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Laura Gemser - A Biography

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2006

Films starring Laura Gemser on (re)Search my Trash

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When softcore erotica hit the big screen big time in the 1970's, Laura Gemser was one of the many erotic goddesses who made came from (nude) modelling and made their careers in sex films. And thanks to her exotic beauty (she is a native Javanese), her slim and sensuous body, her willingness to show that body, a certain elegance even in her nude scenes, and her smile that could at once be innocent and seductive, paired with actual acting talents, make her one of the most popular performers of that era until this day, with many of her films being re-issued every few years, above all, her films as Black Emanuelle, the other, better Emmanuelle. In fact, Laura Gemser became so identified with her Black Emanuelle (which she actually only played in a handful of films) that many of her films that have nothing to do with the series bear the word Emanuelle in the tile - e.g. Divine Emanuelle, Sister Emanuelle or Emanuelle, Queen of the Desert.

 

Laura Gemser was born in 1950 in Java, but for her modelling career she moved to Europe sometime in her late teens or early twenties. She would pose nude for many Dutch and pan-European men's magazines like Lui or Playmen, before this exotic, erotic beauty caught the eyes of the Italian film industry.

 


Flix.com

Her first film, Amore Libero - Free Love (1974, by Pier Ludovico Pavoni) was nothing big, and the film, a light sex comedy with voodoo-elements, is largely forgotten by today, but it led to a supporting role in Emmanuelle, l'Antivierge/Emmanuelle 2 (1975, directed by Francis Giacobetti), the second entry into the Emmanuelle-series starring Sylvia Kristel. Gemser's scene is relatively brief (if nude) in this one, she is pretty much reduced to giving Kristel an erotic massage, but in this rather dull piece of erotica, she easily steals the show and her scene is the only memorable one of the whole film.

 


Building upon the reputation she has garnered with her role in Emmanuelle, l'Antivierge (and possibly also upon the fact that she actually was in an Emmanuelle-movie), Laura Gemser got the title role in the film Emanuelle Nera/Black Emanuelle (1975, by Bitto Albertini) later the same year. The film is actually not so much of a rip-off of Just Jaeckin's Emmanuelle starring Sylvia Kristel from the previous year but an original story about another promiscuous woman who rather by chance (and clever calculation of the producers) is also called Emanuelle (but with one m, to avoid copyright issues) - even if scenes inspired by the earlier film have found their way into this one and later films of the series. 

Actually, comparing Black Emanuelle to Emmanuelle, Black Emanuelle is the better film, gone are the endless silly dialogues, gone is the weird erotic philosophy that permeates the Emmanuelle-series, instead the audience is presented with plenty of nudity, beautiful African landscapes and at least attempts at telling an involving story.

In Black Emanuelle, Laura Gemser plays a photo reporter who comes to Africa to shoot pictures of the landscapes and wildlife. But very soon, she falls in love with her host Angelo Infanti, but before they can make love, she for some reason shags almost everyone else in the cast, including his wife Karin Schubert.

By the way, there also exists a hardcore version of this film, which is actually nothing more than the normal, softcore version spiced up with a few hardcore snippets shot later with other performers poorly edited in - something not uncommon in European erotic films of that era. Gemser's hardcore scenes were clearly done by a body double. 

Throughout her career, Laura Gemser never performed hardcore sex scenes, even if she starred in a few films that featured hardcore scenes (by other performers) as an integral part of the film (rather than shot and edited in later on).

 

On the set of Black Emanuelle, Laura Gemser also met veteran Italian actor Gabriele Tinti, a man 18 years her major who has been in films since 1951 (when she was just one year old). The two fell in love, and married in 1976. Their marriage only ended when Tinti died from cancer in 1991. Besides being a happily married couple, Tinti would also be Laura's co-star in many of her fims.

