Gemser travels to many distant cities, and meets the worst people in every one of them.
To say that Laura Gemser's Emanuelle films are hit and miss is an understatement of epic proportions. While early entries have the happy softcore feel needed for thought-free diversion and occasional boners, later offerings veer into dark territory. Emanuelle - Perché violenza alle donne? is in the latter category. An Italian production, the title translates as “Emanuelle - Why violence against women?” Erotic cinema and social commentary don't usually mix well—not because they're mutually exclusive, but because the filmmakers never have the skill to pull it off. In the U.S. the movie was retitled Emanuelle Around the World, which sounds fine, but its international English title was changed to The Degradation of Emanuelle. Uh oh.
Gemser's adventures begin in San Francisco when her New York based photo-journalist character enjoys a satisfying boning in the back of a truck. But soon she's off on her next assignment, a titillating expose of a Kama Sutra commune in Asia. Once there she meets creepy guru George Eastman and uses her superior sexual skills to make his holiness transcendentally ejaculate too fast. Up to this point Perché violenza alle donne? is somewhat fun. But next Gemser meets up with pal Karin Schubert in Rome and joins an assignment to expose a sexual slavery ring. Wait—didn't she do that in Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade? Yup, but slavers never quit. This collection of bad men are unusually horrible. One is is a burn victim who rapes his captives. Another has a penchant for bestiality.
Obviously, during the 1970s filmmakers didn't really understand the idea of unintentionally minimizing serious subject matter the same way they do today. It was the “what-the-fuck-let's-give-it-a-try” era, and taking such risks produced some of the greatest cinema ever. But in this case writer/director Joe D'Amato and co-writers Maria Pia Fusco and Gianfranco Clerici failed. Badly. A movie on the subject of slavery and rape would be unpleasant but important if it were a Claire Denis drama or a Laura Poitras documentary. Mixing it into a flyweight sex film doesn't add dramatic weight—it adds discordance, embarrassment, and insult. It was a total miscalculation. You could potentially watch the film until Gemser departs the Kama Sutra commune, then turn it off. If you don't, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
However, we try to see the good in every movie we screen, so we should note that there are some high points. We'll list them. The Emanuelle films were typically shot in exotic locales, and in this case not only does D'Amato set scenes in New York City and San Francisco, but in Kathmandu, Rome, Hong Kong, and—for real—Teheran. Gemser is a limited actress, but one who always does her best with preposterous scripting. Schubert is a stolid co-star. Underutilized Don Powell is always a welcome sight. And lastly, many of the production photos, some of which appear below, are interesting. That's about all the good we can find. We'll just slide Emanuelle - Perché violenza alle donne? into ye olde metaphorical trash bin and forget it ever happened. It premiered in Italy today in 1977.
Some love lasts forever. Other times it doesn't survive the wedding night.
Another of the movies we watched recently was Bluebeard, a castle and dungeon-style, quasi gothic horror flick about a folk tale character who murders a series of wives. Its Spanish poster was the best of those we saw, and we chose today to share it because the film premiered in Spain today in 1974, after opening in the U.S. two years earlier. This piece was painted and collaged from photos by Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, also known as Jano, now a regular visitor to Pulp Intl. Just for the sake of it, we've also included the U.S. poster at right (or above if you're on a mobile device). You can see that it's built fully around a photo-illustration, and while it's interesting, we thought Jano's work had a little more merit.
Bluebeard stars Richard Burton, who's supposed to be a great actor, but we have to admit we'd seen exactly zero of his acclaimed movies up to this point. He was a Shakespearean stage guy who transitioned to Hollywood in similar type roles, and being decidedly non-pulp in style, we've highlighted none here. He later made a couple of war movies, though, as well as the overbudget epic Cleopatra, and we might get around to those. Going on the example presented by Bluebeard, however, you'd have to conclude that he's a hack. Those who know more than us say that by the 1970s heavy drinking had impaired both his judgment and skill.
