30 November, 2007


You all probably have seen at least one film with the German actress Karin Schubert, whose prolific career ranged from Sergio Corbucci's COMPANEROS (1970) to European soft core, XXX porno and beyond, way beyond. There's reportedly one or two where she does things with.... Well, we won't go there.

Appearing in over 60 films from the mid 1960's to the 1990's she seems to have since dropped off the map. She is something of a legend of Eurotrash nonetheless: the slim, blonde cult movie siren, kind of like a white version of Laura Gemser, with whom she appeared in the Black Emanuelle template, Bitto Albertini's EMANUELLE NERA (1975). But she doesn't have Gemser's special magic, at least not in the films I've seen her in, which isn't many. She may also be remembered for short, sleazy bits in lower tier gialli such as THE COLD EYES OF FEAR (1971) and THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A (1974), or opposite Richard Burton in BLUEBEARD (1972), one of her few projects which enjoyed some US mainstream theatrical distribution.

One of her most obscure films is the 1974 Italian production IL PAVONE NERO, directed by Osvaldo Civriani (OPERAZIONE POKER), a competent genre journeyman of the 1960s and 70s. This has never had any legitimate home video R1 presentation on any format and don't expect a deluxe DVD presentation any time soon.

This strictly soft core effort combines sexy Caribbean voodoo rituals, mild horror elements, interracial sex, dream sequences and some nudity. Ms. Schubert plays Laura, the upper class wife of an Italian engineer (BAY OF BLOOD's Chris Avram) who is charmed by a voodoo priest when they visit Santo Domingo. As her husband draws up plans for a local construction project she discovers Voodoo dolls in odd places, runs off into the jungle at night to visit fevered rituals presided over by the master, played by singer, composer, actor Don Powell (BLACK EMANUELLE 2). In one delirious scene Schubert, who has Big Hair and isn't afraid to suddenly strip for the nearest male, discovers the white person in every black when a local dancer tears off her own skin and reveals Karin Schubert as the woman hidden within her flesh! Another scene contains a memorable shot of Powell carrying our scuba diving heroine in his arms on the ocean floor. Husband Chris finds out about all this obsessive-compulsive behavior and locks Laura up but the witch doctor gets her anyway, tying her to a sacrificial post for the ultimate sacrifice...

Laura is saved at the last minute by the local police but Chris still has problems with her back home until he finds and burns the voodoo fetish, after which he discovers his wife has become tame as the family dog. Just the way he likes her!

It's all very sexist, racist and totally Politically Incorrect. With a catchy, throbbing, drums-in-the-tropics score by Powell (who doesn't sing here) and Lallo Gori. This somewhat anticipates the later Dominican Republic lensed sex/horror mixes of erotica, zombies, voodoo and gore from Joe D'Amato (cf VOODOO BABY; EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD; PAPAYA: LOVE GODDESS OF THE CANNIBALS, coming on R1 DVD from Severin next year).

IL PAVONE NERO isn't great but registers as a compelling oddity which has some striking scenes and is kind of worth checking out, but it's available in N. America from grey market dealers in Italian language only. The video dub I have is letterboxed, watchable, but hardly HD.

We'll be looking at some other Karin Schubert adventures in future blogs.

(C) Robert Monell

28 November, 2007


Legendary Grade-Z director Andy Milligan [identified by our able blog readers] gives hands-on instructions to a disturbed looking actress during production of THE BITCH (alternate title?). He looks pretty disturbed himself. This production still which I happened upon is something of a mystery, so if anyone can clarify the exact project, please do. I'll be back to talk more about him and his films maudit or just plain bad movies, but bad movies which are sometimes addictive, uncommon fun.

25 November, 2007

Fernando Fernan Gomez (1921-2007)

Fernando Fernan Gomez, with one of his numerous intenational awards, was one of Spain's most accomplished actors and directors. He was also a key collaborator in the early career of Jess Franco. His recent death is a milestone in the history of Spanish popular culture.

The prolific Spanish stage and screen actor (over 200 film and television appearances from the early 1940s to this year), director of television, film and theater productions, novelist, screenwriter, playwright and poet, he was one of Spain's cultural icons during the second half of the 20th century.