 


Black Emanuelle was a big enough success to spawn a sequel, but weirdly enough, director Bitto Albertini did not attribute the success of the film to his gorgeous lead actress, instead he filmed Emanuelle Nera No. 2/Black Emanuelle 2/New Black Emaunelle (1976) with a different actress, Sharon Lesley, who quite simply was no match for Laura Gemser. Furthermore, the film was a bit on the boring side, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the film created little interest.

 


Laura Gemser has meanwhile hooked up with legendary Italian (trash-)movie director Joe D'Amato (with whom she would eventually wind up to make over 20 films) [Joe D'Amato-bio - click here], who made an alternative sequel to Black Emanuelle, Emanuelle Nera Orient Reportage/Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976). For this film, as well as all subsequent films, the concept of the main character was altered a bit. Emanuelle was now no longer merely a woman looking for love, with various sexual partners, but a spunky investigative reporter who frequently uses sex to get out of a tight spot and who doesn't even refrain from sleeping with the enemy to get her story ... a little bit like those girl reporters from movies of the 1930's and 40's, only she wouldn't use her machine gun mouth but her body to get what she wants.

 

Regarding plot, Emanuelle in Bangkok hasn't got much to offer, it's either a travelogue crammed up with sex-scenes or sex repeatedly interrupted by beautiful scenery, whichever way you prefer to see it, but in the film, Laura Gemser once more shines, thanks to her apparent beauty and her uncomplicated approach to nudity and sex.

 




The same year, Gemser would also co-star with veteran actor Jack Palance in Eva Nera/Black Cobra Woman (1976, again by Joe D'Amato), and reportedly Palance was positively taken by Gemser. In this one, she plays a nightclub performer who tends to do her act with a giant cobra - and Palance is a snake lover who thinks she's the perfect woman for him.

 

Other Laura Gemser-films from 1976 included La Spiaggia del Desiderio/Una Playa Llamado Deseo/Emanuelle on Taboo Island (by Enzo D'Ambrosio), a rather dull drama about incest, and I Due Superpiedi quasi Piatti/Crime Busters/Two Supercops (by Enzo Barboni), a crime comedy starring the then immenmsely popular duo Bud Spencer and Terence Hill.

 





 

For the next two years, the Black Emanuelle-series continued to go strong, with Emanuelle in America, Emanuelle - perché violenza alle donne?/Emanuelle around the World and Emanuelle e gli Ultimi Cannibali/Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (all from 1977), and La Via della Prostituzione/Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade/Emanuelle and the Girls of Madame Claude (1978), all again directed by Joe D'Amato.

 



Of all these films, only Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals - a violent adventure intended to cash in on the then current cannibal movie trend - has a coherent plot, even if some plottwists used to show Laura in the nude are quite ... adventurous. The other films somewhat resemble Emanuelle in Bangkok inasmuch that they are primarily travelogues filled up with sex, but at least attempts at storytelling are made: in both Emanuelle around the World and Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade she exposes a white slave ring (it's quite ironic actually - if not intended - to have a black woman expose a white slave ring), while in Emanuelle in America, she goes after a snuff ring. This one is probably the most notorious of the bunch, as it also features a bunch of hardcore sex scenes and the infamous horse masturbation scene (Laura Gemser performing in neither of the scenes). That despite of lack of an actual story neither of these films fell apart is once again thanks to Laura Gemser.

 

However, it seems that the Black Emanuelle-series has lost steam (and box-office appeal) pretty quickly, because as early as in 1977, Joe D'Amato used Laura - in her Emanuelle-character - to host a sleazy mondo-movie, Notti Porno nel Mondo/Emanuelle and the Porn Nights, which was followed the next year by Emanuelle e le Notti Porno nel Mondo 2/Emanuelle and the Erotic Nights/Emmanuelle the Seductress/Porno Exotic Love the next year. Both films were co-directed by Joe D'Amato and Bruno Mattei [Bruno Mattei bio - click here].

