Color, 1976, 92m. / Directed by Albert Thomas (Bitto Albertini) / Starring Angelo Infanti, Sharon Lesley, Don Powell, Dagmar Lassander
Severin (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Color, 1976, 94m. / Directed by Brunello Rondi / Starring Laura Gemser, Annie Belle, Gabriele Tinti, Al Cliver, Susan Scott
Severin (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Color, 1978, 89m. / Directed by Joe D'Amato / Starring Laura Gemser, Ely Galleani, Gabriele Tinti, Venantino Venantini
Severin (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Another triple helping of exotic Italian smut, Severin's Black Emanuelle's Box 2 carries on the unabashed tradition of its predecessor with three of the most eccentric entries in the ebony goddess' cinematic cycle. After the success of the original Black Emanuelle in 1975 with Laura Gemser, the filmmakers decided to churn out a quick follow-up -- but without their leading lady. Instead they found a new "star," one-hit sexploitation star Shulamith Lasri (christened onscreen as "Sharon Lesley"), who, to state the obvious, is no Laura Gemser. Fortunately the sequel offers a string of other insane ingredients to compensate, starting with an opening montage showing our new Emanuelle in a variety of ridiculous degradation scenarios ranging from a police state inquisition to a southern plantation. It turns out these scenarios are all part of the warped psyche of our title character, who's suffering from a series of sexual neuroses and acute amnesia at a posh mental clinic. Her doctor, Paul (Angelo Infanti), tries to get to the bottom of her problems, which cause her to hit on anything in pants but then go batty when things get physical. Through a series of flashbacks (starting in Beirut!) she uncovers her traumas, which include a New Orleans jazz musician father (played by Don Powell, who also composed the eccentric music score), who apparently spent his time puking in the gutter. Of course, when dad really shows up, it turns out she made the whole thing up. Oh, and you also get a hot and heavy session with a basketball player, not to mention some gratuitous nudity from slumming guest star Dagmar Lassander in one of her last real sexpot roles.

Black Emanuelle comes packed with lots of fake-Freudian gibberish, including this priceless opening title card: "The sickeness that disturb me most is myself - Sigmund Freud" [sic, obviously]. As a result, the frequent chit chat sessions about Emanuelle's uneasy state of mind result in some pricless hilarity, with the hefty amounts of nudity (Ms. Lesley spends at least half of her screen time disrobed) keeping everyone distracted from the fact that nothing's really happening. Cable viewers probably didn't care, though some of the more sadistic moments wound up getting excised from many TV and video prints. Fortunately Severin's disc appears to be complete, and while the feel is very, very different from the Laura Gemser cycle and often feels more akin to a sexy blaxploitation outing translated by a lunatic Italian, trash fans should find plenty to enjoy. The anamorphic transfer looks fine given the source (don't be alarmed by the scratchy opening logo), though the photography is pretty much confined to bland medium shots. The audio is dubbed English only, which seems fine given that no one seems to be speaking the same language anyway. Extras include the English theatrical trailer ("Love and cruelty can unite in the strangest of human needs!"), which packs in as much skin as possible for three and a half minutes, and "Diva 70," a very interesting 15-minute Nocturno video interview with the chain-smoking Lassander, who talks about her career, her middle class husband's hot-and-cold relationship with her work, being five months pregnant and still acting, doing club appearances, acting for Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci, and the reasons she appeared in this film (her agent told her to do lots of cameos).

