JESS FRANCO MONTH: Tendre et perverse Emanuelle (1973)

There have been so many Emanuelle movies by so many of my favorite disreputable filmmakers, from Just Jaeckin’s original in 1974 to Joe D’Amato’s always entertaining Black Emanuelle films with Laura Gemser to science fiction takes such as Emmanuelle in Space and Emmanuelle Through Time, as  well as two by Franco, this one and Emmanuelle Exposed.

The original film was so popular — even in the U.S. where the tagline said “X was never like this” and it was sold as a highbrow movie — that a theater on the Champs-Elysees in Paris played it for 13 years.

So how wild that this Franco movie uses Emanuelle in the title a year before Jaeckin made his adaption of the 1959 of the Emmanuelle Arsan book (born Marayat Bibidh, there’s a theory that her husband Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane wrote the book; nevertheless she was an adventurous woman given to affairs much like the story she may have written and she and Louis-Jacques eventually settled down to a retirement home named Chantelouve d’Emmanuelle in a triad relationship with his former secretary Nitya Phenkun for nearly twenty years).

Of course, the name was changed to cash in on the success of Jaeckin’s film and this is just as much a murder mystery or even a giallo compared to a softcore movie, but it’s most importantly a Jess Franco film, which means that it’s packed with the strange affectations that are so distracting at first and become so welcome the more of his movies you unspool.

Shot at the same time and in some of the same locations as A Virgin Among the Living Dead, it tells the story of Emanuelle (or Barbara), played by Norma Kastel from The Fish With the Eyes of Gold, She’s found at the bottom of a cliff and the film follows the investigation into her death, which is mourned by a series of lovers of both sexes.

That mourning includes lots (and lots) of sex between the cast members, who include Alice Arno (who would be the actress conducting the insert graveyard orgy that Franco didn’t direct in A Virgin Among the Living Dead) and, in her second Franco film, his lifelong obsession Lina Romay, who is so cool that she has a sapphic scene so volcanic that she forgets to take her glasses off, which speaks to me in a way that I don’t have words.

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