Black Emanuelle (1975)

a.k.a. - Emanuelle nera (ITA)

Bitto Albertini directs Laura Gemser in the enjoyable first appearance for this long running character. Optimum UK R2 DVD.

The Film

Mae Jordan (Laura Gemser) is an internationally acclaimed photographer known as Emanuelle. She flies into Africa for a photographic tour and stays at the home of Ann and Gianni Danieli. It is not long before the stunning Emanuelle is being persued by both Anna and Gianni as well as their friends Gloria and Richard Clifton but the photographer is not prepared to give in to anything more than their sexual desires and is determined to remain an independent woman.

Released within a year of the enourmously successful Emmanuelle (1974), Black Emanuelle is a complete contrast to the Just Jaekin film and the Emmanuelle Arsan books on which it was based. Emanuelle (with a copyright friendly one 'm') is a globe trotting reporter with a firmly independent sexual spirit. She certainly does not need any 'education' on this topic.

The storyline is a pretty basic affair, serving to get Emanuelle into Africa and little more. There are a few token references to her photography and it does serve to allow the film to use some beautiful locations but is of no real relevance to the plot, unlike some of the later Joe D'Amato films in which she will travel to dangerous locations for a story, in this case she could easily have just been an invited friend of the Danielis. The inter-relationships between the various characters which would seem to have been the main focus of the storyline is also rather thinly drawn with no real emphasis on character development and they all seem to openly accept Emanuelle sleeping with their partners - the film certainly never becomes the melodrama that it would appear to be. As it is, Black Emanuelle is all about presenting a series of nude and sex scenes, both straight and lesbian, with the storyline serving as nothing more than filler - although for this purpose it does work quite well, never letting the film drag.

Director Bitto Albertini, who also co-wrote the script, would not seem to be the ideal choice for this film, his previous experience being limited to westerns and adventure films, but he does some sound work, in particular taking full advantage of the beautiful locations to really emphasise the African setting. The sex and nude scenes are decently filmed, with a particular highlight being Emanuelle posing for photographs outside, providing us with probably the most beautiful shots of Laura Gemser ever filmed. Some prints of the film include hardcore shots which were shot at the same time and so are well integrated, although they do obviously suffer from the "headless" syndrome as none of the main cast are involved. The film is well served by a cheesy soundtrack from composer Nico Fidenco (who would go on to provide suitably cheesy scores for the later sequels as well) that makes it clear the film is never trying to be overly serious about itself.

A popular model in European magazines, Laura Gemser made her film debut the previous year in Amore libero (1974) and is very well cast here - gorgeous enough to be convincingly persued by the entire cast, she does have a maturity about her (despite being just twenty-five when the film was made) to convince as a well respected photographer. Her acting is not as good here as it would become later, although the part does not give her too much to do and she is certainly not 'wooden'. A number of veteran European actors take on the supporting roles including Karin Schubert, Angelo Infanti and Venantino Venantini, all of whom would appear in later entries to the series. The film also stars Gabriele Tinti who would become Gemser's husband and appear alongside her in many of her later films.

Despite the rip-off title, Black Emanuelle is a completely different film to the earlier French production - it is happy to just present a string of sex and nude scenes held together by a loose but servicable storyline without need for the lengthy philosophical discourse that makes Jaekin's film drag. With its single location and slim plot, Black Emanuelle is not quite as enjoyable as the more briskly paced spin-offs that Joe D'Amato would subsequently direct but is certainly worth watching for fans of Laura Gemser and Italian erotica in general.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Laura Gemser - one of the first films for the Indonesian born model who would go on to become an erotic icon.
Directed by anyone interesting? Bitto Albertini (credited as Albert Thomas) - a hard working Italian director who also helmed Black Emanuelle's "official" but very sub-par sequel Emanuelle nera No. 2 (1976)
Any gore or violence? None
Any sex or nudity? This varies based on the print seen (see notes below in 'Cuts'). The softcore print contains numerous female nude and topless scenes, while the hardcore print contains some brief penis shots and some penetration and female genital close-up shots.
Who is it for? Recommended for fans of the later Black Emanuelle films and fans of Laura Gemser. Of interest to anyone who enjoyed Emmanuelle (1974) but found it a litte on the slow side.

See Also:
Emmanuelle (1974) Just Jaekin's erotic classic was certainly genre defying for its time, being the first 'sex film' to play in mainstream cinemas, but is rather tiresomely padded with attempts at philosophy and art.
Black Emanuelle series Joe D'Amato's five film Black Emanuelle series took Laura Gemser's character to a wealth of new locations, with increasing sleaze.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
The print is good quality throughout with strong colours, like a lot of Italian films from the time it is very grainy at times.
Audio English mono - sounds fine.
Subtitles None
Extras None.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Released in Italy by Stormovie with the fully uncut hardcore print. Picture quality is good and includes English and Italian audio, as well as original trailer and a booklet.
Cuts? The print used here is the hardcore print, but with 1m 39s of cuts imposed by the BBFC (all of these were to the graphic sex scenes used in the hardcore inserts). The result is that some additional shots are present that are not in the softcore print (including two brief penis shots) although in a couple of cases the inserts are cut of all but a couple of seconds of footage which is a little jarring and should perhaps have been edited around. The print used is English language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 22nd November 2010 - part of 'Naughty November'.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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