Back in the 70s it didn’t take the Italian film industry long to jump on a bandwagon. Within a year of the release of the mega-hit erotic classic Emmanuelle the Italians had launched their own series of classy softcore features, cunningly changing the heroine’s name to Emanuelle with one “m” to avoid being sued, and making her a black woman. So we get Black Emanuelle (Emanuelle nera).
In fact the connection with the official Emmanuelle films is close to non-existent. And the heroine’s name is not actually Emanuele. It’s Mae. But her friends (for no obvious reason) apparently call her Emanuele. Mae Jordan (Laura Gemser) is a photo-journalist. She’s on an assignment in Kenya. Apparently being a photo-journalist mostly involves having sex with an assortment of attractive men and women.
She does at one stage get out in the countryside where there are things like zebras and giraffes to photograph, but she ends up taking naked photographs of her new friend Ann instead. She ends up having sex with both Ann and her husband. But then she ends up having sex with most of the people in Nairobi. Including an entire sports team, on a train. I’ve always found railway journeys boring as well, and this does seem like a way to make them slightly more interesting.
The only real connection with the authentic Emmanuelle movies is that both are attempts to combine classy erotica with exotic settings. While the settings in Black Emanuelle are definitely exotic, the erotica fails to even come close to match the stylish or the imagination of either of the first two Emmanuelle films.
Laura Gemser is certainly beautiful, but she’s not Sylvia Kristel and she lacks the endearing combination of innocence and licentiousness that Kristel brought to the role.
The film does at least understand that part of the appeal of softcore is that it’s not just wham bam thank you ma'am, that the tease does have a part to play. We know we’re going to see Laura Gemser naked, and we’re going to see her naked a lot, but the film makes us wait a very long time before we actually see her take her clothes off.
As an actress Laura Gemser is at best adequate. Of course it’s likely she wasn’t cast for her acting abilities!
While it’s still streets ahead of what passes for erotica these days, the movie generates surprisingly little heat. It looks like what it is, a second-rate rip-off of a much better movie.
The Region 4 DVD presentation doesn’t help. It’s a a very poor transfer, from a deservedly obscure company called BSV. A better transfer might have made some difference.