A friend and colleague of Jess Franco, he gave a heartfelt, soulful performance as the doomed Detective Miguel Mora in RIFIFI EN LA CIUDAD (1964), a tremendous film noir set in a corrupt South American police state which remains one of Franco's very best, if rarely seen, works. Those who complain of Franco's technical incompetence, zoom shots, etc, should take the time to see this superior b&w thriller, which is definitely in dire need of a subtitled R1 DVD presentation. Orson Welles was so impressed when it was screened for him that he hired Franco to direct second unit for his CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT. One of Gomez' most memorable film roles was in Victor Erice's critically acclaimed SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE (1973).

As a director, actor and writer Gomez was equally at ease with comedy and drama, finding an acting role for Franco, as the mentally stunted Venancio, in his black comedy Extraño viaje, El (1964). Voted the seventh best Spanish film of all time EL EXTRANO VIAJE is not as well known in the US, perhaps that will change in the future. Gomez died November 21, of cancer. He had been married to his long time companion, actress Emma Cohen (AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO), since 2000.
If you are a serious Jess Franco collector lobby an appropriate US DVD company to release RIFIFI EN LA CIUDAD.
(C) Robert Monell, 2007

23 November, 2007


Reg Park (1928-2007), the man, with his wife in a recent photo before his demise yesterday after a heroic battle with cancer.

When I looked at my email inbox Thanksgiving morning I noted the header on the first one: Reg Park (1928-2007) and I experienced that chill which always comes when one is faced with the reality of death. In this case, the death of a performer who has brought me hours of pleasure in his signature role of Hercules. The email was an official notice from the Park family that he had finally passed on after an extended bout with the illness. He was surrounded by his loved ones and numerous messages of good will. I was saddened even more by the fact that I had fallen out of touch with him, via his website, and hadn't made it a priority to send him a message of support in his final days. Life is precious and sometimes we wait too long or expect a man of out sized proportions to live forever.

Reg Park will be remembered as a legendary body builder, first winning the title of Mr. Universe in 1951, over another movie Hercules, Steve Reeves, who had won over him the year before. He would go on to inspire Arnold Schwarzenegger, who personally trained under him in his adopted homeland, S. Africa, in the 1960s, and many more aspiring athletes. He had built a thriving business as a lifter, personal trainer, poser, spa mogul by the 1960s as he moved his base from his UK homeland to South Africa. During that period he was called upon to appear in five Italian produced"sword and sandal" films.

Sfida dei giganti, La (1965) .... Hercules... aka Hercules the Avenger (USA)
Ursus, il terrore dei kirghisi (1964) .... Ursus... aka Hercules, Prisoner of Evil (USA) ... aka Terror of the Kirghiz
Maciste nelle miniere di re Salomone (1964) .... Maciste... aka Maciste in King Solomon's Mines (USA: TV title) ... aka Samson in King Solomon's Mines (USA)
Ercole al centro della terra (1961) .... Hercules (Ercole)... aka Hercules at the Center of the Earth (International: English title: literal title) ... aka Hercules in the Center of the Earth (International: English title) ... aka Hercules in the Haunted World (USA) ... aka Hercules vs. the Vampires ... aka Sword and Sandal (Australia: TV title) ... aka The Vampires vs. Hercules ... aka With Hercules to the Center of the Earth
Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide (1961) .... Ercole (Hercules)... aka Hercule à la conquête de l'Atlantide (France) ... aka Hercules Conquers Atlantis (UK) ... aka Hercules and the Captive Women (USA) ... aka Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis (International: English title) ... aka Hercules and the Haunted Women

