Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976) - Joe D'Amato has a long trail of adult sleaze, porn and genre films to his credit. The Italian director worked from his first credit (according to IMDB) "Sollazzevoli storie di mogli gaudenti e mariti penitenti - Decameron nº 69 (1972)" until his death in 1999 with his last credit being Amore & Psiche which came out after his death in 2000. He was prolific with 199 credits to his name as a directo. I encountered him first with some really bad horror films but since have seen quite a few of his less wholesome entries. These films really do fit into one of the focuses of this blog, I attempt to cover many of the things I could not see as a teen in the 1970s and there was that time inthe decade when sleaze and adult films were running in mainstream theaters across the country. The Emanuelle series of films were a stolen idea D'Amato exploited throughout the 70s and early eighties. The idea from a series of french films with a similar name were erotic sex adventures, basically he changed Emmanuelle to Emanuelle and created his on stories with different actors but for sure was taking advantage of the success of the originals. Emanuelle in Bangkok is the first in the series. It stars the beautiful Javan actress Laura Gemser as a photo journalist who also is experimenting with free love. Really the entire edifice is to find ways for Gemser to take her clothes off onscreen. In this film she and sometimes boyfriend Roberto (Gabriele Tinti) are talking about attraction in a restaurant He notices how the men look at her and she how the women look at him. Then bang! right to a sex scene between the two, with no time wasted. The sex scenes are the soft core variety with a bit of frontal nudity on Gemser's part. There is rolling around kissing and the implied oral sex, but nothing too shocking. There is a ridiculous sex theme music that plays every time there is a love making scene where the participants are mutually consenting. It is clear from the conversations Emanuelle and Roberto, that he has stronger feeling for her than she for him. She is not quite ready to settle for one man and he is forced to reluctantly agree that they are going to split for a while. D'Amato show a casualness to sex with multiple partners that was prevalent in the time period, although I thought it was a fading idea by 1976.
Emanuelle travels to Thailand to be the guest of Prince Sanit (Ivan Rassimov) with the hope that he can get her in to visit with the king. He is the most miscast person in the film, an obviously very white man playing a Thai prince. They explain this away by saying that the Thai royal family has been so prolific through the years that everyone in the country can claim some kind of connection to the king. When she arrives at the hotel before meeting with him there is the classic difference between sleaze and non sleaze films. Where in a traditional film when a person wants to take a shower after their travel they generally get to the undressing and you see the dress drop to the floor and the lower legs of the actress. In this film Gemser just strips in front of the camera and the scene cuts after showing her nude, it doesn't really matter if she showered or not what was important was the nudity. It also emphasizes her attitude towards nudity, when she sees the house boy drawing her a bath she doesn't wait for the young man to leave but just takes her clothes off without shame.
Now we could continue to rehash the plot in detail but that really is not the point of the film. Instead lets give a quick synopsis and talk about the themes presented as a way to show nudity. At its heart that is what this film is all about. Emanuelle is propositioned by the Prince Sanit after she tried to bribe him. He suggests they get to know each other better instead of bribes but she is not biting. A bit odd that this one guy is not a turn on for her. There is a strange guy in army fatigues watching her as she goes sight seeing.
She has sex with the female masseuse Gee (Koike Mahoco). She has sex with the house boy at the hotel. She meets Roberto and his friend the obnoxious Americans Jimmy (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) and Frances (Ely Galleani) and they go on a montage of Thailand's cultural offerings including kickboxing, cockfighting and a strip club where a dancer does a wax and fire show and another does a ping pong ball routine. Emanuelle excited by the show gives knowing glances not at Roberto but at Frances. All of them go back to Prince Sanit's house and smoke opium have sex changing partners through the drug fogged night. I think and I am no expert that much is being made of Emanuelle's inclination to be attracted to women. She is intimate with both Gee and Frances but she is a multi partner person who is not securing any one relationship in her life. She is free to engage in sex with whomever, as Prince Sanit put it she has a unique ability to experience sex in a pure form.
This is going to come in handy in the next couple days when Sanit disappears and Emanuelle is trapped in the empty house by the strange guy and his buddies. When I say disappeared I mean furniture and everything. There are reasons explained later about the Princes relationship with the king. This does not help Emanuelle though; They surround her and then gang rape her. It is a weird decision by director D'Amato in that the filming is them ripping her clothes off and each climbing on top of her in turn but they never take out their cocks. It is like each is taking a turn dry humping her. The princes words echo in her head and she stops struggling and by doing so seems to enjoy the sex and gain the confidence of the assailants. This is so fucking bizarre I can't really wrap my head around it. Really it is just so easy to release from the horror of a gang dry humping? The scene does not fit with the rest of the film where all the sex is respectful and consensual. I think D'Amato was trying to show Emanuelle as a different kind of free sexual spirit who can accept any form of physical interaction, but I think he fails with this sad display. This is just a start in her troubles though...her passport has been stolen from her room...wait! Here I am again giving the nuts and bolts, not what should be going on. Lets stick to romance and sex here, Emanuelle has sex with the airport security guy to get out of the country and to Roberto in Casa Blanca. She has sex with Roberto and his new girlfriend Janet. She and Janet have sex with a group of Arabs (not shown) that was amazing in its stereotyping of a people. She falls in love with Debbie (Debra Berger), the immature but attractive daughter of the US consul. Then Roberto with Debbie watching from the door but refusing to join. Each time there is the theme music by Nico Fidenco overwhelming the tame visuals. Emanuelle opens from a woman who is into free love but after exploring intimacy with women and men together finds herself in love with Debbie and says goodbye to Roberto, I am sure in 1976 very few people went into this film looking for this journey and for them you can see from the above they got lots of nudity and simulated sex. Poor Roberto has a sad tale, he loves Emanuelle and would like them to be together but also likes having other women involved. He not only loses Emanuelle but also his rebound girl Janet, she is never the same after she and Emanuelle spend the night having sex with the eight arabs, I am not trying to be racists just calling them "the arabs" but seriously that is the presented stereotype. She comes back and breaks off her engagement to Roberto.
Debbie grows up a bit through her relationship with Emanuelle and although they too part, setting up the next film by freeing Emanuelle to go States bound in Emanuelle in America. The secondary track for this film is to show musical sightseeing montages in between the sex and nudity. These scenes are of the cultures and city streets of where ever Emanuelle is, Thailand, the middle east an archeological dig each place is explored with silly over the top music and the actors smiling, looking at things and showing interest in their surroundings.
Rating (4.5) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system Skip it!