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Emanuelle in America
06-23-2004, 07:08 PM
Review Date: September 14, 2003
Released by: Blue Underground
Release date: 6/24/2003
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Building upon the mainstream pornographic renaissance created by the international success of Gerard Damiano's Deep Throat in 1972, Emmanuelle was the film to solidify the economic prosperity of pornography for mainstream audiences. Released in 1974, it became one of the biggest international hits of the year, and spawned an endless slew of sequels and imitators. Perhaps the most notorious follow up came with sleaze king Joe D'Amato's Emanuelle (minus an "m" for copyright reasons) in America from 1976. With footage of beastiality and pseudo-snuff film imagery, the film was burdened with cuts right from its original release. Blue Underground has thankfully restored the film in all of its uncut glory for this new DVD release. Was it worth the effort?
The dark skinned and anatomically perfect Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) is a photographer for a newspaper. Never afraid to try new things, the treks upon several journeys across the Atlantic. While in Venice, she gets involved with a house of perverse pleasure, where a man owns and controls several women for his various sexual desires. Emanuelle does not stay long, but during her visit she gets "in touch" with some of the other women, and learns that horses are not just used for racing.
After escaping that palace, she travels to yet another, but this time she witnesses images more shocking than animal lusting. While taking secret photographs with her camera right out of a James Bond film, she discovers an underground snuff film cult. Repulsed at the exploitation of the various women featured in the masochistic films, she decides to penetrate deeper than ever before in order to uncover the brutality.
She seduces a man and gets him to give her an inside look at the industry, and she snaps a few vital photos of the disreputable acts. But was it all just a bad LSD trip, or is Laura in deeper than she ever imagined?
Everything you've heard about Emanuelle in America is probably true. It features an extended scene of horse masturbation with a helpless horse named Pedro, in a scene that has mostly been absent from past presentations of the film. It has been included in its entirety, and so has the gruesome snuff footage. A woman has her breasts lopped off in graphic detail, and a hook penetrates her in the most private of regions. The gore effects are quite brutal and convincing, and considering this is supposed to be a porno, it amounts to a shocking experience.
Although hardly ever recognized, the film is original in the way that it crosses genres and all borders of taste. Previous Emmanuelle and Black Emanuelle films relied solely on globe trotting eroticism, this film is the first that started to push boundaries. Eroticism, drama, horror and even moderate action are all meshed into cohesion. D'Amato also incorporates the taboo concepts of snuff and beastiality into his erotic opus like only a European film could have done at the time. Granted, D'Amato's exploration of the perverse is not deep or even really substantial, he does deserve credit for introducing such hush hush themes into his film.
Deep down it may be a trashy pornographic film, but first and foremost a film of the 1970's. Laura Gemser's Emanuelle is a liberated and sexually controlling woman, never a slave to male desires. She even fights to save woman from torture and masochistic domination. This is characteristic of the rising independent woman of the time, when characters like Mary Tyler Moore were redefining the single woman. The movie also skims the surface regarding morality issues toward sex and promiscuity and also deals with the perceived corruption of everyday society. Including the hallucination educing LSD trip, it is all very 70's, and as a cultural document, D'Amato, intentionally or not, done a fine job of capturing the feel of the time.
In case you've been convinced otherwise, this film is far from high art. Despite fairly competent cinematography, the movie's plot is about as thin as Emanuelle herself. The plot serves only as a setup point to get from sex scene A to sex scene B. The acting, other than the assured performance of Gemser in the title role, is characteristically terrible, and any attempt at creating pathos or drama is lost. Drama isn't what gets people in the seat though, it is sex, and this film is full of it. Threesomes, lesbianism, "horse" play, orgies and masochistic eroticism are shown throughout, alternating from soft to hardcore. As an erotic film, D'Amato's included dash of voyeurism allows the film to at least deliver on the bottom line.
If watching a tortured woman drink scalding hot water from a wooden phallus shoved down her throat is your cup of tea, then you will love Emanuelle in America! It may be trashy and trite, and it may take place almost entirely outside of America (despite the title), but fans of European sleaze should more than appreciate D'Amato's uncompromising vision. Connoisseurs of the 70's will also welcome the unhinged sensibilities of the film and its encapsulation of an important era. But most of all it is a twisted piece of sleaze, like only Joe D'Amato can make.
Blue Underground presents the film uncut in its 1.85:1 ratio. Anamorphically enhanced, the film boasts some lush, deep colors. The greens of the European landscapes are surprisingly vibrant, and skin tones (believe me, you see enough of them) are spot on. There are a few specs and gashes in the film, but for the most part the image is clean. There is a low level of grain that surrounds the film throughout, and a couple times it was moderately distracting. Considering it was shot in 35mm, I was expecting a little sharper picture. Nonetheless, Blue Underground has still done a fine job with this transfer.
English, French and Italian mono are the only tracks included, and they sound fine. There is no hissing or distortion to be found. Even the high pitched horse neighing is without breakup. Definitely not earth shattering, but this is exactly the kind of track this movie deserves.
Blue Underground has included a few worthwhile supplements to bottom out this release. First is a 13 minute interview with the late Joe D'Amato entitled "Joe D'Amato and the Black Emanuelles." In it, he talks about the differences between exoticism and eroticism, and how voyeurism is an important element to his films. He also talks about the Emanuelle phenomenon and his longtime collaboration with Laura Gemser. For a short little piece like this, it is surprisingly personal and in-depth, and makes a great companion with the film.
Laura Gemser gets the next interview, which is in audio only and runs 11 minutes. The quality is poor, but Blue Underground dodges any criticism by pointing that out in a disclaimer before the interview. Combined with a poster and still gallery, it is a nice little interview with one of the most prolific Emanuelle's ever. Like D'Amato's interview, it is subtitled in English.
The disc is rounded off by "The Unofficial Emmanuelle Phenomenon" and talent bios for Gemser and D'Amato. All three are extremely well written and researched, and rival the audio and video in terms of overall information. Writer David Flint knows his film history, and it great that Blue Underground shared it with us on this release. These prepared essays are features that should be included on more releases.
Emanuelle in America is a bizarre mixture of eroticism with darker themes like snuff torture and animal sex. It is trashy all the way, but D'Amato's uninhibited vision and his compelling window into the sensibilities of the 70's elevates this above the usual Emanuelle fare. Blue Underground has done a fine job on this release: good sound and image quality, and a handful of quality supplements. Definitely not a film for all tastes, but those with a penchant for the perverse should stop horsing around and pick up this notorious skin parade.
Movie - B-
Image Quality - B
Sound - C+
Supplements - B
Running time - 1 hour, 40 minutes
Interview with Joe D'Amato
Audio interview with actor Laura Gemser with still and poster gallery
"The Unofficial Emmanuelle Phenomenon" essay
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