Reg Park would become the incarnation of the mythic Hercules in three films, once (in the retitled HERCULES, PRISONER OF EVIL) involuntarily.
Vittorio Cottafavi's Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide was easily the finest of these projects due to the smooth fit Park made into the role: full of humor, goodwill and an appetite for fine dining (amidst a chaotic tavern brawl at the film's outset), he was to be the perfect Hercules, superhuman strength offset by a taste for la dolce vita on off hours. Steve Reeves always looked the part in his two Pietro Francesci directed late 1950's Hercules adventures, and their stateside success insured him a decade-long career in European costume epics, but there was something missing. His directors often noted the same feeling. Sergio Leone (1959's THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII) termed him a "robot." Sergio Corbucci (DUEL OF THE TITANS) wondered aloud about his actual strength, outside of his pumped-up physique. Whatever he brought to the role, humor was not his forte. Mark Forest was merely adequate in 1960's THE REVENGE OF HERCULES, known as GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON in the US. In any case, ...ATLANTIS, at least the original version, is well worth searching out for its impressive visual pyrotechnics, human and inhuman monsters, delirious fantasy atmosphere and Park's unique take on the role.
In his massive biography ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, author Tim Lucas offers evidence that Mario Bava was an uncredited special effects contributor to ...ATLANTIS and Bava would get the job of directing Park in his second best peplum, ERCOLE AL CENTRO DELLA TERRA (US title: HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD), a visual feast sometimes flawed by too much "comic" relief from a supporting actor who didn't have Park's brand of ironic wit.

Reg Park attempts to burst out of a deadly trap in Piero Regnoli's MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1964).
He was Ursus in Antonio Margheriti's 1964 URSUS, IL TERRORE DEI KHIRGISI, an imaginative blend of fantasy, peplum antics, werewolf horror and a spectral eroticism which enveloped the character of a seductive witch who transforms him into her bestial slave. Clean shaven and depicted as a conflicted titan, Park gives one of his most interesting performances here. Unfortunately, the film was retitled HERCULES, PRISONER OF EVIL for US showings and there is no acceptable R1 video version as of this writing.
He remained beardless and more one dimensionally heroic in Piero Regnoli's South African lensed MACISTE NELLE MINIERE DI RE SALOMONE, his offical goodbye to the genre and film acting. HERCULES, THE AVENGER, the 1965 composite of the superior ....ATLANTIS and ...HAUNTED WORLD would revive his Hercules scenes in an attempt to squeeze more money out of the played out franchise. One wishes for a complete [101m] R1 DVD presentation of HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS at some future date, without the US added Leon Selznick narration and with its original music track intact.
Reg walked away from it all and into body building immortality. Heroes never die....
(C) Robert Monell, 2007

21 November, 2007

Jess Franco Quiz: Who is this actor?

Can you name this actor? He appears in numerous JF films from the 1970s and 1980s. A tougher question: Can you then name ALL the JF films in which he appears? The second question is kind of tricky.

He also has appeared in a great many Italian films of a certain genre from the 1960s onward. If you can name them all, you're good... real good.

18 November, 2007


Lucio Fulci (1927-1996) baits his hook with human meat in NIGHTMARE CONCERT (CAT IN THE BRAIN), his 1990 post modern satire of himself and his horror films (cf Wes Craven's SCREAM).
After working as a screenwriter/assistant director for his master, Steno, he began directing comedies with the legendary Toto and the popular comedy team Franco and Ciccio before moving onto the Spaghetti western genre (the excellent MASSACRE TIME-1966) and making his first giallo (UNA SULL' ALTRA-1969).
Made after the delirious, psychedelic-fueled UNA LUCERTOLA CON LA PELLE DI DONNA (1971) he returned to comedy with All'onorevole piacciono le donne (Nonostante le apparenze... e purché la nazione non lo sappia), a 1972 bawdy satire on contemporary Roman politics, sexual hypocrisy, the Vatican and the Italian police state, a huge agenda fulfilled with style, sophistication, artistic daring and targeted jibes at the mass media. It was finally released in the US in 1975 as THE SENATOR LIKES WOMEN [!]. Now we have it on a superior, revealing R1 DVD presentation as THE EROTICIST.

