05 November, 2007


Nico Fidenco, the composer of the the delightfully odd score for LA VIA DELLA PROSTITUZIONE (EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE). The briskly paced entry, directed and photographed by Aristide Massaccesi aka Joe D'Amato (below), was the last official BLACK EMANUELLE title and now is getting its R1 DVD debut in a rough and ready transfer from Severin Films.

Aristide Massaccesi aka Joe D'Amato was the King of Italian sexploitation for three decades until his death in 1999. Just before his sudden death from heart failure he had completed yet another XXX film shot in the US. A shrewd businessman, noted cinematographer (WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO SOLANGE?), maker of hundreds of horror films, westerns, comedies, softcore and hardcore features. He could be considered the Italian equivalent of Jess Franco.

EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE (1978) may not be the best, or the most outrageous, of the BLACK EMANUELLE series, but it could be the most entertaining. Laura Gemser is back in her signature role as the exotic ace journalist who arrives in Kenya hot on the trail of Rivetti (Venantino Venantini ), "a gangster on an international level" who is hiding out on a remote estate. Going along for the ride is her nymphomaniac friend, Ely Galleani (FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON). D'Amato goes easy on the violence and seems to take a sleazy abandon with this one, taking time out to chronicle Galleani's sexy encounters underneath her Land Rover with a local mechanic before getting her and Gemser dressed up in Kenya Airlines stewardess gear (of course, they find time for an erotic clutch in the shower). It's nonstop goofy fun which isn't spoiled even by a detour from Africa to the white slavery operation of BLACK EMANUELLE regular Gabriele Tinti. It's always good to see the late actor in one of his suave villain roles, although he can also play rough, as he does in the impressive VELLUTO NERO. Tinti was married to Laura Gemser from 1976 until his death in November, 1991.

The film's second half details the inner workings of the slave trade: a closed hooker auction attended by wealthy, ruthless bidders; Emanuelle's requisite job interview; glimpses into "specialty" rooms at the high end San Diego bordello; the emphasis on secrecy and a transvestite security chief. It's all very amusing considering the grim realities of the white slave trade in the real world. Favorite scenes include a kung fu showdown in a bowling alley and Emanuelle's last minute escape from being lobotomized only to end up on a fishing boat with a group of weathered fisherman who want to know how she's going to pay her fare. She once again rips off her clothes as Nico Fidenco's wildly enjoyable "Run, Cheetah, Run" kicks up on the soundtrack.

Prime EuroTrash, EuroSleaze, EuroErotica....just don't call it Eurocult! [For an explanation of my distaste for that term, just type it into this blog's search engine].

Moving from Kenya to New York City to Southern California, Massaccesi shoots with his usual skill considering the economic conditions. It's one of the most downmarket of the Black Emanuelles and probably the funkiest, thanks in no small part to the musical genius of Nico Fidenco. The outre score, odd by even Fidenco's standards, is included on the bonus DVD.

Severin's new DVD is, at 89m, the longest version I've seen. Presented in 1;85:1/16:9 it's certainly an improvement over the years of duped PAL videos on which I've experienced of this film. But this is what I term a Grindhouse print, slightly worn, visibly marked here and there, with highly variable color and sharpness. It's not exactly what I would call a High Definition presentation but it's probably the best this obscure feature is ever going to look. If it appears at times unsharp with colors not as luminous as they are in, say, the DVD of VELLUTO NERO, it may be because of the way the film itself was shot, often in difficult locations with available lighting, on the run in terms of budget and schedule, with portable equipment and processed in Telecolor. It looks gritty, down and dirty, the way it should look (at least to my somewhat skewed tastes) considering the atmosphere, subject matter and sleaze factor.

One of the last of the series, but, as we shall see in a future blog, not the exact endpoint of the D'Amato BLACK EMANUELLE endeavors. Curiously, this is presented in English language only, complete with slightly off kilter post-synchronization, but is nonetheless endearing (at least to me) as it presents our heroine as sounding something like a chipmunk [!] on the Mono dubbing track.

Bonus materials include the original Italian language trailer and AFTER HOURS WITH JOE D'AMATO, a twelve minute interview with late filmmaker camcorded in 1994 right after his appearance at a UK Eurofest convention. This curious affair transpired at "a local flat" (somewhere in England) where several unidentified, very scruffy looking, and quite inebriated, young males grill the laid back director and the ins and outs (literally!) of making hardcore movies. The youths (who look barely out of their teens) swill down huge cans of Fosters, asking him about the bestiality scenes in his CALIGULA and EMANUELLE IN AMERICA, among other hot topics. This is valuable, I guess, as an amusing record of a stratum of fandom from a gone era. And also as a portrait of the director relaxing with fans who are too wasted to do anything but throw softball questions at their hero. He appears to appreciate the rude informality, lights cigarettes and proves remarkably patient with his drunken young admirers.

Judge the print and transfer for yourself but, for me, this was a very acceptable package.

Next we'll be looking at BLACK EMANUELLE 2, with Sharon Lesley taking over the title role from Laura Gemser, directed by the creator of the series, Bitto Albertini.

BLACK EMANUELLE'S BOX Volume 2 streets November 13th.

(C) Robert Monell, 2007


Anthony said...

I remember reading the transcript of that informal D'Amato interview in FLESH AND BLOOD, UNCUT, DELIRIUM or one of the other similar UK fanzines from the period - probably FLESH AND BLOOD if I had to take a punt. Your description of it brings back memories of the period (or at least my experience reading about it on the other side of the globe) both positive and negative.

So far, this box sounds like an outstanding release.

Robert Monell said...

I'm surprised there was a transcript. It's more like questions shouted over beers at a London flat after midnight. A few good questions are asked, some are silly. It's all fun for the sake of nostalgia. I've never seen any of these zines.

The boxset is hours of fun, nostalgia, the kind of films they don't make anymore and the CD makes it.