Gemser travels to many distant cities, and meets the worst people in every one of them.
To say that Laura Gemser's Emanuelle films are hit and miss is an understatement of epic proportions. While early entries have the happy softcore feel needed for thought-free diversion and occasional boners, later offerings veer into dark territory. Emanuelle - Perché violenza alle donne? is in the latter category. An Italian production, the title translates as “Emanuelle - Why violence against women?” Erotic cinema and social commentary don't usually mix well—not because they're mutually exclusive, but because the filmmakers never have the skill to pull it off. In the U.S. the movie was retitled Emanuelle Around the World, which sounds fine, but its international English title was changed to The Degradation of Emanuelle. Uh oh.
Gemser's adventures begin in San Francisco when her New York based photo-journalist character enjoys a satisfying boning in the back of a truck. But soon she's off on her next assignment, a titillating expose of a Kama Sutra commune in Asia. Once there she meets creepy guru George Eastman and uses her superior sexual skills to make his holiness transcendentally ejaculate too fast. Up to this point Perché violenza alle donne? is somewhat fun. But next Gemser meets up with pal Karin Schubert in Rome and joins an assignment to expose a sexual slavery ring. Wait—didn't she do that in Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade? Yup, but slavers never quit. This collection of bad men are unusually horrible. One is is a burn victim who rapes his captives. Another has a penchant for bestiality.
Obviously, during the 1970s filmmakers didn't really understand the idea of unintentionally minimizing serious subject matter the same way they do today. It was the “what-the-fuck-let's-give-it-a-try” era, and taking such risks produced some of the greatest cinema ever. But in this case writer/director Joe D'Amato and co-writers Maria Pia Fusco and Gianfranco Clerici failed. Badly. A movie on the subject of slavery and rape would be unpleasant but important if it were a Claire Denis drama or a Laura Poitras documentary. Mixing it into a flyweight sex film doesn't add dramatic weight—it adds discordance, embarrassment, and insult. It was a total miscalculation. You could potentially watch the film until Gemser departs the Kama Sutra commune, then turn it off. If you don't, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
However, we try to see the good in every movie we screen, so we should note that there are some high points. We'll list them. The Emanuelle films were typically shot in exotic locales, and in this case not only does D'Amato set scenes in New York City and San Francisco, but in Kathmandu, Rome, Hong Kong, and—for real—Teheran. Gemser is a limited actress, but one who always does her best with preposterous scripting. Schubert is a stolid co-star. Underutilized Don Powell is always a welcome sight. And lastly, many of the production photos, some of which appear below, are interesting. That's about all the good we can find. We'll just slide Emanuelle - Perché violenza alle donne? into ye olde metaphorical trash bin and forget it ever happened. It premiered in Italy today in 1977.
She's arrived on this earthly plane to love you to death.
We said you'd see sexploitation star Laura Gemser again sooner than you thought, and here she is—or at least here's an interesting depiction of her—on a poster made in Turkey to promote her film Ateşle Oyun. That translates as “game with fire,” but the movie was known in English as Divine Emanuelle and Love Camp. There's no Turkish release date, but we're talking about it today because it premiered today in 1981 in West Germany, where it was released as Die Todesgöttin des Liebescamps, or “the death goddess of love camp.” Death goddess, eh? That doesn't sound fun, but we'll get to that in a minute. As you can see in panel two, the West German promo is nothing to write home about, which is why we decided to focus on the Turkish art. It's signed by an illustrator named Ömer Muz. We looked him up and got many hits, but with no way of knowing whether any of them were the Muz we were seeking. A few of them were artists, and one was even an art director in movies back in the early 1980s, but final identification eluded us.
Die Todesgöttin des Liebescamps was written, directed by, and co-starred Christian Anders, an Austrian musician/singer/composer and man-in-over-his-head in terms of technical ability. His character oversees a free-love cult on Cyprus called Children of Light. He's the servant of the Divine One, played by Gemser, who bathes in milk, parades around topless while flanked by an oiled up bodybuilder, and preaches an apocalyptic schadenfreude doctrine that sounds a lot like the Rapture. In her cult, you can give love freely, but cannot be in love. “Love for only one person is egosim,” she puts it. “When two people love each other they shut the world out. That's a sin.” Basically, that means the cult is an ongoing orgy. Rulebreakers get slapped around or whipped. Gemser even whips herself occasionally. She's a true believer.
