the fine folks over at Blue Underground.

    Emanuelle Around The World (1977):

    Up next is Emanuelle Around The World, once again directed by Joe D'Amato and featuring Gemser in the titular lead role. This time Emanuelle is called away to San Francisco where, after making time on the road with some new friends (she makes them wherever she goes – and this time it’s Paul goddamn Thomas!!!) she winds up at a hotel where she wanders into the wrong room by mistake. Oops! From there she meets Dr. Malcolm Robertson (creepy Ivan Rassimov... again!), a United Nations big wig who accompanies her on a flight to New York where he tells her of the many great injustices inflicted upon the impoverished peoples of this great world of ours.

    From there, Emanuelle has to get back to work, this time entrusted with the difficult task of tracking down and getting the skinny on violence against women around the globe. Her travels land her in India where she's hoping to score a story on a sex cult led by Guru Shanti (George Eastman of Anthopophagous) and wouldn't you know it, she meets a rape victim who puts her on a plane to Rome. Once she gets there, her arch rival, another photojournalist named Cora Norman (lovely German softcore gone hardcore starlet Karen Schubert of Christina and Black Venus) is already on the scene. Oh snap! Soon enough, Emanuelle is tracking down and hoping to bust a gang of slave traders who kidnap women and sell them off to wealthy perverts over in the Middle East who use them as sex toys. Her story leads her to Hong Kong where she winds up getting kidnapped and given to a freakish man named Chang who likes to break in his new talent with some help from his pet snake and his pet dog. Yikes!

    To complete her mission, Emanuelle hops on the next plane to Tehran, the capital or Iran, where a local power player named Emir (Gianni Macchia of Manhunt) has women abducted for the explicit purposes of joining his harem. Good thing she's got a hidden camera to use to gather evidence. While our heroine make it back to New York in one piece or will she be forever confined to working in a harem, never to be heard from again? And what of her story? Will she blow the lid off of violence against women on an international level, or simply blow Emir?

    Putting Gemser and Schubert in the same film together was a good idea, as it quite simply doubles the hotness. With Eastman and Rassimov in supporting roles, the cast is more or less a Euro-Cult geek's dream come true. Once again, D'Amato makes a very attractive looking picture and he makes excellent use of the exotic locations where the soap opera-investigative storyline plays out as well as the interesting people who inhabit these areas. Of course, this wouldn't be much of an Emanuelle film without oodles of sex, and once again, the movie delivers. There's no shortage at all of copulation in the movie, be it guy on girl, girl on girl, or guy on girl on girl. Take your pick. You've even got snake on girl or German Shepherd on girl if that's your bag (and if it is, may we suggest you keep that to yourself) though those are thankfully hinted at rather than explicitly shown (however, for more on that, see below). The film has also got a (seemingly requisite) nasty rape scene in it. While one could argue that it makes the film's supposed message about 'violence against women' more poignant, let's face it, it's there for titillation and sleaze appeal. Things end on an unusually dour note for an Emanuelle film. Without heading too far into spoiler territory, let it suffice to say that her expose proves to do no good and that the status quo remains just that.

    As is common for the Emanuelle films, the movie has also got a fantastic loungey-Euro-disco score to groove along to, courtesy of composer Nico Fidenco. Just try to stop your foot from tapping along to tracks like A Picture Of Love and Kamasutra In Love!

    Emanuelle Around The World was followed by Emanuelle And The Last Cannibals in 1977 which is available in North America through Media Blasters and in Europe through a few different companies such as X-Rated, Shock and Laser Paradise in various incarnations with the Dutch Shock release being preferable for the fact that it contains the original score as an extra feature.

    Emanuelle Around The World is also available in a more explicit version from Severin Films which constitutes the ‘European Export’ version of the film.

    Sister Emanuelle (1977):

    The only film in this set not directed by D’Amato was instead directed by the late Giuseppe Vari (working under his preferred alias as Joseph Warren) best known for a handful of Spaghetti Westerns that he made in the sixties, most notably Shoot The Living And Pray For The Dead starring Klaus Kinski. Although it’s not really an official sequel, it follows the proven and successful formula and fits in well here alongside D’Amato’s two pictures and alongside other "Emanuelle" movies such as Emanuelle In Prison, Violence In A Woman's Prison and Divine Emanuelle.

