Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I expect I'm of the last generation who'll remember the pre-internet days when Skinamax earned its name off cheap drive-in sex comedies and foreign imports, as opposed to cheaper Direct-to-DVD sex parodies and edited hardcore productions. In that more innocent time, I'd clandestinely tape these debauched works, and my favorites were always the Emmanuelle series and their ilk. The first French "Emmanuelle" picture was an international phenomenon... So much so that the name became synonymous with sophisticated softcore erotica, opening the floodgates for imitations and like works. Let me tell you, I liked them works.

Anyhow, part of what I find so specifically fascinating about Emmanuelle is how, through all these permutations, she became a fantasy character with a convoluted continuity. The first Emmanuelle is about the young, inexperienced wife of a French diplomat in Bangkok. It's based on an infamous book, and for a film of its stripe, it was taken seriously, with a reasonable budget. Thirty-five years later, Emmanuelle is an immortal sex goddess who possesses the bodies of one beautiful woman after another to commit carnal adventures in cyberspace with the aid of aliens from outer space. Famed Italian illustrated Guido Crepax produced three graphic novel volumes starring Emmanuelle, but make no mistake, based on the movies alone she's a sexual super-heroine worthy of serious geek documentation.

Several actresses have been made famous by the role of Emmanuelle (note spelling,) including Sylvia Kristel and Krista Allen. Meanwhile, the best known knock-off, the Italian Black Emanuelle (one "m,") was played by Indonesian actress Laura Gemser. I didn't make her acquaintance until I was in my twenties, when my father pitched me a copy of "Black Cobra," starring the late, great Jack Palance. I thought Gemser was among the most beautiful women I'd ever seen, and still do. It wasn't until later still I became aware Gemser had her own Emanuelle series, this one defined by her singular person. Gemser's Emanuelle was a photojournalist, always chasing after the next mondo-bizarro story. Gemser so defined the role of "Emanuelle Nera," virtually any movie she starred in was eventually dubbed an "Emanuelle" movie, whether it featured her in that role or not. Only one other actress appeared as the lead in a proper "Black Emanuelle" picture, and though she was actually black, she never appeared in another film.

So we have Emmanuelle, a sci-fi/supernatural erotic heroine who tends to have more romantic, soft focus escapades; which only occasionally brush against the dark side. Then you have "Emanuelle Nera/Black Emanuelle," the action/horror reporter whose stories start on the dark side, then get worse from there... so much so I think the "black" refers to her world more than her complexion. Both characters have long, winding histories I find so interesting, I'm prepared to write up lengthy synopsis and reviews of each of their films for the foreseeable future. Even the off-brand numbers with rotten "actresses," especially dubious relation and increasingly creative spellings.

I intend to call this feature "Emmanu-Wednesday," and it'll appear a few times a month. It will be a lot like the new "Comic Box Trot," only with less cursing. I'm not prepared to turn this blog pornographic, and I do take the subject somewhat seriously, so I'll handle it as delicately as possible (no nudity, for instance-- at least without plentiful warning.) I hope you'll give it a try and take intellectual gratification from the effort. I think Emmanuelle and Black Emanuelle are pretty cool concepts, and I think it's worth the time to share my interest.

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