Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade (1978)

You'd never guess from the title, but this one's a much lighter Emanuelle film than many of the others and Joe D'Amato keeps his penchant for sexual violence mostly at bay, while ramping up the bizarro quotient. So it's one of the more entertaining films in the series, even though it's not exactly original.

Maybe I should characterize the scenarios with some sort of charting system. Story 1- Location: Nairobi. Sex: 1. Emanuelle's friend Susan and her mechanic, Susan and Emanuelle, Male/Female (2), and the two women and a man. I think that covers it. I'd only note that Emanuelle's stewardess friend in Nairobi is played by the lovely Ely Galleani, who played the newly-liberated American tourist in Emanuelle in Bangkok, and is here playing basically a character from Black Emanuelle. Ah, recycling.

There's more recycling when Emanuelle returns to New York to meet with her editor- some scenes are taken right from Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (more about that mess later) and redubbed with new dialogue! You can see how they were able to crank out so many of these movies at once. You can also tell that D'Amato was running out of ideas at this point.

Anyway, the main storyline has Emanuelle investigating a white slavery ring in which girls are auctioned off for sex; she goes undercover as a slave, even though this isn't "white slavery" since Gemser was Indonesian and, as we all know, this makes her "black" to the Italians. She ends up in a sort of brothel- also stolen from Emanuelle in America- same sets and scenes in fact, but more entertaining because some of the girls are 70s butch lesbians and the madam's assistant is a transvestite who Emanuelle has sex with. In general, there is also a lot more softcore sex in this one and no scene with anyone jerking off a horse. I think any movie is good if there's no scene of horse-wanking.

Also the tone is sillier this time. This is largely unintentional I suspect. We're meant to be shocked when one of the girls, Midget, is killed off-screen, although everyone wandering around asking, "Where did Midget go?" gets a bit silly. Also, Emanuelle wanders around the house taking secret pictures of everyone having sex, and you have to wonder at some point in this series if she really is an investigative photojournalist or just a pervert.

Finally, Emanuelle decides to leave before she loses her life, enlisting the help of the transvestite Stephen, who fights a gang of thugs in a bowling alley to help her escape. It doesn't work, but hey, really, a transvestite fighting a bunch of dudes in a bowling alley is why you watch grindhouse films in the first place.Sadly, D'Amato just can't leave out the mandatory rape scene; after their long fight, the group of thugs gang-rapes Emanuelle- this is the one sexual violence scene he stuck in here. Then the thugs drug Emanuelle, tie her up, and arrange for her to be lobotomized by their personal doctor. Is all hope lost?

Of course not- the resident nurse is a lesbian (an occupational hazard of being a nurse in these movies) and thus just has to untie Emanuelle in order to have sex with her. Foiled again! Our heroine escapes and hitches a ride aboard a fishing boat to Los Angeles, giving her a chance to have sex with a bunch of fishermen and the film a chance to include another plot twist that makes absolutely no sense.

Part of the appeal of D'Amato, in fact, is that a lot of what happens in his movies makes no friggin' sense. Actually, that's probably true of grindhouse movies in general. There's also a lot of sex, of course, which helps. Where he falters is when the 'outrageous' and 'shocking' content he includes is usually just misogynist. Really, none of the Emanuelle films needs to have a rape scene, and it's hard not to think that they're included so frequently as a sort of defensive position to reassure the members of the audience who're uncomfortable with a sexually-liberated woman. But, here's the thing- the rest of the movie is pretty silly and harmless, and Laura Gemser is beautiful, so we overlook all that.

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