    Gemser plays the titular role of Sister Emanuelle who is given the enviable task of dealing with a new recruit to the convent where she's stationed in the form of a gorgeous young lady named Monica (played by Monica Zanchi who shows up in Emanuelle And The Last Cannibals and who has a bit part in Hitch Hiike). Why would a seemingly innocent young girl like lovely little Monica wind up en route to a convent, away from the public and under the strict supervision of some tough nuns? Because she's a sex maniac who digs on beach side orgies and lesbian lovemaking with her step mother! Obviously daddy is none too impressed with his daughter's dirty dealings and so it's off to the convent she goes.

    At any rate, as Sister Emanuelle escorts Monica back to the convent, she tries to work her sex magic on the good sister but to no avail, causing the frustrated young nymphomaniac to suck off a lucky random stranger to satiate her all-encompassing lust. They arrive at the convent and while Monica still has a girly-boner for Emanulle, she's only too happy to use her new roommate, Anna (Vinja Locatelli), as a temporary sex toy.

    Shortly after Monica has made herself at home, she's wandering around the grounds when she finds a man named Rene (Gabriele Tinti again!) hiding out in a rundown farmhouse. Turns out he's an escaped convict wanted for murder. Does she turn him in? Or course not, she stashes him away from prying eyes inside the convent's creepy old tower. This provides Monica with ample opportunity to take advantage of Rene's dong, the only one available in the area and he's only too happy to oblige the little kitten. Monica's a smart little skeezer though, and she knows that persistence is the key to success and she hasn't let lovely Sister Emanuelle out of her sights just yet. In fact, she's been thinking about her maybe a little too much for her own good...

    Combining the nunsploitation sub-genre of exploitation films with the Emanuelle formula was a sensible choice (sensible in the context of what we're talking about at least) and Vari proves quite capable of making an enjoyably sexy film. Not as heavy as either of the first two films in the set, Sister Emanuelle surprisingly enough focuses more on Monica than on Gemser's character but Monica Zanchi proves to be more than capable of handling the lead with Gemser and Tinti providing decent support. The plot is pretty light, with the movie more or less just moving from one sleazy set piece to the next but the picture is, like most of the sequels and knock-offs, well shot and well-paced.

    Overall, the three films in the set provide plenty of thrills, cheap or otherwise, and make a great showcase for Gemser and company. Plenty of exotic travelogue and location footage combines with goofy but enjoyable plots and more than a little bit of steamy sex to make for a trio of trashy little cinematic gems.

    Black Emanuelle’s Box Volume 1 – DVD Review:

    Each of the three films in this set is presented in its original 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. Framing and compositions look right so it’s probably safe to assume that this is the proper aspect ratio. As far as the quality goes, these transfers are not perfect at all but compared to previous home video incarnations they are a huge step up.

    Despite some flaws (the opening and closing credits for Emanuelle in Bangkok are taken from a tape source – thankfully the rest of the film is not!) and a bit of print damage here and there, for the most part things look really good here (at least by the standards of 2007). A few scenes in Emanuelle Around The World are a little on the soft side and Sister Emanuelle looks the best of the three films in the set and Emmanuelle Around The World shows the most print damage, but really there’s little to complain about here.

    Clarity and both foreground and background detail are strong and there are no problems anywhere with mpeg compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement. Line shimmering is kept firmly in check and color reproduction looks nice and accurate.

    All three films are presented in both Italian and English language tracks with optional English subtitles. The levels tend to fluctuate a little bit on Emanuelle In Bangkok’s English track but it’s not so severe as to ruin the experience. The same can be said about the English track for Sister Emanuelle – there’s a bit of hiss here and there, but it’s minor and not overly distracting. As far as whether or not one should opt for the Italian tracks or the English tracks, it’s obviously a matter of personal preference as both versions were dubbed in post-production meaning that neither is really any more legitimate than the other. With both tracks of similar quality, fans can take their pick.

    Emanuelle In Bangkok starts off with an excellent on camera question and answer session with the late, great Joe D’Amato that was shot in 1995 at Eurofest, a fan convention held in England, entitled appropriately enough, Joe D'Amato At Eurofest (twelve minutes). D’Amato talks about his work with Gemser and gives us some background information on her in addition to discussing a few of his other films. The video quality isn’t so hot and the camera spends more time pointed at the person asking the questions rather than the one answering them but with that said it’s really nice to see this included here as it's apparently D'Amato's only English language interview. It's also a treat to see him genuinely enjoying interacting with his fans here and fielding questions from people who actually appreciate his films. Joe speaks in English with a thick Italian accent and so Severin has wisely included English subtitles here. The trailer for Emanuelle In Bangkok is also included as are some nifty menu screens and chapter stops for the feature itself.

