Emanuelle in America

Blue Underground released this notorious and oft-censored installment in the Black Emanuelle series, directed by the well-known schlockmeister Joe D’Amato and starring the knockout Laura Gemser as a labored metaphor for the free love movement. Emanuelle in America boasts the softcore action you’d expect, including some nude underwater frolicking and copious amounts of disinterested fondling and caressing. It also delivers the action you don’t expect — like a woman masturbating a horse (yes, this actually happens on screen) and some hardcore, ahem, inserts shot from the kinds of camera angles that might have been commonplace in the 1970s but now seem rather unusual.

For what amounts to irredeemable trash, this is surprisingly watchable, with Gemser playing a winsomely naive investigative journalist who wanders through real New York locations. A little more than two-thirds of the way through, when Emanuelle stumbles across some truly vile porno torture footage that leads her to a snuff-film ring, D’Amato actually manages to generate a real sense of narrative urgency. For a truly disturbing minute or two, Emanuelle in America starts to look like the ultimate progenitor of, say, Videodrome. But the film isn’t really interested in such stuff, and the issue of women being exploited, raped and murdered for the visual pleasure of rich weirdos is simply dropped. (When her editor refuses to run her photographs of the dirty deeds, Emanuelle simply quits her job and goes on vacation.) Needless to say, this makes crap like 8MM look like morally responsible filmmaking. In its workmanlike callousness, and the rare juxtaposition of extremes in both sex and violence, Emanuelle in America may be the ultimate X-rated movie.

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