This one’s on Amazon Prime if you want to watch it. But, you know, don’t.
Soft porn experts (such as myself) and the more clued-up will probably have noticed that the Emmanuelle series has its own recurring motifs. All incarnations of Emmanuelle have, at some point, been seen on (or near) a wicker chair. She’s always bisexual. She’s always a hedonist, to some degree. And she’s always, always spelled correctly, with two Ms – Emmanuelle.
“Who are you?”Emmanuelle through time: Emmanuelle’s forbidden pleasures (2011)
“One M or two?”
And then there are the unofficial ones – not just the Black Emanuelle series with Laura Gemser, but a whole glut of others (some not even featuring a character called Emanuelle!) with the label slapped on – dodging copyright simply by eliminating the wicker chair and one of the Ms.
So how they actually managed to release this I have no idea!
Emmanuelle in Soho (1981)
Director: David Hughes
Starring: Mandy Miller, Julie Lee, John East, et al.
This one is a strange mix of sex comedy, sexploitation and a satire on the British sex industry (and, indeed, the US release – yes, there’s a US release – starts with a short documentary on the Soho adult films market). Like a lot of the other British sex comedies I’ve seen, it does at times appear to be a little confused about what it’s actually trying to do. There’s also very little sex. Man…
So, the plot. Struggling photographer Paul (Kevin Fraser) and his unsatisfied wife Kate (Julie Lee) live in Soho. They have been trying to make it big, but to no avail; therefore, their openly sexual pal Emmanuelle (Angie Quick credited as Mandy Miller) gets involved. Emmanuelle is presented here as a very British, very leggy blonde who, the first time we see her, is trying to sleep with Paul. Paul, however, is a married man and not up for being caught in flagrante delicto.
The first scene – the very first – reminds me starkly of why I found this very difficult to watch. The lines are delivered in a relatively piecemeal, monotone way – specifically from Paul, whose pitch and cadence neither vary nor amuse. None of the jokes really land, and because the scenes are so short (the film itself moves at a breakneck pace), I’ve found myself having to pause to puzzle out what’s going on at times!
Erotically speaking, we do indeed get a lot of the traditional “nudity without sex” here – as early as the second scene, which has Paul doing his photography thing with Emmanuelle and model Sammy (Kathy Green). They are getting increasingly naked as the scene goes along, and although Paul is being a professional, the girls are getting into it. Were it not for the fact that Paul genuinely says…
“bisexuality is very fashionable these days…”
…I might understand what’s going on here.
In fact, it’s those random, innocuous lines that throw me. We get things like “I’m a straight guy in a bent business” (Paul), “I’m always sexy early in the morning” (Emmanuelle) and “I wouldn’t handle his prick, let alone his business!” (Bill) coming in ten-a-penny, presumably to raise a smile, whereas all I’m raising in an eyebrow. Yes, it may be that this flick is from a less enlightened time, but you can’t possibly tell me that they’re even funny, never mind appropriate!
The antagonist is Bill Anderson (John M. East – also the co-writer and co-producer of this!), a sleazy porn producer who, I assume, is meant to embody the seedy, untrustworthy side of Soho. Emmanuelle, after sleeping with him (I assume – the scene cuts away), gets signed to his business with Paul representing her; Kate takes a job as a stripper to make ends meet. That’s it. That’s the film.
There is, somewhere here, a blackmail plot – something to do with our heroes having enough of Bill’s bullshit and fleecing him out of cash – but there’s very little of that. The majority of this is inoffensive nudity – not just Paul’s increasingly desperate photo sessions and Kate’s stripping for the very camp theatre director, but the obligatory “naked party scene” (we’ve seen this trope before) which takes up about a third of the hour-long runtime.
By the end, we don’t really care too much for the plot, which I suppose shouldn’t really be a surprise. What is a surprise is the fact that Emmanuelle in Soho‘s only actual sex scene takes place right at the end.
As I’ve said above, while there’s a lot of nudity, there’s very little sex in this. Scenes which involve some amount of sex either involve disrobing before they cut away, getting to a bed but nothing ends up being particularly explicit, or naked kissing, which may well be nice, but it’s fairly obvious what it is (and/or what it isn’t).
Here’s an example. In the third act there’s a lesbian sex scene in a bath of milk (yes), which cuts away and back several times. Each time we can see the girls kissing in a different position, but there’s clearly no touching elsewhere. Yes, it’s difficult to film lesbian sex, but it looks a little socially distanced at times. You could have the ladies wrapped around each other to kiss and that would give some indication as to what you’re aiming for. It doesn’t really work otherwise!
The final sex scene, which actually looks like a sex scene, is well-shot, but spoiled slightly by the context. Kate spends her time narrating over it – Derek (her male lover) is the other participant – but what happened to Paul? In Kate’s words, “he turned out to be homosexual, and into little boys. I like horny men.”
So there’s a completely new, totally superfluous gay paedophilia subplot here, which serves no purpose at all (other than to give Kate an out, I suppose). It’s both disturbing and ridiculous… plus, there’s been no indication at all of any of this for the rest of the movie! It’s the worst kind of ending: something so out-of-the-blue, so contrived, and so tacked on (not to mention ethically dodgy and maybe even a little homophobic!).
Emmanuelle’s not even in it that much!
So, yes. Emmanuelle in Soho is a confusing, disjointed mess. There’s a plot I’m not interested in, nudity which is so commonplace it doesn’t serve to titillate, sex which doesn’t happen, and a postscript so ridiculous that I had to rewind it three times to make sure I wasn’t hearing things!
Incredibly, I think I’d prefer this sort of film without a supposed Emmanuelle name, unofficial or not. It doesn’t do anything but sully it!