Gemser gets freaky on the island of brotherly love.
La spiaggia del desiderio is another Laura Gemser sexploitation epic, third in what would become a long series of Emanuelle movies, and the first to truly jump the shark. A bit of backstory: Author Emmanuelle Arsan wrote the original Emmanuelle character, based on herself, in 1967, and saw it become the erotic film Emmanuelle starring Sylvia Kristel. It premiered in France in June 1974 and was a worldwide smash by that autumn. But Italian production company Aquila Cinematografica had managed to film and rush release a knock-off entitled Amore libero that hit cinemas in Rome by August of 1974. The movie starred Gemser as a character named Emanuelle—with one 'm'. This film too was something of a success, in the sense that it made money while costing far less.
After the success of the French Emmanuelle its makers decided to cash in with a sequel. Trinacra Films and Orphée Productions kicked France to the curb and made Emmanuelle II with an eye toward the large U.S. market, where their sophomore entry eventually had its world premiere in December of 1975. While shooting this sequel they apparently figured the more Em(m)aunelles the better and cast Laura Gemser as a sexy masseuse in order to pair her up—naked—with Kristel. The spirit of cooperation is admirable, but certainly what this casting decision did was give Gemser's Emanuelle just as much legitimacy as Kristel's Emmanuelle.
At the time Gemser was enjoying this cameo appearance in Emmanuelle II she had already made or was about to make a sequel to her Amore libero. We use that uncertain terminology because the French Emmanuelle films were higher budget productions and took longer to film and post-produce, which means even though Gemser's sequel hit cinemas before Emmanuelle II, it's possible it was filmed after and rammed through post to get to audiences first. In any case, Gemser's sequel, already cynically thieving the original Emmanuelle concept, was titled to take advantage of the burgeoning blaxploitation wave. Emanuelle negra it was called—Black Emanuelle.
Gemser was off and running and would eventually make more than a dozen Emanuelle films, each more preposterous than the previous. Amore libero and Emanuelle negra featured Gemser playing an Emanuelle who, like the original character written by
Emmauelle Arsan, enjoyed sexual adventures in exotic tourist destinations. But La spiaggia del desiderio is a lost world flick that features her living on an isolated island with her father and brother in primitive bliss. We suspect the entire script was written to avoid high budget location work and unnecessary characters.
In any case, it's just Gemser, her dad, and her bro on this uncharted spit of tropical sand off the coast of Venezuela, until a shipwreck victim washes up and brings with him a host of problems. Because, you see, Gemser plays a game with her brother, a very pleasurable game that she—in her innocence—doesn't realize is known as incest in the civilized world. When she begins to play the game with the newcomer that's when things go terribly wrong. Think of it as The Blue Lagoon years before that movie appeared, but with brotherly love thrown in to provide an excuse to philosophize about cultural norms.
The main plot question becomes this: does the newcomer try to get Gemser to realize what she's doing is wrong, or is it really society that's wrong to judge true love? And secondarily, should he take her away to civilization, or would the real world destroy all that is innocent and wonderful about her? This is deep shit, folks. In our view, Gemser should leave the island—a few civilized cheeseburgers might actually do her good. She's 5' 7” and goes—maybe—115 soaking wet, so she really does look like she's been living on coconuts and crabs for years. But for her fans it's about her whole package, even if that package looks underfed.
We can't recommend La spiaggia del desiderio. There's just nothing much going on here. We suspect the film was toned down because of the (completely unneeded and distasteful) incest angle, a problem her production company might not have foreseen until it was too late. Like: “Uh, huddle up people—we just learned we can't show Laura boning her brother without being slapped with an injunction.” Thus with Gemser's nude frolicking reduced to a bare minimum, there's not much to sustain interest. If we were you we'd give this particular Emanuelle a pass. La spiaggia del desiderio premiered in Italy today in 1976.
Sex Stars System uncovers erotic cinema around the world.
