Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yellow Emanuelle (1976)

Directed by Bitto Albertini
Starring Chai Lee, Giuseppe Pambieri
and Ilona Staller (Cicciolina)
106 Minutes
Plot summary: After being beaten by thugs in the streets of Hong Kong, British pilot George Taylor awakes in hospital under the care of the beautiful Dr Emy Wong. The two fall in love and become engaged, but when George is temporarily sent back to London a jealous co-worker/ex-girlfriend intercepts his love letters to Emy. Believing she has been abandoned and disgraced Emy descends into a world of prostitution and misery.

Review: (If this review sounds at all familiar, it's because I've published it on several forums under the name "Futura-2.")

From the promotional materials of the time, The Sensuous World of Emy Wong (better known by the unfortunate title Yellow Emanuelle) one would think Bitto Albertini (aka Albert Thomas) was intending to churn out another soft-core romp, similar to the films of Joe D'Amato. However, after the opening montage around the seedier parts of Hong Kong, viewers find themselves in the midst of a very different kind of film.


George and Emy get jiggy wit' it.
This is not unusual with Albertini's work. His legendary Black Emanuelle (1975) was essentially a melodrama, with lots of soft-core fondling thrown in to attract the grindhouse crowd. Albertini concentrates more on dramatic tension and melodrama then his counterparts, with mixed results in most cases, including Yellow Emanuelle.

On one hand, you've got Ilona Staller (who later became one of the more off-the-wall figures of Italian porn and Parliament) and Giuseppe Pambieri engaging in much (simulated) sleazy sex, accompanied by Nico Fidenco's pornoesque score. On the other hand, the romance between Chai Lee's Emy Wong and Pambieri seems to come from another film entirely. It's sensitively told, the actors really seem to believe in what they're doing, and their love scenes are beautifully shot (including one in an unfurnished bedroom that is just this side of art.)


Love amongst the neon.
The drama works on some levels. Chai Lee creates a sympathetic heroine, although her plight (which I won't spoil for you) seems a little contrived and out of left field. The television version deletes the entire ending subplot (which, again, I won't spoil) and actually works better. The original theatrical ending seems hurried and contrived, so much so that it's intended effect is replaced by head-scratching from the audience.

All-in-all, the film is enjoyable and beautifully photographed. Those who prefer their sleaze a bit warmed-over but with *some* dramatic oomph will enjoy this picture. Those looking for something a bit more sordid may want to look elsewhere, perhaps to Joe D'Amato's huge catalogue of sexploitation.

"But what's my motivation?"
DVD Details: Il mondo dei sensi d'Emy Wong is available on DVD (under the Yellow Emanuelle moniker) from Media Blasters. The transfer is gorgeous, with picture and sound as crisp as you're ever likely to experience them. The widescreen picture is presented anamorphically. One minor niggle, the print used trims a bit from the love scenes, and a few moments of George's search for Emy towards the end of the film. The circumcised sexy bits mostly consist of brief shots of Ilona Staller's future-Parliamentary boobies and Giuseppe Pambieri's shiny, tanned buttocks. However, these bits are present on the DVD in a "deleted scenes" area (sourced from what looks to be Unicorn Video's ancient VHS release.) The disc also includes trailers for other releases, including the (hardcore) trailer for Porno Holocaust.

-Johnny Stanwyck

1 comment:

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