A wise poet once said "for the lessons of life, there is no better teacher than the look in the eyes of a child." Sometimes, we need to take a look at the world through inexperienced eyes, and in that spirit, I decided it was high time that Baron XIII took in his first Emanuelle movie. In opting for "Emanuelle Around the World," I figured it was a kindness--far gentler than the glorious excess of "Emanuelle in America." Little did I know how brainfuckling an experience these movies can be for the unsuspecting viewer. Fifteen minutes and three cities into the film, the Baron had already broken through to Dull Headache territory, and by the time the cringe-inducing caricature of a Chinese slaver (who may or may not be named "Alton Brown") was forcing a woman to have sex with a dog, he was right round the bend. I honestly feel bad for just having noted the lack of bestiality five minutes prior to this scene.
"Emanuelle Around the World" follows the intrepid, liberated photojournalist on her quest to bring down an intricate network forcing women into sexual slavery. What ensues is a series of vignettes of only-sometimes-consensual sexual activity in a variety of exotic locales. Emanuelle is like that annoying Facebook friend who posts pictures of herself standing in front of famous stuff, like you wouldn't believe she went to Washington, DC, without a picture of her grinning broadly in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Except instead of "grinning in front of the Lincoln Memorial," she's doffing her clothes for a lesbian encounter inside of a beautiful room tiled in classical Islamic style (yes, I realize that is pretty much a Wrongness Hall Of Mirrors). Emanuelle's adventure takes her from swank hotels in Manhattan to the compound of an Indian sex guru (played by George Eastman, who is super-duper-not Indian) to a Roman villa-cum-bordello (is that a pun?) to a slaver's dungeon in Hong Kong. Is it an elegant example of circularity that Emanuelle winds up back in New York under the Brooklyn Bridge with a bunch of high-powered hedonists in the film's climactic scene? Probably not, but it's worth noting for those with a more academic bent of mind. When absolutely everything about a movie is so stratospherically insane, perhaps "intent" is the craziest thing of all.
Capitalizing on ideas of free love and women's liberation, "Emanuelle Around the World" has plentiful scenes of Laura Gemser's Emanuelle sexing it up with men and women in a variety of combinations. The world is just one big turn-on for this lady and she's not about to let conventional mores get in the way of her humping-related activities. She exchanges some rather unconvincing political rhetoric surrounding the issue of sexual slavery (all of which sums up to a Mister Mackey-ish "it's bad, m'kay?") with her politician paramour (played by Ivan Rassimov, best know for his roles as creepy madmen).
Beneath the free love facade, the feminism of this movie is pretty damn sketchy and--to me anyway--fairly hilarious. If feminism had been invented by someone in the Pickup Artist movement, it would be a lot like this. There's an exchange within the first few minutes of the movie that sets the tone. Emanuelle runs from a hotel room, nude after an attempted rape, only to fall into the arms of a nattily be-suited gentleman, who tells her: "I'm a man who detests violence, but without your clothes, you really are quite provocative." And this is the way the movie determines he is probably a good guy because he manages to... you know... not rape the protagonist who has just escaped another different rape. This is a movie that ends on a light-hearted, happy note because only characters you're not really attached to get especially gruesomely abused.
That kind of political incorrectness is to be expected from grindhouse offerings like this. What might not be as expected is the way that naughty comedy sits right beside scenes intended to horrify. Emanuelle's adventures in India have a distinctly flirty feel to them--she witnesses an all-girl kama sutra training session, beds an innocent cultist, and comes to discover that the love guru overseeing it all has what I shall gently term "Endurance Issues." Her visit to Rome is a whole different kettle of fish*, however, as she and her friends are kidnapped and forced to participate in an uncomfortably graphic rape orgy. What's especially jaw-dropping about that sequence is that THE VERY NEXT SCENE after the rape orgy is Emanuelle and pals emerging from a cab, all smiles, asserting that the guilty parties will surely go to jail. All's well that ends well, clearly!
*When you have Scottish relatives, sayings like this creep into your vocabulary. I REFUSE TO APOLOGIZE.
After the movie was over, a rather shell-shocked Baron XIII turned to me and asked what he was supposed to feel. I don't have a good answer to that question. Perhaps it's a mix of emotions, like all the best art: a little bit of fremdschamen for the ethnic actors portraying terrible stereotypes, a little bit of envy of people who were able to make a living peddling filth like this to unwitting filmgoers, and more than a little bit of arousal at the less-rapey portions of the film. Or maybe you're just supposed to feel dirty and guilty. I can't hope to understand the motivations of Joe D'Amato in making this movie, but I can certainly salute the end product for its perfect crystallization of the concept of Guilty Pleasure.