The plot kicks into gear, sort of, when one of the cult babes decides she wants to leave and is instead thrown off a cliff by the oiled up bodybuilder guy. There had to be a dark side to all this sex, and that dark side is you can check in anytime you like but you can never leave. We next learn that the police have become suspicious about missing cult members and have inserted an undercover operative who's poking around even as Gemser tries to indoctrinate an heiress and soak her down for her fortune. Will the undercover cop learn the truth of the cult? Will Gemser expose him? Will she expose herself? On the latter score, fans will be satisfied, rest assured. But for objective film buffs, we have to tell you that, like most Gemser efforts, this flick is terrible.
But it's also significant because there's bizarre trivia associated with it. Most notably, David Koresh has a small role. You perhaps remember him? As the leader of the Branch Davidian cult he sought to create a new lineage of world leaders, had sexual partners as young as ten years old, and finally died in 1993 with seventy-five disciples during a fire that broke out at the cult's compound during an FBI raid. On top of all that, writer director Anders propagated various conspiracy theories in books and interviews. The lesson is don't take a movie script too seriously. Especially a sexploitation script. Die Todesgöttin des Liebescamps premiered today in 1981.
Witness me, little ones! Are my abdominals not out of this world? Bring forth the divine ointments and sexual lubes! I and my slippery, steroid enraged servant shall now engage in the holy rite of hot raw sex. You may want to rewind this part a few times. I came here to find myself, and she gives me this room. Feels like she's mocking me. There's something to find right under these holy raiments, little lost blonde one. Divine One, I prefer this female version of myself. Diversity is good and all, but we're a matched set. Hope you're okay with that. Throw them both into the pit of eternal-despair-without-hope-of-redemption-or-surcease! Hmm... probably need to shorten that name. And who forgot to order the lube for today's orgy? Throw him in the whatever pit too! I'm a cruel goddess, it's true. But behold the everloving fuck out of this!
Gemser always makes sure a fun time is had by all.
Above is another Japanese poster for Laura Gemser's Italian sexploitation flick Emanuelle nera, which premiered in 1975 and reached Japan today in 1976. The art shows Gemser getting frisky poolside with French actress Isabelle Marchall, who made numerous sexploitation and giallo movies. The title of this in Japanese means “love of Emanuelle,” and we echo that sentiment—which is to say, though Gemser's Emanuelle films are abysmally bad, we love them as products of an era of freewheeling, guilt-free erotic cinema.
Watching the films on cable television during our youth, they somewhat affected our views on travel and sex, neither of which we had experienced yet. We explained this influence in our write-up on Mia Nygren's Emmanuelle IV way back. At their best, Gemser's Emanuelle movies (yes, it's spelled differently than Nygren's) were straightforward celebrations of sex, while at their worst they were influenced by horror and action movies, such as the one where she takes on cannibals, and the one where she smashes a ring of snuff filmmakers. Emanuelle nera has few pretensions—Gemser goes to Nairobi and gets laid. You can see everything else we have on the movie here, here, and here. Gemser will be back. Probably sooner than you think.
Gemser exercises her right to bare arms—and everything else too.
We try to document the top erotic stars of yesteryear—Lindberg, Forså, Annie Belle, Izumi Shima. Today it's Laura Gemser's turn again, this time starring in Emanuelle in America, which premiered in Italy today in 1977. This entry is third, fourth, or seventh in her Emanuelle series, depending on how you count them, and sees her investigating a multi-national sex trafficking ring that kidnaps women and kills them for the production of underground snuff films. That synopsis and the fact that the movie is helmed by Joe D'Amato are all you need to hear to suspect this is going all sorts of disturbing places, and indeed, your worst fears will be realized, as scenes of documentary-style transgressive violence occur, and there's a scene of a woman stroking off a horse. Fortunately, the snuff sequences are fake. They were staged by Italian special effects experts Giannetto de Rossi and Maurizio Trani. The horse thing? That's real.