You'd think that a famous folk tale would provide a trove of potential cinematic possibilities to sift through, but Bluebeard is uninspiringly written, and the direction—from film noir vet Edward Dmytryk—presents little evidence of engagement with or inspiration by the material. The women Bluebeard murders are played by Karin Schubert, Nathalie Delon, Virna Lisi, sexy nun Raquel Welch, Marilú Tolo, Agostina Belli, and Joey Heatherton—not neccsarily in that order—plus Sybil Danning makes an appearance. Heatherton has the key role as Anne, the wife who elicits a confession from a psychologically tortured Bluebeard as to why he kills.
And the reason? Dude can't get it up. Therefore, in the era before little blue pills, as a prominent member of Austria's post-World War I patriarchal society, Bluebeard murders to keep his limpness secret. You'd think dying wives would destroy his matrimonial suitability, but ata certain point we suppose money papers over all flaws. Rich or not, though, never marry a guy who sits around with a raptor on his shoulder. And speaking of hunting, we should warn the kind-hearted that there's an extended hunting sequence in Bluebeard, and the animals are killed for real, in detailed action. We're talking several rabbits, a number of birds in flight, a couple of foxes, a boar, and a deer.
Based on what we've written so far, you might think we're not recommending Bluebeard, but not so fast, friends. The female cast—to state the obvious—comprises some of the loveliest actresses of the era, and in diverse ways. Welch is sculpturally flawless, Lisi is ethereally beautiful, Toló is broodingly dark, and Heatherton, whose resting face is ingenuous and slightly open-mouthed as if she's always concentrating on a problem, can only be described as luscious. She also has one of cinema's all-time greatest hairdos. Is it pervy to say you should watch a movie solely for the beauty of its actresses? Probably—but it's the truth. The filmmakers must have agreed, because they published lots of nude production stills, when in fact the film has less skin. See below.
Go in the water? That's the freaking North Sea you're talking about.
It's been a few years, so we're returning to subject of German actress Karin Schubert today with this brilliant shot that first appeared as a centerfold in the West German magazine Sexy, a publication that did this sort of thing often. Schubert is a unique figure. She was born in Hamburg during wartime in 1944, debuted in cinema during the late ’60s, then, after establishing herself as a mainstream actress, went into porn. We talked about that in detail here, and we also mused on the relationship between mainstream erotic films and xxx movies, with her as an example, at this post. The latter link contains some of our ponderings concerning nudity on our website, so you may be interested in that, and if so, we go into more detail on that subject here, and talk about the entire purpose behind the site here. The above shot dates from 1971. And by the way, Germany does have some nice beaches—when they aren't covered by snow.
National Spotlite gets right to the good parts.
This National Spotlite published today in 1970 knows its readers want to see boobs. It touts “the girl with the 50” bust,” and leaves a little space at bottom left for those boring witch cult sex orgies. Since Informer dealt with the boobs first, we'll follow suit. The girl with the 50” bust is Suzanne Pritchard, who was a mid-level glamour model and sometime dancer, whose go-to move was squeezing said boobs together between her arms. You can see what we mean in the interior photos, and the first thing you'll probably notice is that Suzanne Pritchard is not the woman pictured on the cover. No, that's an unnamed beauty who probably had no idea she'd end up on the front of Spotlite. Cue sleazy agent: “Hey, I said I'd get you some exposure. What didja expect? Harper's-fucking-Bazaar?”
Inside the issue there's another familiar face besides Suzanne Pritchard's. In a feature entitled “The Art of Taking a Bath” we see none other than German star Karin Schubert. Cue agent: “Hey, I said I'd get you some exposure. What didja expect? The cover? It was taken.” Actually, while the unnamed cover star doubtless knew of her turn in the Spotlite, in all likelihood Schubert had no clue. As we've mentioned before, we have a background in media, and her shot was undoubtedly what we used to call a handout photo—i.e. images given to magazines and newspapers for use in publicizing a celebrity. Agents back then kept tabs on how many photos were sent out and where, but didn't monitor whether they were used months or years later. The process was a bit more structured by the time we worked at magazines, and today it may well be computerized.
Every tabloid has its focus. Some were oriented towards scandals, others sexual perversion, still others violence and gore. National Spotlite was eclectic, but this issue's recurring theme is breasts. Schubert's bath story has this line: “Women with large breasts should make sure the underside of their mammaries get a good scrubbing. The ideal method is to have someone else cup your breasts into the air while you scrub.” To us, that actually sounds like an incredibly inefficient way to wash one's breasts, but that's really beside the point, isn't it? In sleazy tabloids, everything is foreplay and all roads lead to the bedroom. We have seventeen scans below, all of them designed to get you heated up and ready to perform.