Senator Puppis (Lando Buzzanca) finds himself neck and neck with an older, conservative politician in a high stakes Italian Presidential race. A hard working Liberal with a progressive agenda Puppis may just pull off an upset when a watchful television technician finds evidence that the Senator has a secret: a shocking predilection for "feeling out the South." No, it's not a political strategy, but a sexual compulsion wherein the Senator finds himself unable to resist reaching and touching women's backsides. Any and all women become targets of his addiction: female politicians, nuns, the wives of colleagues, even the occasional Scotsman in a traditional skirt!
THE EROTICIST is that rare thing, an intelligent sex comedy that provokes deep, liberating laughter while making one think. It has a lot in common with the work of the great Spanish Surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel, especially THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL and THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE, which take a similar, corrosive attitude toward the public and private absurdities of Church, State, and human nature. One has to only examine the opening sequence, an in-depth televised political discussion is broadcast through a bank of public televisions which no one is watching, the crowd is gathered in front of the local soccer telecast instead. This is matched by the final scene in which President Puppis' dramatic appeal for National Unity is preempted by a popular TV game show. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Senator Puppis is in the midst of self destructing as a powerful Cardinal (the always overblown Lionel Stander), his personal confessor (a sinister minister amusingly played by Renzo Palmer), a randy nun (a pre-scandal Laura Antonelli) heated up by the Senator's abusive night at her convent, along with various advisers, police officials, military intelligence, political rivals struggle to hasten/exploit his demise. It's all monitored by the always scandal-hungry Italian news media, depicted as a cutthroat horde. Look out for Anita Strindberg (the voracious Julia from A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN) as an ambassador's wife who Puppis drags into the bushes during a public event. This is all very politically incorrect and that's what makes it tick so inexorably.
Buzzanca was an inspired casting choice. He wisely underplays Puppis' sexual addiction to the point where it becomes a kind of game to notice it. He uses his eyes and small gestures to indicate the Senator's downward spiral. Wearing a combed back wig, spectacles and conservative business suits he's a subterranean freak in the midst of the media madness which was Italian politics then and international politics now. The fact that the film has a special relevance to the affairs of Bill Clinton and the US Congress of the last few years attests to its prescience and durability.
Buzzanca's clever make-up and a Felliniesque fantasy episode [cf JULIET OF THE SPIRITS] involving a giant tree entwining nuns and the fondling of forbidden fruit in a cloudy empyrean are courtesy of the great Giannettto De Rossi, the future creator of the innards orgies of Fulci's ZOMBIE and THE BEYOND. De Rossi, Buzzanca and DP Sergio D'Offizi (CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST), whose zesty, candied colored compositions give the film a radically different look than Fulci's more well known gialli and horrors, are interviewed in a 43m documentary, A HISTORY OF CENSORSHIP, an extra on the new Severin DVD. The luminous 1.85:1/16:9 transfer of primo vault elements couldn't be better and showcase the careful craftsmanship of all involved. Presented in Dolby Digital Mono Italian with Optional English subtitles, the original soundtrack is highlighted by Fred Bongusto's ironic, popular music score, which enhances the layered satire.
One of Lucio Fulci's best films, THE EROTICIST is the notorious director's barbed commentary on and deconstruction of the hugely successful Italian sex farces of that era, a revelation for those unfamiliar with his work in comedy, which, as everyone here knows, is a much harder genre to crack than straight drama or horror.
Severin's excellent DVD is highly recommended for regulars, newcomers, and collectors of Lucio Fulci's films.
(c)Robert Monell, 2007

16 November, 2007


Emanuelle and co. explore the land of the Pharaohs. One of the numerous well composed images in VELUTTO NERO, the original Italian title of BLACK EMMANUELLE, WHITE EMMANUELLE [why is her name spelled with two M's on the cover art?]. Can you name the all the actors in this composition?

The arid North African locations are artfully captured by director Brunello Rondi and his crew in this superior non-Joe D'Amato entry into the series.
Thanks to Eric Cotenas for the screengrabs. We've been discussing how we both consider this to be on the best, perhaps the ultimate, Black Emanuelle titles due to the striking cinematography, multi dimensional characters, excellent cast and outstanding score. One of the three Black Emanuelle titles getting their R1 DVD debut on Severin Film's new Limited Collector's Edition-BLACK EMANUELLE'S BOX: Volume 2.
We'll be back with some more screenshots.

14 November, 2007

THE PSYCHIC DVD delayed until Dec. 4


Audio error on preview copies:
Street date postponed until December 4.

LOS ANGELES, CA, November 13, 2007 – Severin Films today announced that due to an authoring error resulting in very low levels on the feature audio they will be destroying all copies of the first press of THE PSYCHIC. The levels that were authored to preview copies of the DVD were unacceptable and therefore have to be corrected prior to release. This has meant postponing the street date until December 4.

