No matter which direction she's going we'll tag along.
The first thing we did when we saw this interesting cover from Éditions de la Brigandine for Benjamin Rupert's 1980 novel Lubrique à Braque was try to figure out what type of motorcycle this was. It's a Kawasaki, but the logo is reversed because Brigandine must have decided they liked the rider going from right to left rather than the other direction. That's when we took a look at her and recognized French film star Annie Belle. That's her for sure. No mistaking those eyes. She remembered to wear her helmet for this spin, which is commendable, but she's forgotten anything resembling outerwear. Also commendable. We don't know where she's going but it'll be a place of romance and adventure. Just watch one of her movies and you'll see. La notte dell'alta marea comes to mind. Bonus: that one also has Pam Grier. Or you could watch Laure. Bonus: that one has Emmanuelle Arsan. Or you could even watch Velluto nero. Who's the bonus in that? None other than queen b Laura Gemser. All three movies are pretty bad, truth be told, but they're also amazingly fun. Your entertainment week is now set.
She's not quite as innocent as she looks.
This Japanese poster was made for Annie Belle's 1976 erotic romp La fine dell'innocenza, and it makes us wonder: Do erotic stars even exist anymore? We don't mean porn stars. We mean stars of erotic films. Have the reactionaries made them extinct, even on late night cable? Well, if so that's terribly sad, because if one believes cinematic sex and nudity are automatically exploitative (or worse, that all nudity in media derives from coercion), in our opinion that person has led a tragic or sheltered life. Sometimes such movies are exploitative, of course, but oftentimes they're life affirming and fun. Just like regular films, there's a range. La fine dell'innocenza, which was also titled simply Annie, falls somewhere in the middle. It has its exploitative elements, but ultimately is about Belle being far too rare and free a bird to be caged by small-minded men. Once upon a time, but not long ago, women struggled and protested and advocated in order to be free birds sexually, to express their sexuality in any way they saw fit after centuries of repression. La fine dell'innocenza is an artifact of that time period. We talked about it a few years ago, and you can read about it at this link.
Water levels and more rise in Belle/Grier sexploitation romp.
We've had a lot of Pam Grier on this site, and here she is yet again, co-starring with Annie Belle and Anthony Steel in La notte dell'alta marea, aka Twilight of Love, aka Night of the High Tide, an Italo-Canadian sexploitation flick, and probably her most obscure role. An advertising exec played by Steel is looking for the perfect ass for a blue jeans campaign, spots Annie Belle in a sauna, and decides she fits the bill. The funny part of this is he sees her from behind initially and thinks she's male, which tells you quite a bit about Belle's elfish body type. But male or female, her ass will do just fine, and for more than only the ad campaign. She's amenable to Steel's advances, but she has a boyfriend who isn't quite as sharing.
In the midst of this man-against-man for woman's affections melodrama there's still an advertisment to finish, so Steel takes Belle, her boyfriend, a photographer, and a second model played by Grier to Martinique for a photo shoot. This is a pretty sweet spot for location work, and Grier sports a killer afro that looks mighty good with the Caribbean wind blowing through it. Belle, never to be upstaged, has virtually no hair for the wind to play with but wears what must be one of the earliest thong bikinis to appear in cinema, and soon doffs the shoestrings for even less. Strangely, the jeans this entire excursion are supposed to be about never make an appearance.
From Martinique the group ventures to a smaller, uncharted island and promptly get stuck there. With no hope of rescue and tensions rising—like the tide—problems soon occur. Boy problems. Possessiveness problems. Aggression problems. Don't fear though—rescue comes beforeanyone gets seriously hurt, and Belle gets the customary sexploitation send-off, jetting away backed by synth music and a torch singer as a man stares wistfully into the middle distance, wishing he could hold onto her but knowing in his heart he can't. Because she's a free spirit, you see. And free spirits must soar.