Schubert runs into trouble Nero and far.
Shot in the Dominican Republic, Il pavone nero is one of those voodoo and sex cocktails that were popular in international b-cinema during the 1970s. In fact, its English title is Voodoo Sexy, which tells you everything you need to know, just in case the promo poster doesn't. Other examples from this fertile genre discussed here on Pulp Intl. include Porno Shock, aka Voodoo Passion, and Al tropico del cancro, aka Tropic of Cancer. And of course queen b Laura Gemser had a few run-ins with santería as well.
In Il pavone nero an Italian engineer goes to Santo Domingo to help build a dam. His wife—the lovely Karin Schubert—surprises him in his hotel after he thought he'd left her in Italy. It's the first of many surprises. Rather than stay in the hotel the couple opt to inhabit an isolated beach shack on the border with Haiti, a domicile that was occupied by the previous dam engineer, who inexplicably disappeared. Uh oh. This is a classic case of thumbing one's nose at fate.
We quickly find that ethnic Haitians in the region are against the dam, and that voodoo rites are their weapon of choice to prevent its construction. But their leader Balaga, played by U.S. actor, musician, and sexploitation go-to voodoo guy Don Powell, carves out a little time from his resistance activities to pursue Schubert, possibly drawn by her astounding whitegirl afro. She in turn is drawn by the local santería rituals, which involve a bit of chicken chopping—poor chickens—and some humping of the fully explicit variety, depending on which version of the film you watch. Though Schubert would later delve into porn, her scenes here were performed by a body double.
Il pavone nero ends with the arrest of the voodoo environmentalists, which means the dam is no longer in danger. Can't stop progress, after all. There may be an environmental message buried in this film, or an anti-colonial message, or a racial harmony message, or even a spiritual message, but those are all secondary to the real point—for audiences to enjoy some vanilla Schubert getting freaky with the locals. The movie delivers ample opportunities, as you can see in the promo images below. Also, there's a cockfight. There's always a cockfight. Poor chickens. Il pavone nero premiered in Italy today in 1975.
Once you go Black Emanuelle you never go back.
Javanese beauty Laura Gemser isn't black in the ethnic sense, but you know that going into Black Emanuelle, first of the Italian-made sexploitation series that borrowed the French Emmanuelle concept and took it to places its originators could never have imagined. Gemser could actually be half black or mostly black, going by skin tone alone, but in a way her being South Asian in real life becomes the whole point, as it makes all her love scenes titillatingly interracial, whether she's getting it on with Africans or white foreigners. This is the tamest of the series—before poor Emanuelle was beset by voodoo priests, cannibals, and worse. In addition to the honeyed Gemser in the starring role you get a scoop of vanilla Schubert on top—German actress Karin Schubert. We aren’t going to bother to tell you about the plot of this one—it follows the form of other movies about westerners who get freaky in the African bush and eventually leave with profound insights and fond memories (cue shot of dreamy eyed actress gazing out airplane window as dark, mysterious Africa recedes below). In addition to the Japanese poster above we were able to locate quite a few promo images, including two of Gemser and Schubert doing field tests of Newton’s laws of physical motion. See below. Black Emanuelle opened in Japan today in 1976.
Giving in to the inevitable.
German actress Karin Schubert is an interesting figure in international cinema—she began in mainstream films in the late 1960s, appearing in efforts by acclaimed directors such as Edward Dmytryk and Yves Boisset, then transitioned into adult cinema. Usually actresses attempt to do the reverse. Some of Schubert’s early roles, such 1975’s Black Emmanuelle, were of the sexploitation variety, but it wasn’t until 1985 when she was aged 41 that she starred in her first hardcore film, Double Desire. Some sources say there are rare prints of 1975’s Il Pavone nero, aka Voodoo Sexy that show Schubert in x-rated action, but those sources are wrong—as was common at the time, down and dirty scenes performed by a body double were added later. However, Schubert did shoot fully hardcore magazine spreads earlier than her entry into adult cinema.