# # #
Thank you for your patience.


Garnier Public Relations: Danielle Garnier

12 November, 2007


Although dubbed into English, the main titles for THE PSYCHIC unfold in Italian on the new Severin DVD, which is definitely a big step up from the cut, fullscreen VHS presentation by which I was first introduced to this 1977 murder mystery.

Virginia (Jennifer O'Neill), a clairvoyant, appears to be happily married to wealthy Francesco (Gianni Garko) when their life is disrupted by a series of disturbing, fragmented visions she has of a woman being murdered and walled up in an unidentified house. She finds proof of the crime when she goes to decorate the interior of her husband's country villa and is compelled to suddenly smash open a wall, revealing a woman's skeleton. Francesco is summarily arrested for murder after he reveals he had an affair with the victim.

Is Francesco guilty? Is Virginia going insane? Are the recurring visions of a murder which happened in the past or of one which will happen in the future? And who will be the next victim?

Virginia investigates the Red Room, one of the striking visual links in a chain which leads her into a murderous plot, in Lucio Fulci's SETTE NOTE IN NERO [THE PSYCHIC].

Make no mistake about it: SETTE NOTE IN NERO is a good, well built giallo, very much in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock's REBECCA, SUSPICION and SPELLBOUND, with elements of Poe's THE BLACK CAT (which Fulci would film in 1981) thrown into the mix. It obviously has a lot of plot and character elements which can be found in his earlier gialli (cf PERVERSION STORY-1969; A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN-1971): false assumptions, transference of guilt, erroneous points of view, characters who are not what they seem to be. Unlike those films, which were drenched in late 1960's-early 1970's psychedelia and featuring copious servings of nudity, THE PSYCHIC (the US theatrical release retitling) plays out in a more realistic mode, is remarkably chaste (for a Fulci film) and doesn't have his signature helpings of gore featured in his more violent gialli such as DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING (1972), THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982), and his early 1980's unrated horror titles (THE BEYOND, THE CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD). What it does have is an intelligent use of color, camera angles and music. For instance, the color red, the use of overhead shots and the titular seven notes chiming on a watch, all become repeated motifs which are used to create suspense, indirection and finally unravel the mystery. The story structure, editing, direction, camerawork, acting and music all work in perfect unison during the first introduction of the psychic visions which occur as Virginia drives through a series of tunnels. We experience the disorienting, frightening images in synchronization with her and are left to work them out, as she does, for the remainder of the film.

The clever elaboration of the plot (while not exactly airtight or particularly plausible), low key direction and solid acting are what make the film work. Ms. O'Neill's vocal performance (which is preserved in the English language dubbing) may be stronger than her physical one, but she's good at projecting the character's arc of rising anxiety and she's surrounded by a first rate supporting cast including Gianni Garko (Sartana himself), Gabriele Ferzetti (L'AVVENTURA, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST), Marc Porel (VENUS D'ILLE), and Evelyn Stewart (MURDER MANSION) are all well cast and it's fortunate that the English dubbing/voice casting is quite adept.

The camerawork of longtime Fulci DP Sergio Salvati is top notch and the pop/disco stylings, fateful chiming and more ominous patches of the Bixio-Fabio Frizzi-Vince Tempera score will please fans of the sounds of the 1970's while providing an appropriate musical commentary. The film's quietly anxious tone is quite effectively maintained and really pays off. As long as one is not expecting an outrageous gorefest this film really does its job well. Repeated viewings reveal a continuation of Fulci's sharp criticisms of prejudice, social class structure and blinkered law enforcement.

Severin's DVD presentation shines a much better light on this underrated film than previous home video incarnations. The 1.85:1/16:9 transfer is sharp and colorful, although the night scenes, especially in interiors, sometimes betray a slight murkiness that may have something to do with the way the film was shot.

A more serious issue is the English Mono soundtrack, presented in Dolby Digital. Its rather low audio levels and inability at times to layer/separate dialogue and music tracks sometimes make the heavily accented lines of certain characters difficult to make out (I had to replay Gabriele Ferzetti's crucial hospital revelation scene twice in a row to get it) unless the sound level is adjusted a considerable distance upwards, where is begins to manifest a slight buzzing. Maybe it's my system and the fact that I was listening with headphones, but it may indicate a remastering problem.