Okay, so let's forget those problems for now. What's the thrust of the movie? It's a scathing indictment of the decadent wealthy, people who money has deadened inside and who must buy increasingly depraved thrills to bring stimulation to their lives. During the course of Gemser's investigation she goes undercover as a high priced call girl, jets from the U.S. to Venice to the Caribbean and back to the States, gets naked or topless numerous times, and has her skinny body handled and squeezed by man and woman alike, including her real-life husband Gabriele Tinti. As usual her sexual powers are transformative. For instance a carjacker wants to kill her but has never experienced sex and has his lid flipped by his first blowjob. Later a call girl with no self worth comes to see the world in a brighter light after a slippery steam room session with Gemser. She's like a superhero—with a superpower you really have to marvel at.
We won't tell you how the whole snuff plotline resolves. You'll just have to watch—all the way to the baffling postscript. Should you decide to partake, you'll probably end up with a version of the movie that has hardcore sequences featuring porn actresses Paola Senatore and Marina Lotar inserted, so to speak. Usually such scenes shred continuity, and they do here too, as well as failing to add much to the overall erotic value of the film. We'll admit though, that the bit where a woman sticks daisies in a man's nest of pubes then says, “Your bush is in flower,” was funny. The other high point is Gemser, hitting her stride here as the Emanuelle character, looking her best, making stick-thin more alluring than she has any right to. She does the same in many additional entries. A few of those efforts are better, but many are far worse, so we'll have to call Emanuelle in America above average.
Laura Gemser rides Emanuelle to international fame.
We're looping back to Italian promo art today with this poster for Emanuelle nera, known in English as Black Emmanuelle. We already talked about the movie here, but didn't share this particular poster, a nice, understated effort for what is a pretty wild film. This was Gemser's third cinematic outing, but her first as the character of Emanuelle, which she'd reprise multiple times. Notice she's billed on the poster as “Emanuelle.” She acted under that name briefly before appearing under her real name, and the rest is softcore history. We have her entire film output, so you can be sure we'll get back to her later. Emanuelle nera premiered in Italy today in 1975.
The view from below is plenty thrilling in Gemser sex comedy.
We're sure you can take a gander at the above poster for Malizia erotica and instantly come to the conclusion: Ahhh yes, good ole European sex comedies. The movie was originally made in Spain but released as El periscopio in Italy today in 1979. It stars lanky erotic icon Laura Gemser in a story that would surely ruffle feathers—if not spark litigation—were it to be made today. In short, a teenaged schoolboy played by Ángel Herraiz lives with his parents in an apartment beneath that of supersexed nurses Gemser and Bárbara Rey, and like any rational kid would, he uses a periscope to spy on them.
There are other plot threads here, but forget those. This peeping teen angle leads to an amazing scene: Herraiz gets so heated up by his voyeurism that he develops pains in the groin area. His parents know the upstairs pair are medical professionals and ask Gemser to diagnose the kid's problem. She discerns immediately that Herraiz has a debilitating case of blue balls and gives the kid some manual relief—in front of his parents! Ahhh yes, good ole European sex comedies. Sure, her nursely fap session happens out of direct view under the kid's blanket, but still.
It just goes to show that little is out of bounds in this genre. The older woman introducing a boy to sex has been the subject of scores of films, but what was once thought of as a lucky manchild's rite of passage is now considered sexual predation. We don't disagree, however we know two guys this has happened to and neither of them regret it. Real life is full of contradictions that way. In any case, what would have been nice is if this particular coming-of-age story were better written, acted, and filmed. But ahhh yes, good ole European sex comedies—they're nearly always inept. El periscopio does not reverse the trend.
Laura Gemser is a nun that likes to have fun.
