Director: Bitto Albertini
Exploitation Digital/Media Blasters

After the worldwide success of Just Jaeckin's EMMANUELLE in 1974, the Italian exploitation market fell over themselves to cash in on the theme of a beautiful woman traveling the globe having a series of sexual misadventures. The most popular of these was definitely Bitto Albertini's BLACK EMANUELLE, starring Laura Gemser as the titular dark-skinned reporter banging her way around the world (Gemser had already appeared as a masseuse in the official EMMANUELLE entry EMANUELLE: THE JOYS OF A WOMAN). Albertini's film established Gemser as an international sex siren and she would continue in the role of "Emanuelle" (without the extra 'm' to avoid a lawsuit) with director Joe D'Amato. So Albertini was forced to shoot the official BLACK EMANUELLE 2 with Sharon Leslie, a shoddy replacement who never made another film. When this attempt failed, he tried once again with YELLOW EMANUELLE, another racial spin on the EMANUELLE legacy with an Asian beauty, Chai Lee. The results are predictably mixed, but, as with most Italian exploitation films of the late 70s, worth a peek for ardent followers of the genre.

Mustachioed British pilot George Taylor is having a wild night on the town in Hong Kong when he is attacked by a gang of greasy thugs intent on abducting his female escort. He is sent into a coma for three days and awakens to the sight of lovely doctor Emmy Wong, who helps him recover from his injuries. (What happened to the escort? According to his friends, she was "just a little frightened" and "used to that kind of behavior"!) George finds himself torn between Emmy, who is engaged to be married to a man she has never met, and Helen Miller, a secretary from his company who flies to Hong Kong to attend to his needs. And Helen gets the edge as she disrobes whenever she pleases and indulges in some skinny-dipping and beachside sex with our hero! But Emmy entrances George with her tales of local traditions and guides him through the city in a great travelogue sequence. The love triangle continues, with lots of opportunities for us to see Helen and George get freaky and Emmy pouting for her Caucasian lover. Helen gets wind of the couple's affair and interferes, leading to depression, prostitution, illness and suicide.

YELLOW EMANUELLE is a decidedly more racist title than the original shooting title, THE SENSUOUS WORLD OF EMMY WONG, but this way, the film was allowed to piggy-back on the success of D'Amato's ongoing series of BLACK EMANUELLE films. It's nowhere near as sleazy and entertaining as D'Amato's films, for Albertini is more interested in creating a soap opera with splashes of nudity and sex (as with his BLACK EMANUELLE 2) than in making a slickly-made skinflick. The film is reasonably well-written and the various twists and turns in the plot are very similar to "Madame Butterfly," but viewers expecting a sexy light-hearted romp will have checked out of this one before the 30-minute mark. However, those who hang on might find themselves really enjoying the tacky love story and surprisingly downbeat ending! The saving graces of the film are the gorgeous location photography of Hong Kong and Nico Fidenco's groovy musical score. Unfortunately, only a few sequences feature his music, but the bizarre title theme "Emmy Wong" is up there with Fidenco's "Celebrate Myself" (composed the same year for EMANUELLE IN AMERICA) at the top of the list of best Italians-try-singing-in-English craptastic tunes. The only recognizable face in the cast is Ilona Staller, aka infamous porn star Cicciolina (who luckily escaped contracting the HIV virus when shooting an adult flick with John Holmes during his final years!), and because she's so young here, fans may not notice her immediately. Male lead Giuseppe Pambieri isn't afraid to show some skin, either, making this an equal opportunity sexploitation flick. Chinese Chai Lee had a very random career: a bit part in a Bond film (FOR YOUR EYES ONLY), a featured role in QUEEN KONG, appearances on "Benny Hill" and "Space: 1999," she worked with the Muppets, and apparently did stunt work on AMERICAN HISTORY X!.

YELLOW EMANUELLE is presented anamamophic, preserved in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and looks pretty good. The opening credits begin grainy, but soon the image is crystal clear with sharp color and bright dark scenes. Some sequences remain grainy and dirty, but this is a serviceable transfer. The English mono audio is unfortunately pretty weak, and because the dialogue makes up most of the feature, you have to crank the volume up. Fidenco's score comes across fine.

Extras are pretty scarce on this release, but it's fitting as the film doesn't invite too many behind-the-scenes stories. In addition to a trailer (created by Media Blasters, but pretty well done), there is a collection of deleted scenes (all of which are taken from a full screen VHS and feature more graphic extensions of the sex scenes, more travelogue footage, and an extra scene of George searching for Emmy at her house), a brief photo gallery with posters, promotional photos, lobby cards, and video covers, and trailers for other Media Blasters releases (PORNO HOLOCAUST, S.S. HELL CAMP aka BEAST IN HEAT, SYNDICATE SADISTS and EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS).

As long as you don't expect a travelogue spiced with liberal doses of sex scenes and trash elements, YELLOW EMANUELLE is a pleasant surprise with a likable leading lady, nice locations and music, and an involving soap opera storyline. It's no classic, that's for sure, but it's worth seeing for followers of the Italian exploitation genre. Proceed with an open mind and patience. (Casey Scott)