Of course, Gemser's box office power was soon recognized when she was recruited to appear in a string of additional Emanuelle films; in fact, the same year Black Emanuelle 2 was released, Gemser appeared in no less than three projects all marketed as unofficial sequels in some form or another: Emanuelle in Bangkok, Black Cobra, and Black Emmanuelle / White Emmanuelle (better known to cable and VHS fans under such titles as Black Velvet and Emmanuelle in Egypt), which teamed up her with Laure starlet Annie Belle. Though no characer in the film is actually named Emmanuelle, director Brunello Rondi (best known for writing lots of Fellini films) keeps things well within the series template by including lots of travelogue footage interspersed with plenty of softcore sex scenes. The real curio factor here is the fact that Gemser and Belle happen to be teamed up with their real-life boyfriends at the time, Gabriele Tinti and Al Cliver respectively, though oddly enough their screen time together ranges from bland to flat-out unpleasant. There's very little plot here (surprise!), as model Laura (Gemser) and her pal Pina (Belle) go to Egypt for some photo spreads in the desert with a jackass photographer (Tinti) who enjoys degrading Laura in front of the camera and eventually forcing himself on her. They also spend some time with new age mystic Horatio (Cliver), who expands his spiritual horizons by having public three-ways in an Egyptian temple, and Laura and Pina make out here and there. Other miscellaneous supporting characers including breast implant queen Susan Scott drift in and out, usually without even getting character names, and... well, that's pretty much it. Apart from the Tinti-led photo sessions in which he forces a topless Gemser to pose with a worm-ridden jackal carcass and a big pile of camel poop, the weirdest highlight of the film is easily a druggy sequence in which Gemser attends a cult ceremony where she chugs goat's blood, hallucinates an attack by her evil doppelganger, and gets molested by a bunch of priests.

Usually circulated in drastically edited prints which excise most of the good stuff, the film was also one of the few Gemser vehicles shot in scope and has naturally suffered terribly via lousy pan and scan transfers for years. Severin's disc offers a much-needed restoration of the original framing as well as all of the steamy footage, including a startling close-up of Cliver's genitalia guaranteed to disorient Lucio Fulci fans. The image quality ranges from scene to scene depending on the film stock and lighting conditions, but the transfer itself looks fine (albeit interlaced for some reason). Surprisingly, the disc includes both the familiar English dub (which isn't bad) and the Italian dub track as well, with optional English subtitles. Both ways work fine, though the latter feels a bit classier with better-matched voices. Bonus features include the Italian trailer (under the title Velutto Nero) and an interesting if somewhat disjointed 18-minute featurette, "Black Velvet," which features an on-camera Cliver intercut with audio interviews with Gemser and Belle as they discuss the making of the film, the director, Cliver's role in Visconti's The Damned, the ramshackle production's impact on parallel Joe D'Amato projects, and Gemser's illness going in and out of the Morocco shoot.

And finally we reach the big prize of the set, Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade, the last and rarest of the Gemser/D'Amato Black Emanuelle films. Originally released as La via della prostituzione, the film once again features Gemser as the titular photojournalist who bounces from one locale to another, this time driven by an episodic plot straight out of a '60s Ogla roughie. While doing research for a story on organized crime, the nosy Emanuelle hooks up with her modeling buddy Susan (Five Dolls for an August Moon's Galleani. "You still go in for a lot of lovemaking?" asks Emmy, which nympho Susan answers by pulling over into a garage, flashing her undies, and nailing the mechanic. Then they head to the airport where the women spy a wheelchair-bound young woman traded off for a big wad of cash by a suspicious lothario (Tinti), but they're too busy posing as a couple of stewardesses and eyeballing a wealthy polygamist Arab to do much about it. Then they go off to a plantation where they take a lesbian shower together. For vague reasons they decide to hop on a plane to Africa where they get involved with fashion shoots, bed down with more guys, and notice Tinti and the same sold woman. Emanuelle follows them and witnesses a boardroom sales session in which young women are trotted out and stripped in front of decadent European buyers, all involved in a white slavery ring. Further snooping brings her face to face with Tinti, lots of open hotel doors with naked women getting felt up inside, the usual implied gang rape scene, a lesbian nurse, and an authoritative transvestite who partakes in the funniest bowling alley fistfight ever committed to film.