Laura Gemser made more than fifty films, most of them of the erotic variety, which means we'll probably never run out of material on her to share. Above you see a Spanish poster for the her nunsploitation flick Sor Emanuelle, which was originally released in Italy as Suor Emaunelle. We already talked about the movie, but we wanted to share this unusual promo. We've never gotten the nun thing, we suppose because we aren't Catholic, or even religious for that matter, but for some reason these movies represent a full sub-genre of ’70s cinema. That being the case, it was only a matter of time before Gemser got into the habit.
She starred in this with Swiss actress Mónica Zanchi, who's billed as Mónika Zanchi. The two would pair up again a year later in Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali, aka Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, another spectacularly bad sexploitation epic. In addition to the poster, we also—just because we can—wanted to share a couple of magazine images of Gemser and Zanchi, and those are just below. They're super naked. You've been warned. But these are beautiful shots. After its Italian opening in 1977 Sor Emanuelle premiered in Spain today in 1978. Check out our original write-up on the film here.
Laura Gemser makes an emancipation proclamation.
As you've deduced from the above Italian poster for La via della prostituzione, also known as Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade, we've performed a quick turnaround to Laura Gemser, last seen two days ago. In this flick she plays a journalist, a role she inhabited often, and heads to exotic Nairobi with sidekick Ely Galleani. In a Nairobi market Gemser sees a man hurrying a woman through the throng. She'd seen the same pair in the airport, except then the woman was in a wheelchair and the man was pushing it. Gemser asks her local tour guide, “Do you know that man?” His response: “That one? Only by sight. I only know that he's American, and that he comes on business, but I don't know what kind of business. Someone mentioned white slavery. But why do you ask?” Did you just cringe a little? We did too, but we get it—the white kind is far more important than the regular kind, init?
Anyway, while were still marvelling over the sad but somehow uproarious tone deafness of those dialogue exchanges, Gemser was busy jetting from Nairobi to New York City to find more info about this American slaver. After promising her editor the biggest scoop of her career, she manages to charm her way into a slave auction taking place—in an amazing stroke of luck—right there in the Big Apple. She watches as girls as young as seventeen are sold to hairy-knuckled jetsetters, including that mysterious Yank, played by hirsute Italian Gabriele Tinti. Now that she knows the basic shape of the wrongdoing taking place, she needs evidence. How does she gather it? That's right—by infiltrating the slave racket as product. She's accepted as a high priced prostitute, and from NYC she's off to San Diego to work in a private club, where she hopes to blow the racket wide open.
You may be asking yourself, Wait, how is this all voluntary for her if it's a slave ring? That question is never fully answered. Somehow, though, she's accepted in the game as a freelancer, while all the other girls seem to be wholly owned chattel. It doesn't matter. This is sexploitation cinema, and what matters are nudity and sex, which means that mixed into the confounding plotline are an amazing number of sex scenes, which consist of cast members slithering softcore style against each other like salamanders while soporific music drifts across the soundtrack. It's all very silly, but the entire point of these films is to create gauzy eye candy, not dazzle you with cinematic mastery or make social statements more than a micron deep. Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade fulfills all the requirements of the genre, not brilliantly, but certainly adequately. It premiered in Italy today in 1978.
Laura Gemser turns out to be one twisted sister.
Laura Gemser again? Really? Well, she made a lot of movies and we find them highly amusing. This one was called Suor Emanuelle, aka Sister Emanuelle, and we'll tell you up front it'll probably be wildly offensive to anyone with religious beliefs, as she plays the horniest nun in L'Aquila, Italy. She doesn't start that way. At first she's one cold penguin, but as we've mentioned before, exotic places heat her up. Plus in the convent she finds herself in close company with Mónica Zanchi, who knows exactly which of Gemser's buttons to press. That chilly old convent starts cooking, with Gemser giving in to Zanchi, and Zanchi regularly hiking Vinja Locatelli's treasure trail. But it wouldn't be ’70s sexploitation without some hairy men. Enter Gabriele Tinti as a bank robber hiding out in the stables. Gemser and Zanchi both take carnal communion with him, multiple times. All in all, Suor Emanuelle is a typical Gemser sex flick—ethereal, ridiculous, a bit quaint by today's standards, and not to be taken at all seriously. We give it two-and-half nipple-kisses. It premiered in Italy today in 1977.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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