She last acted in 1994, and since then has dropped completely out of sight. We got curious what happened to her, and in our wanderings visited a forum where a user claimed he spoke to a former adult film colleague of hers at a porn convention. According to the user, Schubert’s colleague said she died, but we doubt that’s true. Schubert was a significant star. Notices of a woman who had the unusual distinction of working with both film noir icon Edward Dmytryk and porn stallion John C. Holmes would have appeared somewhere in the German—if not global—press. We checked, and there was no word anywhere. As for the supposed info provided by her old colleague, picture this exchange:
“Say, Karin, I’m going to the adult film expo in Hamburg this year. You going?”
“Hell fucking no, and if anyone asks about me please tell them I died.”
The photo at top shows Schubert from around 1975, and below are some of her many covers for the West German magazine Wochenend. You can also see a nice Ciné-Revue cover of her here. We’ll try to get into some of her non-x-rated films later and report back.
Sex and cinema in an open age.
When we went to Paris a couple of months ago we mentioned that we found a stack of Ciné-Revue magazines in Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen. Their dimensions make for extra work because we have to scan every page in two pieces and put them together in Photoshop, and even more daunting, any two-page spreads have to be scanned in four pieces and assembled (this is actually true for all the tabloids we post). That’s why we get a bit lazy about it sometimes. Yeah, yeah, we know—get a bigger scanner. Easier said than done, unless someone wants to mail us one. Anyway, we managed to get some pages together from the above issue of Ciné-Revue published today in 1973.
Ciné-Revue originated out of Belgium in 1944 and was the premier French-language cinema magazine there and in France for many years. Today it remains popular, making it one of the longest-lived cinema magazines as well. On the cover of this one you get German softcore and hardcore actress Karin Schubert, and inside you get John Wayne, Pia Giancaro, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Gabin, and an artful nude shot of impossibly handsome Austrian actor Helmut Berger. You’re welcome, girls, but please don’t start doing internet searches trying to find out what he looks like now—you won’t be happy. Berger also appears on the back of the mag.
Regarding the Schubert cover, the line between mainstream cinema and porn was never blurrier than back then, and Ciné-Revue reflected that with its features of hardcore and softcore performers. Could you imagine such actresses routinely appearing in, say, Rolling Stone, and being given equal standing with mainstreamers? Nevertheless, popular American media is heavily porn-influenced, even if the seed, so to speak, goes unacknowledged. What is a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue about, for example, with its models wearing not swimsuits, but rather paint on their fully waxed bodies?
When cinema first developed into an industry many filmmakers thought of movies as simply a motile version of photography, or painting, or sculpture. Occasional nudity was a feature of the new medium, but a funny thing happens when you add motion and character development to the static nude—Michelangelo turns into Brazzers. Today, all nudity in American cinema is on some level political. No? Then why is it that only in American cinema there is such a proclivity for the clothed sex scene? It raises a question. Is it possible for both men and women, gay and straight, to celebrate their sexuality without conflict? Maybe, but only with more economic equality for women, less stigmitization of homosexuality, less racism, and more understanding that we are—male and female, gay and straight, green and purple—biologically driven by sexual desire.
Looking at the Schubert image above, we’re reminded of a time (in which we were basically zygotes, but go with us here) during which mainstream movies asked questions about freedom for versus exploitation of women, and how commerce in an age of mass media impacts women’s security versus the ideal of sexual freedom. For instance, how do we have sex and sexual aspiration but also have a safe pressure release for the millions who aren’t having sex in any given week or year? Can healthy sex and porn safely co-exist in the same society? Is female nudity in mass media exploitative by definition? We post nude images here because we think they're beautiful. Does our supposedly honorable intent make any difference in terms of whether the images are exploitation? All these questions are implcit in much of what we do on Pulp Intl.
On another note, we had to go back to France on short notice, but to Bordeaux this time, and we’re there at this moment. So maybe hanging out with the always philosophical French made us write this missive. Possibly some fine red wine has contributed. Anyway, we will scour Bordeaux for more wine—er, pulp—but especially Ciné-Revue, as we’re very interested in 1970s international movie stars, and this magazine gave them as much exposure as any publication we’ve seen. We have eighteen scans below, and more from Ciné-Revue to come.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions
about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.
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