Extras include the vintage US theatrical trailer ("Jennifer O'Neill is THE PSYCHIC!"), complete with grindhouse scratches and speckling, along with a 27 minute featurette, VOICES FROM THE BLACK, featuring audio interviews with screenwriter Dardano Sachetti, costume designer Massmio Lentini and editor Bruno Micheli, who discuss their memories of working with Fulci, illustrated by clips from the film. All seem to agree that Fulci was a difficult to please taskmaster.

NOTE: It's a good thing I initially neglected to mention that today [Nov 13] was the original street date. The breaking news is that Severin has announced that they are pushing back release of this DVD until December 4, 2007. Hopefully, this will give them time to work on the audio problem. It should be worth the wait.


(c) Robert Monell, 2007

09 November, 2007


It's taken me exactly one week to get through the movies, extras and music on Severin Film's BLACK EMANUELLE'S BOX: Volume 2. This four disc Limited Collector's Edition boxset, along with the first BLACK EMANUELLE'S BOX [below] constitutes one of 2007's major R1 DVD events. Guaranteed hours of viewing and listening pleasure for the connoisseur of what one might fondly term European Trash Cinema from the 1970s.

The final verdict is in: You Must Have BLACK EMANUELLE'S BOX Volume 2! That is, if you are as compulsive a collector of Nico Fidenco/Laura Gemser/Joe D'Amato movies as I am... Wrapping up our in-depth coverage is a look at the R1 DVD debut of the first BLACK EMANUELLE sequel, Bitto Albertini's EMANUELLE NERA 2.

Dr. Freud (Angelo Infanti) probes the unconscious of Emanuelle Richmond (Sharon Lesley) in his private New York City psychiatric clinic to discover the trauma which has trust her into amnesia. Was it her proximity to war action in 1970's Beirut, too much sex, or was it that brutal encounter with the vicious motorcyclists? Neglecting his frustrated wife (Dagmar Lassander) the Doctor is determined to cure his patient while her concerned father (Don Powell) and the man who wants to marry her anxiously pace in the waiting room.

The last (and least) of the three BLACK EMANUELLE films in Severin BLACK EMANUELLE'S BOX Vol. 2 under consideration is Bitto Albertini's BLACK EMANUELLE #2 (onscreen title), the 1976 afterthought to his vastly superior EMANUELLE NERA, which initiated the series a year earlier. That film had exotic locations, engaging characters, a terrific score and, most importantly, Laura Gemser in what would become her signature role. BLACK EMANUELLE 2 unfortunately contains none of those elements. Laura Gemser IS Black Emanuelle, accept no substitutes. Presumably, she wasn't available due to her being busy filming the Joe D'Amato BE films, but there was really no excuse for going ahead without her. They should have waited for her or not made the film.

Sharon Lesley (rn: Shulamith Lasri) in her only known screen role (you will quickly understand why after watching her for a few minutes) just doesn't make it in the role or as an actress. She, and the film, are what no BLACK EMANUELLE film should ever be: DULL. Angelo Infanti (Fabrizio in THE GODFATHER) looks more like a third level gangster than an expensive shrink. The sex scenes are best described as perfunctory.

Flashbacks to the war in Lebanon, gang rape, lesbian encounters and a silly episode of body painting don't help raise this above the level of a mildly diverting softcore romp. Even the once alluring Dagmar Lassander can't save it. Albertini (directing under his Albert Thomas beard) can be a stylish, energetic director, as EMANUELLE NERA proved, but he can't do anything here with the mostly indoor sets, the New York clinic looks like a few modified hotel rooms, and the obviously unenthusiastic and unattractive cast. Cinematographer Gugliemo Mancori shows little interest in making anything the least bit visually interesting. Joe D'Amato aka Aristitde Massaccesi understood the potential of Gemser, along with the concept itself, and would take the series in wild and wonderful directions. This entry is mainly for the Black Emanuelle completest. However, Severin Films has given it a razor sharp, colorful 1:85:1/16:9 transfer from glossy vault elements. It looks absolutely terrific, too bad the film isn't.