Pretty much even with the other D'Amato/Gemser titles in terms of outrageousness and quality (except for Emanuelle in America, of course), Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade inexplicably became very difficult to see after its initial release, circulating mostly to die-hard collectors in a terrible Greek VHS transfer. D'Amato keeps thing moving fast and hilariously throughout, and the dubbing is even more absurd than usual with the quick-to-peel Galleani saddled with one of the goofiest British accents you'll ever hear. Nico Fidenco's score is easily his most disco-influenced, dropping the familiar "Black Emanuelle" theme in favor of a bouncy, wildly overplayed ditty entitled "Run Cheetah Run." Interestingly, the brutal violence which had slowly infiltrated the series (most obviously found in Emanuelle in America and Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals) is pulled back here, with only the bloody but cartoonish bowling alley scene reminding viewers how over the top these films can become. Gemser and Tinti have even less interaction than usual, mostly observing each other covertly or from afar and sharing an occasional drink here and there; luckily the story itself is so lunatic that most viewers won't even notice. Severin's disc doesn't really have much competition on the home video market, but the anamorphic transfer is a godsend for fans tired of squinting through shoddy bootlegs. It's uncut and anamoprhic, the English dub sounds fine, and apart from the obvious and beloved grain present in the recycled travel footage, there's nothing wrong with the film elements. Extras include the lively Italian trailer and "After Hours with Joe D'Amato," a '90s video interview in which the late director enjoys a dinner table conversation about his softcore career.

As with the previous set, customers who purchase the box instead of the individual films are also treated to a bonus CD containing the bulk of three Fidenco scores. The biggest prize here is what appears to be the full soundtrack for White Slave Trade, which has never been available before in any format; the "Run Cheetah Run" melody gets a solid workout, but the highlight is easily the slow and sexy vocal piece, "Too Much Again!," which manages to make Barry White sound like Marie Osmond. Also included is a sampling of the monothematic score from Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (previously available as a long-defunct release from Lucertola) and eight tracks from Emanuelle in America, which is especially welcome since it contains the first pristine, complete, stereo version of the great theme song, "I'm Your King," inexclicably missing from the earlier vinyl and Japanese CD releases.

Color, 1977, 102m. / Directed by Joe D'Amato / Starring Laura Gemser, Ivan Rassimov, Karin Schubert, Maria Luigia, Stefania Pecce, George Eastman, Paul Thomas
Severin (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Color, 1977, 92m. / Directed by Joe D'Amato / Starring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Ely Galleani, Ivan Rassimov, Venantino Venantim, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Debra Berger
Severin (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Color, 1977, 92m. / Directed by Giuseppe Vari / Starring Laura Gemser, Monica Zanchi, Gabriele Tinti, Vinja Locatelli, Pia Velsi
Severin (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

After the smash success of Black Emanuelle in 1975, softcore screen siren Laura Gemser worked at a furious schedule on numerous follow-ups over the next three years. The most memorable of these installments were easily her collaborations with director Joe D'Amato, which culminated with the extreme hardcore-and-snuff depravities of Emanuelle in America. However, a sure contender for the second most outrageous entry is easily Emanuelle Around the World, a flagship title in Severin Films' marvelously titled collection, "Black Emanuelle's Box." The original Italian title of this particular 1977 film is Emanuelle - Perchť Violenza Alle Donne? (or, roughly translated, "Why Is There Violence Towards Women?"), which pretty much encapsulates the entire focus of the story. Once again a globe-hopping photographer, pretty and curious Emanuelle (Gemser, of course) is first seen tumbling around naked in the back of a truck in New York with her latest conquest, played (uncredited) by porn actor Paul Thomas (most notorious for starting his film career in the G-rated Jesus Christ Superstar). When she gets wind of an international human slavery ring that preys on nubile women, she decides to recruit her blonde friend, European activist Cora (a pre-porn Schubert), for an expedition into the darker side of human nature. Their exploits range from a visit to an Indian orgy orchestrated by a sex guru (Anthropophagus himself, George Eastman), an all-girl sex school equipped with giant phalluses, and the notorious finale beneath the Brooklyn Bridge in which a bunch of drunken senators decide to gang rape Carol. PC it ain't, but that's the '70s for you.

A perfect tour of all things wonderful about the Emanuelle series, Around the World features perhaps the series' finest score by regular composer Nico Fidenco, with an ABBA-esque theme song you'll be humming for days. Fidenco also finally speaks on the boxed set DVD about his career, how he got into film scoring, and the differences between scoring sex scenes and horror movies. (He also holds up some very tasty-looking vinyl soundtracks of his scores.) The DVD itself is quite fine; apart from some print damage in the opening shots and somewhat hazy credits, the quality is very nice with rich colors that blow away all those miserable VHS bootlegs. The film can be played either in Italian or English (with optional English subtitles translated from the Italian track); it's dubbed either way, and personally the English track feels a bit more in keeping with the tone of the film, but opinions may vary. Along with the Fidenco interview, the disc also includes a blurry-looking, non-anamorphic U.S. trailer (with that great Jerry Gross Organization tag) under the same title.