Here's a little treat for Monday, because Mondays are universally acknowledged to suck. Above is the cover and below are a ton of scans from the cutting edge cinema magazine Sex Stars System, which billed itself as “Le Magazine du Cinema Erotique.” It was published out of 55 Passage Jouffroy, in Paris, France, and for a while it was the top magazine with reviews and features on the new, sexually liberated mainstream cinema of the early 1970s, and the new pornography of the same era. Because porn was taken seriously as an art form back then (hard to imagine, we know) certain magazines discussed and critiqued the films and regarded the performers as equal with those in mainstream cinema. We talked about this phenomenon with Cine-Revue a few years ago. Sex Stars System was similar, but much edgier, as you'll see.
On the cover and in the centerfold you see Croatian born star Sylva Koscina (a mainstream actress), and elsewhere you get Emmanuelle Parèze (porn), Dany Carrel (mainstream), Valérie Bosigel (mainstream), Karin Schubert (both), Catherine Spaak (mainstream), Ornella Muti (mainstream), Chesty Morgan (porn, obviously), Marilyn Monroe (mainstream, though some scam artists claim she was the other too), et al. They don't make magazines like this anymore, because they don't make cinema like this anymore. Sex in U.S. movies is strictly taboo, unless, generally speaking, the actors keep their clothes on. You do see it on cable television, however, though such shows generate reams of online criticism about how terribly wrong it is (we agree, however, that more sex and nude scenes need to be filmed from the vantage point of the female gaze). In Europe, as always, things are a bit more liberated.
We aren't sure how long Sex Stars System published. It debuted in 1975. Also in 1975, or possibly 1976, a magazine called simply Stars System appeared. Stars System had a softer editorial approach and featured solidly mainstream cover celebs such as Jane Fonda and Romy Schneider. At some point it changed its name slightly to Star System and, thus rebranded, published at least as late as 1982, which seems to be longer than Sex Stars System was on the scene. The information online about these magazines is, as you can probably guess, a jumble, but we'll keep looking into it and maybe have something more concrete to report later. There's also a Star System celeb magazine around today, but it's Canadian and presumably unrelated. Many scans below, and we have a few more issues we'll post later.
I just love reading the literary classics. They're always so interest... zzzzzzz...
Above is one of our prouder acquisitions—a poster of Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel made to promote the film Emmanuelle. The piece has multiple fold lines, which we could remove from the digital reproduction if we wanted, but we like the lines. We're sharing this because Kristel died today four years ago and we think this shot is a nice reminder of what a lovely and ethereal star she was.
Once again Brazil brings the freak out of an unsuspecting visitor.
This chirashi mini-poster, of which you see both sides above, was made to promote the Japanese release today in 1984 of the softcore epic Emmanuelle IV, spawn of a franchise that just gave and gave and gave, to the tune of seven direct theatrical sequels, plus dozens of television films and at least thirty other cinematic excursions of close or distant relation. This one will really make you wonder what happened to the big budget softcore movie. It's fun, engaging, highly budgeted, and a consistent turn-on.
Since Emmanuelle's original portrayor Sylvia Kristel was by now deemed too old to be the title ingénue, the writers decided to send her away to Brazil for rejuvenating surgery. She opens the film, gets on a plane, and when she emerges from her full body treatment, she looks like twenty-four-year-old Swedish actress Mia Nygren. Wanting to test out this new chassis, Nygren runs amok in Rio de Janiero and environs, as Brazil's tropical heat and wanton ways wreak havoc on a yet another white girl's psyche. By the end of the second reel she's a full-on nympho.
Emmanuelle IV is a cut above regular sexploitation—it's brilliantly shot in city and jungle, competently acted, and absolutely chock full of lithe hot bodies. Besides Kristel and Nygren, the parade of world-class beauties include Deborah Power, Sophie Berger, Dominique Troyes aka Marilyn Jess, and Sonja Martin. There was no porn in the original release, but x-rated scenes were shot and did appear in the French DVD version. But of the red hot goddesses mentioned above, only Jess went all the way, which is just as well—in a film as elegant as this, it would be a shame to see hairy-assed dudes climbing all over the entire female cast like monkeys. Or maybe that's just us.
We have some images below, and should explain, their sheer number reflect our love for this movie. We first saw it on cable in our youth and it stayed with us. Whenever asked why we live abroad, we always credit high-brow literature and cultural curiosity and everything to do with the brain. But when we're truthful we have to admit stuff like Emmanuelle IV had an influence too. Even if people in exotic lands didn't act that crazy, the places existed. We had to see them. And you know what we found? People do act that crazy.
