Laura Gemser and Annie Belle come together in this surrealist erotica from Brunello Rondi. Severin Films USA R1 DVD.
In Egypt, the wealthy Crystal has invited a series of friends to her house. The world's best known fashion model Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) and her photographer (Gabriel Tinti) arrive, as does Crystal's daughter Laure (Annie Belle). After the death of her third husband, Crystal is now dating a pseudo-religious guru (Al Cliver) who boasts a small selection of followers. After witnessing Emanuelle being roughtly treated by her photographer, Laure and Emanuelle take off together to find a quiet bed while the guru prepares some magic...
Velluto nero was one of a number of erotic films helmed during the 1970s that took on the Black Emanuelle title for international markets after the sucess of Laura Gemser's series of films with director Joe D'Amato. This unofficial entry was scripted and directed by La Dolce Vita (1960) co-writer Brunello Rondi and is markedly different to the D'Amato helmed entries. Eschewing sleaze, the storyline from the start assumes a very surrealist tone, and is almost completely plot-free, giving it the marked dream-like ambience in which European cinema excelled.
There are some very distinctive and surprisingly grim sequences - Emanuelle (a fashion model) being forced to pose in front of a dead animal, and later dead bodies at the scene of a massacre, that do seem to be trying to make a point about the fashion industry but never quite come across sucessfully. The nudity and sex scenes, while quite frequent, take on almost a background role to the general ambience and the whole production has a more art-house than grindhouse atmosphere - fans will be pleased to note that fortunately Laure and Emanuelle do share one scene and it runs just long enough to be enjoyable although a few more minutes would not have gone amiss. In keeping with the surrealist tone, pacing is pretty much non-existant and the film seems to flutter to an inconclusive climax (although one that is very suited to the film).
What makes the film so watchable is Brunello Rondi's direction. With a real eye for locations and detail, he backs up the often surreal script with some gorgeous imagery, most notably in the sequences of Emanuelle posing - contrasting her naked body with the mutilated corpses that surround her (giving the film a Mondo Cane feel). He is aided of course by an obviously good budget that allows the film to be shot on location in Egypt which he emphasises with use of many famous locations at backdrops. The soundtrack from Italian composer Alberto Baldan Bembo is simply superb, with some mystical sounds and sythensised music (straight out of Conquest (1982)!), as well as some 'native' themes, that really boost this surrealist and dream-like atmosphere.
The stunning Laura Gemser returns to play Emanuelle and gives a very good performance as the tortured fashion model, really tapping into the surreal vibe of the whole production. Annie Belle, fresh from Laure (1976) is an unusual beauty, with her cropped white hair, but she looks very good here. Their respective co-stars (and at the time partners), Gabriel Tinti and Al Cliver also star - Cliver particularly suits the film, his rather wooden acting giving him just the right 'stoned' look for the 'religious guru' character. Veteran actor Feodor Chaliapin Jr. (The Name of the Rose (1986)) gives a strong and fitting performance as the inexplicable Hal.
Your enjoyment of Velluto nero will be very much dependant on what you expect when you watch. Come looking for a Joe D'Amato style Black Emanuelle film, packed full of sleaze and sex and you will doubtless be disappointed. However if you watch expecting something rather different and don't mind a touch of the surreal, then there is plenty to enjoy here thanks to some superb direction and soundtrack. Recommended with cautions.
|Anyone famous in it?||Laura Gemser - the attractive Indonesian star famous for the original Black Emanuelle (1975).
Annie Belle - the unusual French beauty reprising her role from the well made erotica, Laure (1976).
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Brunello Rondi - otherwise unknown as a director, he was twice Oscar nominated for his co-writing duties on Fellini's masterpieces La Dolce Vita (1960) and 8½ (1963)|
|Any gore or violence?||Some rather graphic, but fortunately not real, shots of dead bodies.|
|Any sex or nudity?||Several scenes of quite soft female nudity.|
|Who is it for?||For fans of Erotica and the more unusual European films of the 1970s.
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print quality is good, with strong colours and no print damage. There is a noticable layer of grain and a general softness to the image although the latter might well be intentional.
|Audio||English and Italian mono audio.
Italian audio is very good, with the music and dialogue coming through very strongly.
English audio is taken from a tape source and has some noticable hiss. Several scenes are missing and thus in Italian.
|Subtitles||English 1 - these translate the Italian track which is noticably different to the English dub.
English 2 - fills in the gaps on the English audio.
|Extras||The disc includes:
|Region||Region 1 (North America) - NTSC|
|Availability||Available on its own or as part of the limited edition Black Emanuelle Box 2|
|Other regions?||Not previously available on legitimate English friendly DVD.|
|Cuts?||Believed to be fully uncut. The print used has Italian language credits.|