Apart from the boxed set, Around the World is also available separately in a rarely-seen, alternate "XXX European Version" (no extras) containing some hardcore footage obviously shot during filming. The sex guru scene is considerably more explicit and marks a rare occasion in which Eastman is clearly seen in the same frame with actors having unsimulated sex; Gemser still refrains from going all the way, of course (apart from an obvious, much paler body double), but there's enough grinding and pumping on display from everyone else to ensure this verison will never pop up on cable, not to mention some shots in the bestiality sequence that will certainly keep this off the shelves of your local Best Buy. In either incarnation, this entry represents the best of what the spin-off Emanuelle series has to offer; it's fast-paced, aware of its own absurdity, and still just socially acceptable enough (i.e., no fake snuff footage)

Shot in '76 but released in many territories either simultaneously with Around the World or even after it (with America falling in between), Emanuelle in Bangkok is a slightly more traditional outing for Emmy as she hits the Far East in search of her latest interview conquest, the King of Bangkok, who proves to be elusive enough to justify a feature-length running time. Hot-to-trot masseuses, loudmouthed tourists, and horny politicians soon enter the mix, along with some out-of-left-field mondo footage of a moongoose ripping a snake to shreds in a cage. Oh, and in a nod to the original Just Jaeckin film's notorious "cigarette act," lucky viewers get a naughty nightclub act involving female privates and ping-pong balls. Once again D'Amatao manages to keep the proceedings unpredictable and spicy (note the early piston-pumping sex scene on a ship), with the obligatory sexual assault detour sure to tick off any Ms. readers; on the other hand, it provides a surprisingly progressive depiction of a lesbian relationship in the second half, which of course also still functions as a good excuse for male viewers to simply enjoy watching Gemser and another woman getting it on. As usual Gemser gets to enjoy some screen time with her spouse, the late Gabriele Tinti, who went on to appear with her in many, many exploitation films over the next decade.

Severin's DVD of Emanuelle in Bangkok kicks off on a distressing note with video-generated French credits obviously lifted from an old videotape, but after this sequence the film thankfully shifts to a vastly superior, fresh new transfer from film that kills all those old VHS editions. (The brief closing titles are also sourced from the same tape but are less intrusive.) Again the English and Italian audio options are presented with optional English subtitles; this time the English track is really the way to go as the Italian version feels rather forced and artificial. Fidenco's romantic score (with a solid theme song, "Sweet Living Thing") comes through just fine either way and enhances the mood quite nicely. Extras include a Joe D'Amato interview videotaped at a 1995 UK Eurofest convention (in which he talks a bit about his most popular leading lady and his softcore work), with a few glimpses of other Italian-related guest appearances at the show; you also get a non-anamorphic trailer sourced from tape but looking quite watchable all the same.

Finally, Gemser dons a habit for some mild nunsploitation in Sister Emanuelle, the only film in the set not helmed by D'Amato. Here Gemser mostly takes a backseat to the antics of pretty blonde Monica Zanchi (her co-star from Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals), here playing wanton young teen Monica, whose propensity for luring young boys into public group sex lands her in a convent. Monica tries her best to break Sister Emanuelle, who quickly winds up in hot water with the Mother Superior for exposing her decidedly verboeten garters and silky undies during a catfight. Pretty soon Monica's watching after a hunky convict hiding on the premises and luring Emanuelle into sins of the flesh which may force her to break her vows forever.

Complete with a Stelvio Cipriani score that huffs and puffs to duplicate that Fidenco sound, this would-be Emanuelle entry has little to do with the rest of the series (heck, Gemser isn't even a reporter this time, for obvious reasons), but the leading ladies still make it a worthwhile outing. D'Amato's outrageous sensibilities would have no doubt resulted in a more fascinating product (as he demonstrated with his own nunsploitation outing, Images in a Convent), but at least Vari has the good sense to just strip everyone down whenever the plot threatens to grind to a halt. The barn love scene in the third act is the obvious highlight, with Gemser finally giving in and doffing her habit to do what she does best; it's also one of her more interesting performances, as Gemser is forced to convey a broader spectrum of emotions that usual.