Cheesy? Certainly. But this is sexploitation, so we knew the script would be bad. We accepted that, but we wish the beach sequences hadn't been shot through a layer of gauze—though on the whole the film looks great. We also wish Grier's distinctive voice hadn't been dubbed, but as she speaks no Italian, this was unavoidable. Preferences aside, if you like romantic island erotica this one will please you, though we can't go so far as to call it a good film. But with Belle and Grier sharing the same screen and the same beach it's hard to fail completely. La notte dell'alta marea premiered in Italy today in 1977.
When the Belle rings it's time for everyone to get it up.
Above is a Japanese poster and a pamphlet front for the French sexploitation flick Laure, aka Forever Emmanuelle, which premiered in Japan today in 1976 after opening in Italy nine months earlier. We watched it, and first of all the movie looks great. It's crisp, bright, and colorful—three things you really want when Annie Belle is the star. We gather that the palpably high budget was due to an infusion of big studio money from Twentieth Century Fox via Cinecittà Studios, as they tried to cash in on the 1970s sexploitation phenomenon. None of this means the movie is good.
Emmanuelle flicks are chaste and atmospheric, more romance than raunch, and Laure is no exception. Belle plays a highly sexed minister's daughter running wild in the Philippines, from Manila to the jungly outer reaches. There's a plot having to do with searching for the isolated Mara tribe, but the movie is more a series of swinger lifestyle lectures and sexualized vignettes, such as when Belle drops her skirt so she can walk around in public wearing nothing but a shirt that flashes her muff, and when she gets laid in a bamboo hut that's being dragged through the woods by a dozen Filipino workers. She's wanted by everyone whose path she crosses, but it's Al Cliver who piques her interest, thanks to his unwillingness to attempt caging her or cooling her hot blood. At one point he announces, “Jealousy is an obscenity.” It takes quite a man to watch the woman he loves have explosive orgasms with every stranger who happens along.
Of special note is a co-starring turn from Thai/French personality Emmanuelle Arsan, who in 1959 anonymously published the book Emmanuelle, source of the film franchise. Or at least she was thought for years to have been responsible for the book. Her husband Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane is now considered the author. Arsan was also credited with directing Laure, or at least co-directing it, but that was Rollet-Andriane again, whose name isn't on the film for reasons too involved to go into here. Well, it's definitely Arsan playing the role of Myrte, adding to the film's visual allure by looking great naked at age forty-four. She can't act, but she's good at giving wise looks and secretive smiles. She's easy to buy as the source—or at least inspiration—for Emmanuelle, because she's a very sexy woman. Despite all the film's beauty, we aren't going so far as to recommend it generally, but for lovers of globetrotting softcore or fans of Annie Belle it's mandatory.
Gemser heats up the deserts of Egypt.
Cinematic sleaze was often fueled, the same as was mainstream filmmaking, by star power, so it was natural to bring two popular erotic performers like Laura Gemser and Annie Belle together. It happened today in 1976 with the Italian premiere of Velluto nero. At some point after its theatrical release it was renamed for English speaking audiences Black Emmanuelle, White Emmanuelle. Gemser was actually Indonesian, born in Surabaya, East Java, however 1976 was the blaxploitation era and everybody wanted a piece of that pie, including, obviously, Gemser's production company Rekord Films. Gemser could have played anything from half black to Persian to southern Italian to Hawaiian to Latina, so it was a canny—if cynical—bit of cultural appropriation. But back then it was seemingly no harm no foul. Audiences wanted to see her naked, and she always delivered.
In Velluto nero Gemser plays a model who vacations in Egypt with her horrible husband and meets the free-spirited Belle, who awakens her to better possibilities in life—ones that don't include her criminally abusive spouse. It's generally agreed that this is one of Gemser's most tepid Emanuelle entries. We have to concur. But Gemser and Annie Belle in the same movie are worth something, at least, and the Egyptian scenery is compelling. We also like that Belle's multi-colored sweater makes another appearance. She must have lifted it from the costume department when she filmed Laure. Velluto nero isn't the last we'll see of her or Gemser, and we'll just have to hope the next encounter is an improvement over this one.
Annie Belle streaks across Hong Kong and stardom follows.