    The main extra feature on Emanuelle Around The World is a video interview with the film’s composer, Nico Fidenco entitled Black Emanuelle's Groove (thirteen minutes). Gracious and very open about his work in the Italian film industry, Fidenco discusses working on the original Black Emanuelle film as well as the sequels pumped out by D’Amato. He talks about his philosophy in terms of attempting to make the music match the locations that the film takes place in and how he enjoyed working on these pictures much more than scoring the occasional horror film. The North American theatrical trailer is also included on this disc, and again, there are some slick menus and chapter stops for the feature available as well.

    Extras on Sister Emanuelle include a selection of deleted scenes taken from an Italian tape presented here without subs. There are four scenes in total:

    -Flashback Scene (1:11 - Gemser goes down! Well, not really but we're made to believe she does).

    -Bondage Scene (something is screwy here, it just plays the Flashback Scene all over again?? Tech savvy fans can find it though as it is on the disc - Gemser takes a young girl to the house full of snakes and suspends her from her wrists and then makes sweet lesbian love to her - roughly four minutes in total).

    -Train Scene (0:25, Laura watches a girl give a man head, in hardcore, on the train).

    -Stepmom Scene (2:23, a more graphic version of the lesbian scene, this time with some help from a banana!).

    The film’s theatrical trailer, animated menus and chapter stops are also included.

    Included as a second disc inside the keepcase for Emanuelle Around The World is a bonus CD entitled Getting Down With Black Emanuelle that features twenty-five tracks composed by Fidenco. The track listing, courtesy of the accompanying glossy insert card, is as follows:

    From Emanuelle Nera (Black Emanuelle): -Emanuelle's Theme-Skin In The Wind-Black Rhythm-Emanuelle's Dream-Of Your Body-Samba Safari-Thoughtless-Unavoidable-Skin To Skin

    From Emanuelle Nera Orient Reportage (Emanuelle In The Orient): -Sweet Living Thing-Sweet Bossa-Arabian Evasion Theme-Thailand Sweet Sound-Bellie's Orient Dance-Like A Sailing Ship-Red Hot Wax-Ping Pong Dance

    From Emanuelle Perche Violenza Alle Donna? (Emanuelle Around The World) -A Picture Of Love-My Boundless-Eternal Anguish-Kamasutra In Love-A Picture Of Love (instrumental) -Besides-Come Back! Rhythm-A Seeming Man

    If that weren’t enough, Severin has also included a nice little package of six Italian locadina and one sheet poster reproductions. The three keepcases fit nicely inside a sturdy and attractive cardboard box with an appropriately provocative picture of Gemser on the front cover.

    Black Emanuelle’s Box Volume 1 – The Final Word:

    Three of Laura Gemser’s best features are given the deluxe treatment that they deserve courtesy of Severin films. Black Emanuelle’s Box shows just strong Gemser’s screen presence was and it serves not only as a great collection of three intriguing exploitation films but also as a loving tribute to their star. Severin Films has obviously put a lot of effort and care into getting this set just right and it shows. With some obscure interviews, alternate footage, poster reproductions and of course the soundtrack CD it’s obvious that this was a true labor of love for all involved. This was made by fans for fans and the company should be commended for putting as much effort as they have into what is essentially a fringe product (and a somewhat risky one at that).

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      "A Picture of Love" is such a killer tune. I'm always happy to see these sets on the shelf.
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      "A Picture of Love" is such a killer tune
      Lets take a picture of love, do do do do do do do......
      Let's take a picture of love do do do do do do
      It's up to you

      Catchy number that, cant remember the words though. I do Love the Fidenco scores for these films.
    1. JLG's Avatar
      JLG -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lalala76 View Post
      Lets take a picture of love, do do do do do do do......
      Let's take a picture of love do do do do do do
      It's up to you

      Catchy number that, cant remember the words though. I do Love the Fidenco scores for these films.
      some really fun music on the comps in these boxes!

      i'd lump these movies in with the small group that adjust me when my mood is off