Black Emanuelle Review
There are few experiences more disappointing in life than travelling first class on a long-haul journey. It's not that the seats aren't comfortable, that the food and wine isn't a cut above even business class (and very far above economy) and that the stainless steel cutlery isn't a nice touch, but more that, thanks to an adolescence watching the likes of Emmanuelle and Black Emanuelle (in between the then-banned video nasties), it didn't seem quite right that the first class cabin wasn't an orgy of free-flowing champagne, topless ladies and full sex underneath the tartan blankets that once seemed part and parcel of the first class experience. You might think that, given the price of a first class ticket on a transatlantic route, a handjob is the very least that British Airways could do. But no. It's as chaste as a convent up in front, much to the disappointment of this once-seasoned traveller.
Emmanuelle had little interest in the actualite of international travel, just as pornography, in general, features the kind of situations that are so uncommon as to require a knowledge of quantum physics to explain how they might become the norm. Women seldom use the word girth outside of the true-life tales in pornographic magazines but do so frequently within the pages of those publications. Similarly, as unlikely as a naked women arriving unprompted at our door is, as to why we might never have been called to inspect the gas boiler of a baby-doll-nightie-wearing neighbour next door and why the buying of melons and a cucumber at a supermarket doesn't end in buggery in the dairy aisle, pornography does not care. It carries on in its own, very peculiar world. All that the likes of Emmanuelle and Black Emanuelle do is to take it abroad and to add a touch of glamour to it.
"I'm a missionary!" Even Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) looks confused. He is a missionary or that he is most fond of the missionary position? It turns out that it's the former, which leaves him an unlikely character with which to open a pornographic film. However, he is perfect for the very chaste first half-hour of Black Emanuelle, in which our heroine flies down to Nairobi to photograph the landscape and wildlife to accompany an article written by Anne (Karin Schubert). While actually having little to do with either, Emanuelle stares in disbelief at how open Anne's relationship with her Italian husband Gianni is, with the two of them enjoying the company of others at parties, at resorts and on the beach. Even Emanuelle falls for this, being seduced by Anne on a nude photoshoot in the bush and by Gianni. But Emanuelle's innocence is soon tarnished by her experiences in Nairobi...
So far, so much like any pornographic films at the more glamourous end of the genre. Unsurprisingly given its name, Black Emanuelle is not so very different from the Just Jaekin Emmanuelle of 1974, in which Sylvia Kristel dallied in love affairs, sexual adventures and the kind of locker-room etiquette that would cause the Human League to admire her love action in song. This time around, Emanuelle, who seemed content with her missionary on the plane, is soon dragged into the debauched goings-on with her new friends. However, her arrival causes their world to crumble. The open relationship between Anne and Gianni is shown to be so only when it is convenient. When Emanuelle comes between them, she has sex with both of them at different points and masturbates outside their door at another, their relationship falls apart amidst petty jealousies. The silliest moment amongst many comes when Emanuelle almost drowns and Gianni's saving of her life is interpreted by Anne, looking on the scene through binoculars, as his kissing a topless Emanuelle.
There is no female empowerment here, though. Black Emanuelle, reflecting the everyday in pornography, doesn't permit its star to learn very much, more that she is exploited and abused. By the last half hour of the film and when her corruption seems complete, she does anything to be noticed by Gianni, who seems to enjoy her debasement. Whether its her returning the favour of a lift in a pickup by letting its driver fuck her on the roadside or by the men in an African tribe lining up to abuse her, Black Emanuelle warns its audience about the wantonness of such behaviour by condoning her eventual rape by an entire team in a train carriage. By then, Black Emanuelle's notions of sex are simply offensive, as Emanuelle, from screaming at her attackers to moaning with pleasure at their assault of her.
However, while there may have been some excitement to be had over Sylvia Kristel showing us what fun could be had in a wicker chair, there's very little in watching Laura Gemser getting naked to be, as the film goes on, simply abused and assaulted. The story seems to imply that she's doing this for her love of Gianni but that's a nonsense. This is simply tawdry sex that its producers are passing off as a lesson in morality. Compared to that, and silly though it is, the Emanuelle of naked shenanigans in the first class cabin is much missed.
Anamorphically presented in 1.85:1, the quality of the picture isn't bad. The cinematography is certainly good and Optimum have sourced a print that's fairly clean and free from dirt, scratches and so on, which is no mean feat considering the places where Black Emanuelle has been shown over the years and by whom. Colour is also surprisingly good, particularly so in the early scenes set in the society parties attended by Anne and Gianni. However, the audio track is in a really bad way, which has very little to do with the many variations on the Black Emanuelle Europop that are played throughout the film. There is some distortion even on the dialogue but everything sounds clipped as though, in spite of no technical reason why this should be the case, we're not hearing the full range of the soundtrack. Still, this is pornography and most of the dialogue is either redubbed or looped, which doesn't help the presentation of the audio track.
The only other problem is that there is some dreadful editing of the film, particularly during the sexual clinches, that don't so much cut between scenes as lurch from one to the other. The BBFC do state that cuts were made to 'scenes of sexual detail' to allow the film to attain an 18 certificate rather than the R18 that was offered to the uncut film. Some of the problems may have come about during a scene in which Emanuelle is raped by - I think! - a hockey team, which, in spite of her initial protests, she grows to enjoy. There's also a blowjob early in the film that has been messily cut but there may be others. I'll admit to not being an expert on Black Emanuelle, more that I'm only calling edits to where footage has been cut by someone's whose enthusiasm for censorship is unmatched by their skill in the editing room.
There are no extras on this DVD.