Severin's disc presents a beautiful transfer, the all-around best of the set, which easily outclasses the murkier European DVD editions. The English dub is quite well done and works best here again; extras include the theatrical trailer and several bits of alternate and deleted footage from the Italian VHS, including some awkward hardcore insert footage that was wisely left out of the main feature.

A fourth disc included with the box set is a very special goodie that almost merits the entire pricetag by itself, a CD entitled "Getting Down with Black Emanuelle." A fantastic companion piece to the essential Black Emanuelle's Groove compilation, this disc contains the majority of Nico Fidenco tracks from the soundtracks for the original Black Emanuelle (a film still being held hostage by StudiO Canal, unfortunately), Emanuelle Around the World and Emanuelle in Bangkok; between the two CDs you can pretty much assemble the complete scores for the three films and not worry about having to pay stupid amounts of money for the long-discontinued Japanese CD editions. (Too bad the uptempo instrumental version of "A Picture of Love" is MIA, though; hopefully it will turn up on Volume 2!) Obviously, an essential purchase.

Color, 1981, 88m. / Directed by Christian Anders / Starring Laura Gemser, Christian Anders, Gabriele Tinti, Simone Brahmann / Media Blasters (US R1 NTSC)

After the Jim Jones cult tragedy in Guyana, it didn't take long for exploitation cinema to cash in everywhere from made-for-TV movies to Italian cannibal films (Eaten Alive). One of the weirder entries (and certainly the most amusing) is Love Camp, a Laura Gemser vehicle that follows the template of her Black Emanuelle films even if her character doesn't have a name this time. Not surprisingly, the DVD edition christens the film as Divine Emanuelle: Love Cult-- presumably to avoid confusion with Jess Franco's Love Camp, which is another ball of wax entirely. Austrian-born actor Christian Anders steps up to the director's plate here (with some purported help from Greek sexploitation pro Elia Milonakos) to chronicle the story of the Children of Light, a sex-driven cult led by "the Divine One" (Gemser). Her Aryan boyfriend, Dorian (Anders), is responsible for scouting out new members, and anyone who doesn't screw like a bunny is trussed up in front of everyone else and viciously whipped. (That'll get 'em in the mood, eh?) Things get considerably more complicated when Dorian initiates a senator's daughter, Patricia (Trance's Brahmann), and begins to fall in love with her; however, when they decide to leave, they find the cult's "pro-love" stance only extends so far...

Packed with sex, nudity, and oddball performance art/dance numbers, this film is a prime example of early '80s Eurotica at its strangest. Gemser's icy demeanor serves her well here, and as usual her real-life husband, Gabriele Tinti, pops up for a steamy sex scene as only these two could deliver. Most of the carnal encounters are fairly graphic and push the softcore limits about as far as possible (no wonder this rarely made the rounds on cable!), and Gemser fans will certainly get an eyefull as she delivers some of the most extensive nudity in her career. Anders doesn't really excel in any of his capacities (though he comes closest by singing the catchy theme song, "Love Love Love," which was released as a 45 single!), but he keeps things bouncing along nicely by throwing in a sex scene or goofy dialogue exchange whenever the pace threatens to flag.

Though the back of the box indicates an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer, the film is actually presented completely open matte at 1.33:1, leaving lots of extraneous room in the upper and lower portions of the screen. This also means a lot of extra incidental nudity, so if you're a stickler for seeing this in the same shape as a movie screen, just zoom in on a 16:9 TV and lose on the good stuff. Image quality is very sharp and colorful, far exceeding the very soft past VHS releases, while the English-dubbed audio sounds... well, about the same. Extras include a whopping half-hour of deleted and alternate scenes (mostly dialogue without English audio, though, so keep that fast-forward button handy), additional sexy outtakes of Gemser and Tinti, promotional trailer outtakes, a hefty photo gallery, and trailers for other titles in Media Blasters' juicy "Exploitation Digital" catalog.