Devil worshippers give politicians another harsh lesson in Constitutional law.
The folks at the Satanic Temple have engineered a cage fight against the political establishment once again. We wrote about how they made a group of Oklahoma lawmakers look like idiots a couple of years ago. The politicians had decided to use a legal loophole to allow a Ten Commandments monument to be placed on state property, despite the fact that it violated the federal separation of church and state requirement. But the problem with loopholes is that anyone can use them if they have the time and money. Which is exactly what the Satanic Temple did when it designed a Satanist monument for the same plot of land. Needless to say, chagrined lawmakers were left with no choice but ignominious retreat and removed their religious monument.
The Satanic Temple has now taken aim at Christian prayer clubs in public schools. The organization contacted nine school districts across the country this week seeking to launch after school Satanist prayer programs. Their reasoning is the same as before—if Christian clubs are okay on state property, then by extension Satanist clubs must be fine. After all, trenchcoated loners need a place to congregate too. With the Constitution's supremacy clause giving it legal authority over states in the matter, lawmakers have to either allow all religions, including Satanists, equal access to schools after hours, or admit that they are enforcing an unconstitutional preference for Christianity.
We get that it's disconcerting to imagine Luciferian chanting in public schools at night—we've seen our share of horror movies, after all—but even so, these politicians never learn. A charitable interpretation of their folly might be that they're so blinded by belief they've forgotten their religion is just one of many in the country, and one of thousands that have existed across time, but the truth is they're worse than blind—they're deluded. Rather than accept the undeniable fact that the country's founding fathers wanted state and religion kept separate, they've convinced themselves that Jefferson, Madison, et al simply forgot to write special standing for the Christian church into the Constitution. This despite the fact that they amended the document more than ten times, and the very first of those amendments explicitly denied Christianity and all other religions special rights.
When asked for comment, Satanic Church leader Lucien Greaves took time from etching pentagrams and deflowering virgins long enough to suggest that children being threatened with eternal hellfire need the healthy alternative belief system Satanism provides. He's being disingenuous, of course—the Satanists are really just atheists with a finely honed sense of humor. The confrontation promises to be political theater of a uniquely American sort, but it will inevitably end in judicial defeat for Christian clubs. At least until they manage to write Christianity into the U.S. Constitution—not so farfetched, considering there are politicians like Arizona's Sylvia Allen publicly pondering whether her state can force citizens to attend church. Maybe the founding fathers should have taken a tip from Satan and written the Constitution in blood. That way breaking the deal would cost politicians their souls.
Hong Kong kidnappers have problems mastering possession, and so do the filmmakers.
If Tarantino likes it, it must be tops. At least that's the assumption some would make upon learning that 1976's Ebony, Ivory & Jade has Tarantino's stamp of approval. Well, despite the endorsement and status as a minor classic of the blaxploitation genre, the film isn't great. It has some highlights, including confidently staged action sequences and camerawork that does seem to have influenced Tarantino. But its failings are legion—bad script, wooden acting, and heavy duty crushed black levels that make the actors almost impossible to see in the night sequences. We'll give a pass on that last problem, because it could have happened during the video or DVD transfer.
We'll admit though, this flick is damned funny in parts—unintentionally so, foremost the character Stacy's beatdown of a bad guy who morphs into a dummy at the moment she hoists him overhead and helicopter spins him through a room divider. The basic idea of the film is also appealing—Hong Kong bad guys kidnap five female track stars for ransom, unaware that two of them happen to be martial arts experts that will cause no end of trouble once they untie themselves. Playboy playmate Rosanne Katon in the lead role is also a plus. But as blaxploitation, even a discernibly elevated budget doesn't lift the film above other entries in the genre.
As a side note, the above promo poster should help put to rest any idea that apostrophe illiteracy has something to do with modern education or the internet or whatever. It has always been a problem, and we see it all the time in vintage material. This particular failure to master the possessive form is pretty egregious, though. Yes, it's attached to a movie shot in the Philippines, but the error made it all the way through a phalanx of American writers, designers, pre-press workers, printers, and producers working in the U.S. of A. at—or at least for—Lawrence Woolner's Dimension Pictures. Pretty bad. Though as we've noted in the past, sometimes apostrophe placement can be legitimately tricky.