Above you see an Aller, aka Carlo Alessandrini, poster for La fine dell'innocenza, which premiered in Italy today in 1976 and was titled in English Annie, after the lead character Annie Belle. The star of the film had acted under her real name Annie Brilland up to this point, but adopted Annie Belle as her stage name for this film and the rest of her career. Yes, technically she acted as Annie Belle in an earlier movie—Laure, which came out about a week before Annie, but we strongly suspect that made-in-Manila sex romp was shot later and simply went through post production more quickly. Another small movie from 1975 is credited to Belle, but we're sure that was done much later. Annie is the film that made her Belle.
It's a coming of age story in which she proves to be too independent for all—male and female—who wish to possess her. She begins the film under the wing of her incest-minded father, travels with him to Hong Kong, where he's arrested for money laundering, forcing her to fend for herself. From there she makes the inevitable sexual splash in upper crust expat circles around the island. And who can fault them for their interest? In real life Belle is a tiny, tomboyish figure, certainly no more than 5' 2”, but onscreen she comes across as even lusher than the Hong Kong hills. There's no disputing it: the camera loves her. She's one of the most striking stars of any era of cinema.
La fine dell'innocenza is remembered for its extended sequence depicting Belle's escape from a brothel. She pulls it off—no body double—by sprinting starkers through the Hong Kong streets, leaping onto the back of a motorcycle driven by an associate, careening through traffic as she wantonly flouts local helmet laws, leaping off the bike and running again, now chased by cops, to a public fountain, where she's finally apprehended. The scene is worth rewinding just to see all the locals gawking from the backgrounds of the shots. They must have thought, watching this platinum blonde boy-woman with the jet back muff running through their city—what the hell do these foreigners smoke?
October 1st marks the second rare lunar event this week.
Two years ago we shared a very rare Japanese promo poster from the 1976 Italian romance Laure, also known as Forever Emmanuelle. The calendar image above from the Japanese cinema and celebrity magazine Roadshow doesn’t directly promote Laure, but it comes from the same photo session, and like the earlier image features French actress Annie Belle doing her imitation of Monday’s supermoon. Both are amazing events, but this one, happily, features fewer craters.
One fashion that never goes out of style is Belle bottom.
Above, an exceedingly rare Japanese poster of French actress Annie Belle, née Annie Brilland, promoting her role in the 1976 Italian erotic drama Laure. Belle made about thirty films, mostly in Italy, and today is a social worker. We have another poster of similar style we’ll try to get up later.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1930—Selassie Becomes Emperor
Haile Selassie I, whose birth name Tafari Makonnen and title "Ras" give the Rastafarian religion its name, is proclaimed emperor of Ethiopia. Selassie would become one of the most important leaders in African history, and earn global recognition through his resistance to Italy's illegal invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Selassie died in August 1975 under disputed circumstances.
1984—Marvin Gaye Dies from Gunshot Wound
American singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye, who was famous for a three-octave vocal range which he used on hits such as "Sexual Healing" and "What's Going On," is fatally shot in the chest by his father after an argument over misplaced business documents. Gaye scored forty-one top 40 hit singles on Billboard's pop singles chart between 1963 and 2001, sixty top 40 R&B hits from 1962 to 2001, and thirty-eight top 10 singles on the R&B chart, making him not only one of the most critically acclaimed artists of his day, but one of the most successful.
1930—Movie Censorship Enacted
In the U.S., the Motion Pictures Production Code is instituted, imposing strict censorship guidelines on the depiction of sex, crime, religion, violence and racial mixing in film. The censorship holds sway over Hollywood for the next thirty-eight years, and becomes known as the Hays Code, after its creator, Will H. Hays.
1970—Japan Airlines Flight 351 Hijacked
In Japan, nine samurai sword wielding members of the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction hijack Japan Airlines flight 351, which had been en route from Tokyo to Fukuoka. After releasing the passengers, the hijackers proceed to Pyongyang, North Koreas's Mirim Airport, where they surrender to North Korean authorities and are given asylum.
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