Color, 1979, 91m. / Directed by Elia Milonakos / Starring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Livia Russo, Haris Tryfonas, Pantelis Agelopou / Media Blasters (US R1 NTSC)

The closest thing to a film noir in the Black Emanuelle canon, this Greek-lensed entry takes Laura Gemser from her usual Italian settings to a mostly new cast of faces with distinctly odd results. This time out Emanuelle is unhappily married to Victor (Agelopou), whose jailbait stepdaughter Livia (RussO) is about to enter into womanhood. When the better-off-dead Victor meets his maker, Emanuelle claims what's his and takes charge of Livia, while her swarthy part-time-lover Mario (Tryfonas) begins to make trouble insinuating exposing her for a murder plot. Meanwhile Emanuelle beds down with her husband's old friend Tommy (Tinti), setting up a nasty finale which puts Livia in jeopardy.

Crammed with sex scenes but rather lethargic compared to the more imaginative Black Emanuelle genre hybrids before it, Queen of Sados spends much of its time following each of the characters on labyrinthine routes to each other's beds while barely advancing anything resembling a plotline. As usual Gemser and Tinti get a scene together, but the rest of the encounters are pretty standard late-night filler with plenty of face-touching and soft moaning. That said, the locations are quite spectacular, and Gemser's scenes are always fun to watch. The third act also takes a few surprisingly nasty turns, such as a protracted rape scene that sets up the utterly incoherent retribution(?) finale (which tries to go for echoes of Greek tragedy but will most likely leave viewers scratching their heads). Probably Greece's most prolific erotica director, Milonakos has proven himself far better at comedy and travelogue-related sex films than drama; for example, the bizarre semi-hardcore Ajita Wilson film, Pussycat Syndrome, is a better representation of his directorial strengths. Still, not a bad effort, and certainly a must-see for the Gemser fanatic.

As with Love Cult, this film is tagged as anamorphically enhanced but is actually presented open matte (full frame). Lots of extra headroom is on display (as well as bonus nudity), though 16:9 TV owners can zoom in for more theatrical-friendly compositions. In any case it's in far more pristine, razor-sharp condition than the old Private Screenings tape. Extras include a small reel of outtakes (nothing terribly salacious) without audio, plus a nice gallery, two trailers, and more Exploitation Digital trailers.

Color, 1987, 80m. / Directed by Pasquale Fanetti / Starring Malý, Antonio Zequila, Micaela / Media Blasters (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

An "Emanuelle" film in name if not in approach, this very late entry in the not-terribly-connected series is a late '80s vehicle for Malý, a video-age sex starlet showcased in a series of films usually directed by the hacky Pasquale Fanetti (The Invincible Barbarian). There's barely any plot to speak of here as unhappily married Emanuelle goes to discos and makes the moves on anything in pants, whether it's her female friends or a male pick-up she decides to dress up in female lingerie. She also whines a lot about her longing for emotional commitment and her need for sex, when she's not busy pointing her mammaries at the camera.

Pretty much indistinguishable from the flood of Euro-softcore that flooded the cable market in the late '80s, Lady Emanuelle isn't terrible but barely makes an effort to distinguish itself. The female leads all fit the bill and certainly seem game, but the narrative and emotional content (yes, you do need 'em in sex films) barely strive to justify their adventures between the sheets. Joe D'Amato was doing this same kind of thing much better around the same time with films like 11 Days, 11 Nights, but if you're looking for a way to pass a slow evening with a few mildly kinky touches, this could fit the bill.

Presented in anamorphic widescreen, Lady Emanuelle certainly looks lovely on DVD, with powdery but vivid colors aplenty. The cinematography goes intentionally soft in several sequences, but the transfer itself leaves little room for complaint. The Italian dialogue features optional English subtitles; no hokey English dubbing here, folks, which is either a bonus or a drawback depending on your taste in Eurosleaze. A little mistranslated, canned dialogue might have added to the fun. As for extras, you get the theatrical trailer, some saucy outtakes (some of which are livelier than the film itself), and promos for other titles in the Exploitation Digital line, inexplicably tagged here as "Kitty Media!"

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