 

Apart from the Black Emanuelle-series, Laura Gemser spent the late 1970's in a string of insignificant but sometimes entertaining erotic features, many of which tried to cash in on her fame as Emanuelle by having the name in the title (sometimes only foreign release titles, but often also in the original titles). These films include:

 





Of more interest might be 3 movies from 1979:



Mavri Emmanouella/Emanuelle's Daughter: Queen of Sados (by Elia Milonakos), also from 1979, on the other hand does hold very little interest and is little more than a soap opera with some sleaze tagged onto it - but even as far as sleaze goes, this has been done much better elsewhere. And despite all her beauty, Laura Gemser is terribly miscast in this one as a bitchy and ruthless business woman.

 



Laura Gemser's films from the early 1980's were an incredibly mixed bag of goodies. By that time, the Italian film industry seems to have lost a drive of its own, so all the producers did was to jump onto any trend an American blockbuster might create and milk it dry ... which saw Laura Gemser star in in the Conan the Barbarian-inspired Ator l'Invincibile/Ator the Fighting Eagle (1982, by Joe D'Amato) co-starring Miles O'Keefe and Sabrina Siani, and in the Mad Max 2/Road Warrior-inspired Endgame (1983, by Joe D'Amato), co-starring Al Cliver and George Eastman. Both films of course paled in comparison to the originals, and they were not good films, but they were cheaply enough produced to make their money back. And if you are into trash films, you might rather like them.

 


Flix.com


Flix.com

Then there was Joe D'Amato's Caligola: La Storia mai Raccontata/Caligula: The Untold Story (1982), a sort-of follow up to Tinto Brass' notorious Caligula (1979), a sort of sleaze-peplum that (once again) featured hardcore sex and a horse masturbation (again Laura Gemser not performing in these scenes).

 

Le Notti Erotiche dei Morti Viventi/Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980, by Joe D'Amato) is a rather misguided attempt to blend the erotic and the (then current) zombie genre, in which Laura Gemser is the seductive leader of a bunch of zombies guarding an island paradise. In one scene, she bites off a man's penis during a (simulated) blowjob. Ouch ! George Eastman is Laura's co-star in this one.

For some reason, this film is repeatedly confused with Porno Holocaust, a zombie/hardcore feature by Joe D'Amato that was shot back-to-back with this one, in which Laura Gemser did not appear at all.

 



Flix.com


Flix.com

Follia Omicida/L'Ossessione che Uccide/Murder Obsession (1981) had Laura Gemser starring in horror legend Riccardo Freda's last feature.

 

The Bushido Blade (1981, by Shusei Kotani), an interesting if not too special samurai period piece had her co-starring with Richard Boone, James Earl Jones, Toshiro Mifune, Sonny Chiba and Mako.

 

Horror Safari/Invaders of the Lost Gold (1982, by Alan Birkinshaw) had her co-starring with Stuart Whitman, Woody Strode, Edmund Purdom and Harold Sakata.

 



1982 saw the return of the character Laura Gemser became famous with in the first place, Black Emanuelle for a couple of women in prison-films, Violenza in un carcere femminile/ Violence in a Women's Prison/ Emmanuelle in Hell (1982) and Emanuelle Fugal dal'Inferno/Emanuelle's Escape from Hell/Women's Prison Massacre/Blade Violent (1983), both directed by Bruno Mattei [Bruno Mattei bio - click here]. But unfortunately, Mattei's approach to the series was quite different from D'Amato's: Gone is the good-natured sequence of sex and sleaze, with Laura Gemser always winning one back with her lovely smile, Mattei's thing is in-your-face violence, blunt exploitation and merciless degradation of his main characters, paired with a total disregard for them. And Laura's (or anyone else's) nude scenes are few and far between. Maybe it was best that the series was discontinued for good after these features.

 

Another film of interest is 1982's La Belva dalle Calda Pelle/Dirty Seven/Emanuelle, Queen of the Desert (by Bruno Fontana), in which Laura Gemser uses her seductive charms on a group of mercenaries who killed her father and raped her sister. Unfortunately the film's bland direction does not do the clever story (interestingly written by its director himself) much justice.

