Friday, February 2, 2018

Velluto Nero (1976)

Written by: Ferdinando Baldi and Brunello Rondi
Directed by: Brunello Rondi
Annie Belle as Laure
Laura Gemser as Emanuelle
Al Cliver as Horatio
Gabriele Tinti as Carlo

All right. Even by the standards (if these things can be said to have standards) of Italian sexploitation movies, this is one weird flick. Episodic, plotless, and extremely skeevy, it's everything you want in your Eurosmut, but more so. If you're looking to dip a friend or significant other's toes in the water, this is not the movie to do it with unless you want to have some very uncomfortable and possibly angry conversation about your taste in cinema. If, on the other hand, your appetite has been whetted by tamer fare and you're ready to dive headlong into the rapey, racially insensitive, downright appalling end of the pool, then grab your trunks and goggles and let's get wet!

Crystal is the widow of some well-to-do Egyptian noble, who lives in what appears to be some sort of gated community for rich looneys in the middle of the desert. We meet her as she's gearing up for an annual visit by some friends from out of the country. It's an extra special occasion this year, because her daughter Laure is coming home for the first time in quite some time. She sends her other daughter, Magda (played by the delightfully named Ziggy Zanger), to retrieve fashion model Emanuelle and her asshole photographer boyfriend Carlo (Gabriele Tinti who, I'm pretty sure, never in his entire career played a character who wasn't an asshole, but this one is right up near the top of the charts on that count) from the airport while she stays home in case Laure should show up while no one but the servants were home.

It also gives her a chance to chase away the group of hippies, misfits, and other assorted losers who have latched on to Horatio. Horatio is her...boyfriend, maybe? It's often a little difficult to determine what any character's relationship is to another in Italian sexploitation movies, since most everyone fucks each other at some point. Whatever he is to Crystal, he's some kind of spiritual guru to his gaggle of patchouli-smelling hangers-on, but the nonsense he spouts suggests to me he's just got a really bad case of sunstroke and should stop wandering around the desert in the middle of the day with no UV protection.

Magda, meanwhile, is on the way back to the mansion with Emanuelle and Carlo when we get a taste of just how much of a shitbird Carlo is going to be later on. Their jeep passes the desiccated carcass of a jackal and Carlo tells the driver to stop. He then makes Emanuelle get out and strip down to her underwear to do a photo shoot on top of the maggot-riddled corpse!

Laure still hasn't shown up, so that night the rest of this horrifically dysfunctional Brady Bunch head over to the mansion next door to see Hal, a washed up Shakespearean actor (who knew that job paid well enough to retire to a palatial servant-filled manse?) who loves to host gaudy bacchanals for his friends. Oh, and to have impure relations with his underage servant boys.

When Laure finally arrives, things get even stranger. After a little naked cuddle time with mom, she goes on a little joy ride into the desert with Carlo and Emanuell, where they come across a field of dead bodies. Apparently a group of vicious nomads roam the area and get a little too zealous about their Seany Bean family cosplay when travelers enter their territory. Carlo decides this is a perfect opportunity for a sexy photo shoot and demands Emanuelle strip down and pose with the freshly murdered people strewn about the sand. She understandably balks at the idea, to which he replies, “All this fuss over a few dead Arabs,” and then smacks her around a little and starts to rape her, BUT THEN SHE GETS INTO IT AND STARTS FUCKING HIM BACK! I thought Nightmare City had some backwards ideas about male/female relations, but good grief.

The next day, the whole crew decides to embark on a boat ride down the river and see all the temples and monuments and such, during which time Laure has a little sexual interlude with everyone in some fashion or other. By the time they all get back to Hal's place for one last orgy, everyone has undergone some tremendous personal insight and change in character through their encounters with Laure, and in the end, she and Emanuelle leave everyone else and their weird hangups behind, strip down, and skip naked into the desert to live happily ever after. Or die of exposure and scorpion stings an hour later. It's one of those “left up to the viewer to interpret” kind of endings, really.

According to my good friend El Santo, the English dub version names Gemser's character Laura, and Belle's as Pia, but in the subtitled version that I saw, Gemser is reprising her role as Emanuelle, and Belle is Laure, her eponymous character from Laure, also from 1976. Since the Emanuelle character wouldn't set off down the path to becoming the jet-setting sexual superhero we know and love until the following year, this version of Emanuelle fits right in with the more innocent, somewhat flighty one seen in Emanuelle In Bangkok (1976 again). There's not a lot of readily available information to be had on this movie, and the interviews on the DVD are more personal stories from Gemser and Cliver about their careers rather than specifics about the history and production of Velluto Nero. However, since Laure and Emanuelle not only share names, but also character traits more or less consistent with the other movies I mentioned, I'm just going to go ahead and say that in my head canon we're dealing with a Eurosmut shared cinematic universe. Take that, Marvel!

Man, I really wish they'd done a whole series of these crossovers now. I'd love to see the places they could have taken it once Emanuelle became a total badass. And if there was ever a woman who could believably change people's lives and make them realize their true potential through the sheer power of being sexy, it was mid-70s Annie Belle.

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