Something about Paris just makes you want to dance.
This issue of Cancans de Paris, which is number 10, hit newsstands this month in 1966 featuring cover star Virginia Litz, someone we saw a while back in Folies de Paris et de Hollywood, but modeling under the pseudonym Arabelle. Turns out Litz may be a pseudonym too, as we've determined she's also known—and better known—as Christine Aarons. She pops up inside Cancans along with Gloria Paul, Dany Carrel, Sylvia Sorrente, and Uta Levka, as well as Sean Connery and Claudine Auger, who were starring together in Thunderball. We have Virginia Litz/Christine Aarons on at least one other mid-century magazine, which we'll post a bit later. In the meantime below are assorted scans from today's issue.
I love you so much, money—er, I mean honey.
As long as we're on poster art today, here's a colorful promo for the 1947 victorian thriller Love from a Stranger, starring Sylvia Sidney and John Hodiak in an adaptation of the Agatha Christie short story “Philomel Cottage,” the second pass Hollywood had taken at the material after a 1937 version starring Ann Harding and Basil Rathbone. The movie is a good example of the dangers of failing to be satisfied with a good thing when you have it. Sidney's character Cecily Harrington wins money in a lottery and instead of marrying her perfectly adequate fiancée decides to ditch him for life as a one-percenter. Cue Hodiak, a gold-digger who has already offed three previous wives and gotten away with it. He sets his sights on Cecily—and her pile of cash. She's oblivious at first, of course, but after the two marry disturbing clues start to pile up. Luckily her jilted fiancée cares enough about her wellbeing to keep a concerned eye on her from afar. Us, we'd never do that. We'd be like, “What? You get rich and then dump me for an obvious serial killer? ’kay, good luck. Have fun during your suspiciously isolated honeymoon.” Decent flick, excellent poster. Love from a Stranger V.2 premiered today in 1947.
The bad news is I was in such a hurry I forgot my dress. The good news is I don’t care!
This fun promo photo with American actress Nancy Kovack was made for her role in the film Sylvia. Kovack appeared in several movies and many television shows, but is mainly remembered for playing Medea in 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts, and for a guest appearance on Star Trek. The image above dates from 1965.
Macario Gomez shows an ability to see the bigger wicker.
A couple of years ago we shared some posters by the Spanish artist Macario Gomez, including one rather creative effort for La mansion de la niebla, aka Murder Mansion. But commercial art isn’t always about creativity. This Gomez effort for Emmanuelle, which premiered yesterday in 1974 (and we meant to post it yesterday, except we got deeply involved in a deadly combo of beachy weather and white wine), is an almost exact reproduction of the photographed French promo poster, at right.
We say almost, because you can see that Gomez, whose distinctive signature appears at middle left on the poster, put actress Sylvia Kristel in a bigger wicker chair than in the photo. Or maybe it’s rattan. Whatever, they’re known as peacock chairs, and when they appear in promo art they’re reliable signifiers that what you’re going to get is softcore or sexploitation. They especially pop up during the 1970s and early 1980s. It might even be the same chair each time. In any case, we really like this poster from Gomez. It’s nothing more than a portrait made from a photo, true, but the final product is very nice, we think. As for the movie, we talked about it a bit way back in 2008. If you’re into romantic softcore, it’s pretty much mandatory.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
1976—Gerald Ford Rescinds Executive Order 9066
U.S. President Gerald R. Ford signs Proclamation 4417, which belatedly rescinds Executive Order 9066. That Order, signed in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, established "War Relocation Camps" for Japanese-American citizens living in the U.S. Eventually, 120,000 are locked up without evidence, due process, or the possibility of appeal, for the duration of World War II.
1954—First Church of Scientology Established
The first Scientology church, based on the writings of science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, is established in Los Angeles, California. Since then, the city has become home to the largest concentration of Scientologists in the world, and its ranks include high-profile adherents such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
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