 







In 1983, Laura Gemser even landed a role in a middle-of-the-road American TV-movie, Love is Forever/The Comeback (by Hall Bartlett) starring Bonanza's Little Joe Michael Landon, Priscilla Presley and Jürgen Prochnow. For this film, Laura was credited as Moira Chen, as the producers attempted to not identify her with the sleaze she was normally doing. Shame on them, especially since Love is Forever is such a cheesy lovestory that tries to fake significance by disguising as a political drama, but is at best half as politically interesting as some of the better Black Emanuelle-movies despite all their silliness.

 


1984 saw Gemser in another sex-film, once again by Joe D'Amato, L'Alcova/The Alcove, co-starring Al Cliver, Annie Belle and Lili Carati. In this one, Laura plays a slave to an Italian aristocrat at the beginning of the century, who turns the tables on her master and mistress - it's just too bad that the film has an ending which turns her into the villainess and pretty much destroys the impact of the movie's plot.

 

One of Laura Gemser's silliest films from that time though has to be 1981's Die Todesgöttin des Liebescamps/Divine Emanuelle/Love Cult, directed by and co-starring former German Schlager-singer Christian Anders, in which Gemser plays a seductive leader of a cult that propagates free love - which pretty much means shagging around with everyone (and Laura Gemser of course does her bit of shagging). Somehow her role is based on real-life cultleader Jim Jones, and then there's Kung Fu in this film too .... this one has to be seenn to be believed.

 



By the mid-1980's though, the softcore-erotic boom was pretty much over, and despite being only in her mid-30's, Laura Gemser was getting a tad old for that genre as well, so gone were pretty much her leading roles, and gone was her stardom.

 

Joe D'Amato, a longtime friend of hers and one of the few Italian directors to still do softcore erotica (at that time, he later turned exclusively to hardcore as well) still featured her in his films, but her roles grew ever smaller, and she was usually supporting actresses who didn't have a fraction of her talents or her looks.

 

Films from that era include Il Piacere/The Pleasure (1985), Pomeriggio Caldo/Afternoon (1988), Blue Angel Café (1989), La Signora Di Wall Street/High Finance Woman (1991), and 11 Giorni 11 Notti/Eleven Days Eleven Nights (1986) and its direct sequel, Top Model/11 Days, 11 Nights Part 2 (1988), in which Laura, supporting Jessica Moore [Jessica Moore-bio - click here], does her last nude scene.

 

A fun to watch is also 1990's Ator l'Invincibile/Quest for the Mighty Sword/Ator III: The Hobgoblin, Laura's last significant role, once again directed by Joe D'Amato. The film is actually a confusing fantasy story featuring wooden actors (aside from Laura Gemser), cheap costumes and scenery and even cheaper effects ... and the result is a regular laugh riot, not to be missed.

 


With her acting career vanishing before her eyes, Laura - encouraged by Joe D'Amato - turned to costume design (she actually had a formal training in that field), and from the late 1980's onwards, she tailored the costumes for many of the films produced by Joe D'Amato's Filmirage, including Ritorno dalla Morte/Frankenstein 2000 (1992), D'Amato's own misguided attempt to make a comeback as horror director, above mentioned Quest for the Mighty Sword, Metamorphosis (1990, by George Eastman), in which she also had a small part, La Casa 5/Beyond Darkness/House 5 (1990, by Claudio Fragasso), the trashfan-fave Troll 2 (1990, Claudio Fragasso) and Le Porte del Silenzio/Door to Silence (1991, by Lucio Fulci [Lucio Fulci bio - click here]).

 

However, with the death of her husband Gabriele Tinti from cancer in 1991, Laura Gemser retired from the film-industry for good and has since given only very few interviews regarding her past life. Nowadays she prefers not to be found ... but at the same time, with a look, a smile and talents like hers, she is unlikely to ever be forgotten.

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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