Neglected Virtues: Emanuelle in America (1976)
Publication date: 01/12/2017
The mid to late 1970s saw a roar in Italian exploitation cinema. These films collectively reached new levels of moral provocation in their graphic and frequently pornographic approach to gore, sex and violence. One of the more under-rated directors in this dubious boom period was former cinematographer Joe D’Amato, who found much popularity with a series of erotic films based on the hit Emmanuelle. This soft-core movie about a woman’s erotic journey would be vastly imitated officially and unofficially in numerous sequels (with subtle variations in the spelling of the character’s name to avoid copyright laws). D’Amato came onto one such series of spin-offs and with star Laura Gemser created some of the most disturbing films in the already disreputable vogue. What was disturbing about these was the way in which D’Amato took the conventions of the soft-core erotic odyssey and combined it with other bleaker genres, particularly the graphic horror film. The movie of Emanuelle in America was thus considered something of a dispiriting nadir in exploitation film, an explicitly pornographic movie that most worrisomely sought to explore the erotic potential of what had recently been termed the “snuff” film following the release of a horror movie, Snuff, the marketing and contents of which had outraged feminists. In the process, D’Amato created a film that is virtually indefensible on moral grounds.
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