03 November, 2007


BLACK EMMANUELLE/WHITE EMMANUELLE: Velluto nero / Emanuelle in Egypt / Black Velvet White Silk / Smooth Velvet Raw Silk
BLACK EMANUELLE 2: Emanuelle nera no 2 / The New Black Emanuelle
EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE: La via della prostituzione / Emanuelle et les filles de Madame Claude

"The velvet on which the pleasure and vice of mankind lie is black as night."

Emanuelle (Laura Gemser), "the most famous model in the world," arrives at the desert palace of the wealthy and manipulative Crystal (Susan Scott) with her sadistic husband-photographer (Gabriele Tinti) in tow. In the midst of numerous erotic encounters, and a dangerous series of photo shoots, she will discover pleasure, pain, the meaning of life and herself. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? The locale is the land of Ramses II, the costumes and settings (elegantly designed by Walter Patriarca) are different, there's a new supporting cast, including LAURE's Annie Belle [Brilland], but this is basically Emanuelleland, only viewed through a strikingly different lens and played in a gentler tone than the famous collaborations of Joe D'Amato and Nico Fidenco {cf: EMANUELLE IN AMERICA; EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS}.

As a Federico Fellini collaborator (LA DOLCE VITA) writer-director Brunello Rondi obviously inherited some of the master's taste for outre human behavior and locations. One sequence here, filmed near a huge Egyptian temple site, has much of the same mixture of surrealism, historical irony and erotic mystery as certain scenes in FELLINI-SATYRICON. Without the guidance of Bitto Albertini or D'Amato one would fear the series would go off the rails, but VELLUTO NERO re imagines the character and situations in a kind of metaphysical key. The opening sequence of a slave delivering a flower up a long stone staircase as the imperious Susan Scott awaits has the sense of an ancient ritual which immediately demands attention. Like the above quote from "Babylonian" texts, it may be spurious, but it creates a environment of classy intrigue and sets up an atmosphere of erotic adventure. And that's all it really needs.

D'Amato's BE entries immediately inserted animal and human gore sequences into the equation, especially in EIA and EATLC. But although Emanuelle gets a ritualistic bloodbath here there's nothing to compare to the infamous gore scenes in those titles. The characters are well written and played, while there is a thematic undercurrent well illustrated by Rondi's teeming, but always aesthetically balanced, 2.35:1 scope compositions, delicately lit by Gastone Di Giovanni. The strength of VELLUTO NERO is that is how effortlessly it seems to maintain its heavily stylized look while rapidly moving along (the efficient editing was by future Eurosleaze director Bruno Mattei).

I must admit a fetish for Susan Scott (rn Nieves Navarro), whose gaze can melt down the strongest of men, and women. She is all about hot, sweaty sex which can get very nasty if she's not being properly matched. Full-figured, sexually voracious, when seen next to Gemser and Belle, anorexic in comparison, Susan Scott is an Actress, but so are Laura Gemser and Annie Belle. Gemser's Emanuelle is more on edge, less in control, this time around, and Gabriele Tinti really lets it rip as her sadistic director, who forces her to pose in erotic tableaux with dead animals and massacre victims. Bitch slapping and raping her when she resists. these scenes have a startling, primal edge which keep this from being just another soft focus softcore effort in an exotic locale. In fact, Rondi often builds his erotic sequences around the anticipation of sex, rather than wallowing in extended close ups of writhing bodies. The sex scenes have an architectonic quality within the Northern African architecture of Morrocco and Egypt. With her frosted, pixie hairstyle Annie Belle seems to have wandered in off the set of LAURE but has a better role here as Scott's competitive daughter. Italian horror fans will note the presence of Al Cliver (Pierlugi Conti) [ZOMBIE 2; THE BEYOND] as Antonio, Susan Scott's guru/boytoy.

The gorgeous ochre and violette palette is given its full due in Severin's luminous 2.35:1 transfer. Those only familiar with the previous video incarnations will feel they are seeing it for the first time. The film can be watched in Italian with English subtitles or in original with its English Mono track with some addition scenes in Italian with English subs available. The rich, Middle Eastern tinged score of Dario Baldan Bembo is an engaging mixture of mid 1970s rock anthem stylings orchestrated for electric guitar, flute, Hammond organ and choral interludes. This unique musical environment nicely counterpoints the specific situations and settings and provides an interesting alternative to Nico Fidenco's personal approach to his Black Emanuelle assignments. The overall impression is of a lavish erotic desert fantasia, Emanuelle Meets Lawrence of Arabia. After adjusting to the unique look, sound and mood of VELLUTO NERO it ranks as one of the top tier titles in the Black Emanuelle series.

Bonus supplements include the original theatrical trailer and BLACK VELVET, an 18 minute video interview with Al Cliver which includes audio commentary by Gemser and Belle on the making of VELLUTO NERO.


Next we'll be considering the DVD presentation of LA VIA DELLA PROSTITUZIONE [EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE-1977]

(C) Robert Monell, 2007


ecom said...

Speaking of Fellini, imagine some of the film's set-pieces in LA DOLCE VITA black and white or JULIET OF THE SPIRITS Technicolor. Bembo's score is the best.

Robert Monell said...

Yes, I really like the visuals in this one, quite different from Bitto Albertini's and D'Amato's approach. And the music is excellent.

ecom said...

I don't know if I'd use the word "gentler" with this one. While it isn't as outrageous as the D'Amato entries, it has more dimensional characters so their melodramatics and more tender moments have more resonance (Laura Gemser's freak-out is actually gripping and moving).

On the other hand, Feodor Chaliapin's performance as the aged actor seems like something out of one of those more genteel romantic films about similar collections of characters in the countryside (sort of like Jean Marais in STEALING BEAUTY) which does add a needed warmer touch.

Susan Scott's emoting atop the temple set has her positioned in an Antonioni-esque composition facing camera with a vast, endless desert background and I think you genuinely worry that her character might jump.