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 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.
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,
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
interest might be 3 movies from 1979:
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.
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
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
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).
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
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.
Follia Omicida/L'Ossessione che
Obsession (1981) had Laura
Gemser starring in horror legend Riccardo Freda's last feature.
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
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
Another film of interest is 1982's La
Belva dalle Calda Pelle/Dirty
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.
Laura Gemser's silliest films from that time though has to be 1981's Die
Todesgöttin des Liebescamps/Divine
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.
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
(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
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.
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,
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
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.