Friday, December 03, 2010

WINTER OF DISCONTENT: Emanuelle in Bangkok

I closed last night’s review of ‘Black Emanuelle’ – a film I had unhesitatingly evaluated on a single viewing as a fuck-awful POS – with the phrase “I’m looking to Joe D’Amato for an upgrade in quality”.

Dear readers, if I ever – ever – say anything like that again – EVER – you have my full permission to descend on Chez Agitation en masse and beat me like a piñata for several hours. And then really get stuck in.

What was I thinking when I wrote that? Was I trying to be funny? Looking to Joe D’Amato for an upgrade in quality!?!? Dear God, you don’t say something like that without consequences. And, oh sweet baby Jesus in a charnel house, did I suffer the consequences!

‘Emanuelle in Bangkok’ (a.k.a. ‘Black Emanuelle Goes East’, which makes it sound like a porno sequel to ‘The Ghost Goes West’) opens with a piece of music that makes the ‘Black Emanuelle’ OST at its absolute nadir sound like Handel’s ‘Messiah’. It’s called “Sweet Leaving Thing” and it’s “permorfed” (according to the end credits) …

… by Silky Sound Singer (who I hope with every ounce of moral outrage in my body was sued under the Trades Description Act for that name) and it’s egregious. I’m not talking bad. I’m not talking horrible. I’m not even talking fuck-awful. In fact, I don’t know if I have the linguistic ability to describe just how sanity-weakening, soul-destroying, aurally-offensive, harmonically-repulsive, bile-inducing and sonically cancerous it is … But I’ll try. Imagine listening to an ungodly conflation of the world’s worst country & western outfit and the world’s cheesiest oompah band. Now imagine listening to them while you’re undergoing major root canal work without anaesthetic and to ensure that you don’t pass out and miss even a single minute of the agony one of the dental nurses is hammering a six inch nail through your scrotum while her colleague repeatedly jabs you in the eye with the business end of an arc welder.

That’s what this song sounds like. You can probably find it on YouTube – hell, you can find the whole movie pretty easily online – but I would urge you not to. In fact, I’d beg you. It’s the aural equivalent of ‘2 Girls, 1 Cup’. You can never unhear it.

So, I was three minutes into the movie and the fucking opening credits music was making me want to self-harm. Surely it had to get better. I took a slug of whisky and told myself the worst was over. Christ, I’m a lying bastard.

The first scene has Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) taking a slow boat to Bangkok and dallying with a moody archaeologist named Roberto (Ivan Rassimov). Their first sex scene, in Emanuelle’s cabin, strives for authenticity. It looks like it was actually filmed in a ship’s cabin. And the thing about cabins is, they’re generally small. The scene is framed in a manner that suggests there wasn’t enough room for the camera and the DoP as well as the performers, so the camera was just rammed into the corner of the cabin and left to roll. Accordingly, the viewer is treated to several minutes of awkward manoeuvring, random body parts and generic slurping sounds. To make things worse, D’Amato decides to nick Albertini’s people shagging/piston rod and cylinder box juxtaposition from the original movie. Except that D’Amato ups the ante by cutting away to a roomful of piston rods hammering away as the massive marine engine powers the ship on through the night.

The, ahem, “story” involves Emanuelle’s attempts to get an interview with some royal personage. To this end, she dallies with the royal dude’s cousin. Said cousin takes her to a massage parlour where D’Amato happily rips of Gemser’s iconic scene from ‘Emmanuelle 2’. Then Emanuelle, royal cousin dude and an American couple – the wife was played by Ely Galleani, I can tell you that much, but I can’t be bothered hitting up IMDb for character names/cast list – who they randomly bump into all head for a club where a stripper does uses ping-pong balls in her act, after which they boogie on down to an opium den, get high and fornicate in various combinations. Ely Galleani has a too-brief girl-girl scene with the oriental masseuse. Which is nice.

Next thing, the deal with the monarch’s cousin goes south when some mercenaries who are about to stage a coup warn Emanuelle that Bangkok isn’t safe for her and she should leave. They issue this warning by way of a gang rape. If the very concept, content and execution of the scene isn’t offensive enough, it’s suggested that Emanuelle’s sexual confidence has equipped her to transmute an act of violence into a more or less pleasurable experience. That fact that the scene ends with the mercenary who instigated the gang rape seeing Emanuelle on her way and wishing her luck just ramps up the inappropriateness factor to a whole other level.

Emanuelle departs Bangkok, albeit on temporary papers since her passport was taken in a hotel room robbery. At the airport, she bumps into Ely Galleani. What do you know, they’re on the same flight! A Sapphic induction to the mile high club ensues.

Emanuelle travels to Casablanca where she looks up Roberto. He’s shacked up with a fellow archaeologist, Janet. She’s initially hostile towards Emanuelle, but a little three-way action breaks the ice. Meanwhile, Emanuelle petitions the consul to help out as regards her stolen passport and discovers that the wheels of bureaucracy spin a tad smoother when the consul’s daughter takes a fancy to you. Roberto doesn’t take too well to Emanuelle’s relationship with Deborah (she being la fille du consul) and angrily calls them “lezzers” before he storms off. At this point, the appearance of Vicky Pollard delivering a monologue along the lines of “yeah but, no but, what it was right, I sat next to that Emanuelle and she totally copied off me coz I told everyone about her diddling Deborah outside the consulate and Roberto totally busted me for it and oh my God I so can’t believe she did that coz anyway everyone knows she’s a lezzer” would have been the most awesome thing imaginable, an act of cinematic alchemy transforming this celluloid dunghill into something marvellous.

But unfortunately Vicky Pollard has standards and would never work with Joe D’Amato (“yeah but, no but, he’s totally a perv and he’d be shoving a camera up me skirt wouldn’t he?”) and instead of becoming something marvellous, ‘Emanuelle in Bangkok’ goes from bad to worse to pointless. The abrupt shift from Bangkok to Casablanca suggests nothing more than a first cut clocking in at an hour and D’Amato and company desperately shooting anything just to pad it out to feature length. The bits of supposed “local colour” that interspersed the kit-offery are mostly drab. There’s a grim and depressing scene, that seems to go on forever, of Emanuelle taking photographs of a snake-on-mongoose smackdown. It’s completely unfaked and it makes the turtle death in ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ look like an episode of ‘Animal Rescue’.

The whole misbegotten thing ends with Emanuelle reluctantly parting from Deborah, even though our infamously transitory and commitment-shy heroine has admitted to deep and profound feelings for the lass (a spiritual and emotional communion they consummate by taking a bubble bath together), because she has another assignment to go on. Against all the odds, their airport farewell is almost poignant … until that fucking song comes line-dancing onto the soundtrack again, stomping its dirty heels all over your will to live.


Troy Olson said...

Is the song you speak of this, perhaps?

Because that is amazing...

I'm glad it's you and not me watching these. I'll search out pictures of Laura Gemser and Ely Galleani if need be, but I'll stay far, far away from these films.

Neil Fulwood said...

That would be the piece of music in question, Troy - in all its ungodly glory.

'Tis a wise decision to avoid these venal and cinematically inept works like the plague.

Besides, check out next Saturday's Something For The Weekend and you'll need look no further for that Gemser/Galleani fix.