Joe D’Amato’s trashy sex drama is as lurid as they come
Even among the skeezy depths of Joe D’Amato’s cinematic oeuvre, his 1975 sex thriller EMANUELLE AND FRANCOISE is a jaw dropper. The director made his share of unofficial sequels to the popular Silvia Kristel-starring erotic EMMANUELLE movies, most starring the lovely Laura Gemser, but this trashterpiece (also known as EMANUELLE’S REVENGE) is among the best and is almost as cheerfully vulgar than his crown-jewel of vileness, the disturbing 1977 entry EMANUELLE IN AMERICA. Echoing the plot of the decade-and-change later Lucio Fulci softcore drama THE DEVIL’S HONEY, EMANUELLE AND FRANCOISE wallows in perversion to tell its operatically extreme tale of vengeance and sexual humiliation and though D’Amato’s lens captures ample upset, the entire thing is just so damned entertaining and groovy (Joe Dynamo’s funk soul score is a marvel) that you can’t help but kinda love it.
D’Amato regular George Eastman (the monster-man in ANTHROPOPHAGUS and ABSURD and the lead stud in EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD) stars as Carlo a preening svengali-esque hustler brute who toils on the back-end of the entertainment business, grafting gigs and delighting in the exploitation and degradation of his lover, the sweet-natured and fragile Francoise (Patrizia Gori). As the film opens, Carlo subjects the girl to one blow too many and she jumps in front of a train. Enter Francoise’s sister Emanuelle ( in this incarnation played by SALON KITTY’s Rosemarie Lindt), who traces the sad tale of her sister’s decline via letters, with each despicable incident leeringly illustrated by D’Amato for the audience’s outrage and titillation. Soon, Emanuelle hatches a plot to seduce, trap and torture the bastard, locking him in a room armed with a two-way mirror, drugging him and subjecting him to endless images of her getting off with a succession of lovers, both male and female.
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A closer look at the sleazy but intelligent 1972 exploitation film
It’s arguable that the greatest sorts of exploration films dial back their visually explicit shocks in favor of the power of suggestion. The most obvious example might be PSYCHO, with its skillfully edited shower scene making us think we see more than we do. But that’s not particularly fair, as PSYCHO was made by a major filmmaker and studio and released during a period where nudity, sex and extreme bloodshed were simply not on the mainstream menu. But later, the same Ed Gein-centric source material was mined for THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, a 1973 release that was produced at a time when all manner of gushy thing was allowed and accepted on screen. And yet, CHAIN SAW, one of the most brutal and notorious pictures of its kind in the world, refused to show too much either, using sound and suggestion and style to to turn stomachs and smack its audience senseless. Other films, like 1971’s BLOOD AND LACE, 1973’s THE BABY et al also proved ample sleazy and upsetting while teetering between PG and R and using theme and tone to their advantage.
Which brings us to 1972’s harrowing and hideous and unforgettable trash sorta-classic TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN, now widely available via a splendid, feature-packed Blu-ray release from Arrow Video, a restored 2K visual upgrade from the long out-of-print Something Weird Video DVD release, where it was paired with the icky and awesome THE TOY BOX. The film is as perverse and seedy as they come, telling the tale of the emotionally disturbed young woman Jamie (a fascinating one-shot turn from Marcia Forbes), who we first meet masturbating in bed to one of her many stuffed animals as she breathlessly chants “daddy, daddy”, a sweaty session interrupted by her braying mother, who chastises her and accuses her of being “just like her father”. Seems Jamie’s dad was a cad who tom-catted around and eventually bailed on the family, leaving the vulgar mother to smother her only child. Though MIA, Jamie’s pop has continued to send her toys, which she keeps littered around her room and whose presence have contributed to her bizarre, sexually stunted, childlike state of mind, where she yearns for daddy’s love while yearning for other more carnal pleasures.
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A 70’s Europorno with a dark, psychological edge
People speak of the golden age of hardcore pornography spurting from the 1970s like they were hallowed, horny works of reflexive art. This is due in most part to nostalgia (what isn’t) when comparing these classics to the contemporary gynecological jack-hammering iPhone porn that now stink up every corner of the internet. And I mean, sure, Deep Throat and Cafe Flesh might as well be Aguirre: The Wrath of God and Alphaville by comparison to any of the antics on PornHub, but that doesn’t mean these pictures were the bold works of hormonal vision we deify them as today.
I think there’s also the factor that 70’s porn was shot on real deal 35mm film and more often than not were more couple-inclusive than run-of-the-mill stag films and most had plots and were publicly exhibited often in hard-top theaters with big splashy premieres and mainstream media coverage. But look closely and all you’ll see are standard-issue exploitation films, most of them crass and goofball comedies jazzed up with blowjobs and genital pumping. Even the aforementioned, highly regarded Cafe Flesh just swipes a science fiction hook to hang its graphic coupling on.
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Paul Verhoeven’s notorious Vegas stripper melodrama Showgirls might be a horror movie in disguise
Decades after 1967’s Valley of the Dolls and decades prior to 2016’s The Neon Demon, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven‘s Showgirls, the over-the-top tale of ill-gotten fame, busted dreams and the skeezy, grimy underbelly of Las Vegas, dragged its garish arse across screens across the world. That the heavily-hyped project (a reunion between Verhoeven and his Basic Instinct writer Joe Eszterhas) fell flat on its busted back, much like Gina Gershon’s Cristal does in the film, just made its myth all the more potent. And though Showgirls has been universally reviled and is now rather forcibly embraced as a cult film, the misleadingly-marketed movie is really yet another in a long line of Hollywood horror films masquerading as something else entirely.
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