The only extra is the featurette DIVA 70, a video interview with an unrecognizable Dagmar Lassander, who discusses her work in such films as FEMINA RIDENS and with director Mario Bava (A HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON). The feature is presented with its [badly] dubbed English language Mono track. I doubt the inclusion of an Italian track would have made any difference.

The music soundtrack is by the late composer/actor/Spaghetti Western singer Don Powell, whose stirring baritone rendition of his theme song for Antonio Margheriti's...AND GOD SAID TO CAIN (1969) was quite memorable. He also wrote/sang the themes for such Eurowesterns as TEXAS, ADIOS (1966) and A FEW DOLLARS FOR DJANGO (1966), among others. His most effective music and performance were in Osvaldo Civriani's 1973 Voodoo Sexploitationer IL PAVONE NERO, featuring EMANUELLE NERA's Karin Schubert. His role here is inconsequential, as is everything else about the film. His musical score is an uncompelling blend of soft rock, mild disco and a dreadful exit song performed by The Peppers [who?]. Powell seemed more at home scoring Spaghetti Westerns. He reportedly committed suicide sometime after his last film work in the mid 1980s. The blandness of the music underlines the originality and importance of the Nico Fidenco scores for his BE assignments.

As with Severin's first BLACK EMANUELLE'S BOX we get high quality transfers of two better than average entries and one bottom tier title, supported by an impressive array of extras and a very welcome CD collection of Nico Fidenco cues. I personally prefer the movies { VELLUTO NERO; LA VIA DELLA PROSTITUZIONE } and the Fidenco scores included in this compilation to the films and music contained in the first boxset. But considering you get a total of 6 High Quality R1 DVD debuts of vintage EuroErotica, along with two newly mastered Nico Fidenco CD's, they are both must haves. Highly recommended.

One can only hope for a third BE Boxset including the essential 1975 template, EMANUELLE NERA along with the Joe D'Amato oddity UNLEASHED PERVERSIONS OF EMANUELLE, a 1980 composite featuring footage from most of the previously mentioned BE titles, with a completely new Eurospy storyline imposed by a post-dubbed dialogue track. Joe D'Amato was a genius at double dipping!
BLACK EMANUELLE'S BOX: VOLUME 2 streets Nov. 13th.

(C) Robert Monell, 2007

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

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

02 November, 2007


Run, Cheetah, Run, Severin Film's BLACK EMANUELLE'S BOX, VOLUME 2, is now in my grateful hands! Nico Fidenco scholars can probably discern that I've begun my investigations by listening to a favorite remastered cue from LA VIA DELLA PROSTITUZIONE (1976), the film is also getting its R1 DVD debut in this box set. I really had to go right to BLACK EMANUELLE'S GROOVE Volume 2, the Bonus CD which features 25 Nico tracks from the three mid 70's Emanuelle epics, including EMANUELLE E GLI ULTIMI CANNIBALI and EMANUELLE NERA IN AMERICA.
They all sound terrific, and those who have not yet discovered the movie LA VIA DELLA PROSTITUZIONE or its music are in for a treat.
And I haven't even broken into the actual movies yet! As I did with Severin's Vol. 1, I'll be conducting a real time tour this weekend, and probably into next week, through this Eurotrash extravaganza. I have numerous features, interviews, trailers, featurettes and three rare BLACK EMANUELLE titles to consider and you'll be discovering information and commentary about them as I carefully navigate through the gates of Emanuelle once again. I'm not particularly fond of the fait accompli-DVD-review format and there are so many elements here that I find it more fun to tease them out, extending the enjoyment of discovery. Emanuelle would understand...
The feature films included in the box are Brunello Rondi's BLACK EMMANUELLE, WHITE EMMANULLE (1976), Bitto Albertini's BLACK EMANUELLE 2 (1976) and Joe D'Amato's EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE (1978).
I'll be expanding on this blog, and there will be at least one subsequent one, adding some images.
Then we'll be looking at Severin's new discs of Lucio Fulci's THE EROTICIST (1972) and the much anticipated R1 DVD of his underrated 1977 giallo, THE PSYCHIC....
It's like the title of Track 24: Too Much Again!
It's going to be a busy week but I promise a Sweet Disco Funky Ride.
Stay tuned for much, much more...

(C) Robert Monell, 2007