The Mondo-Esoterica Guide to

Laura Gemser


Laura Gemser was born in Java, Indonesia in 1950 and moved with her family to the Netherlands in 1954 where Laura was educated and studied fashion design. She entered the world of modelling and appeared as the centrefold in the September 1973 edition of the Italian Playmen magazine. The photographs caught the attention of Italian film makers and she was cast in director Pier Ludovico Pavoni's erotic film Amore libero (1974). The film was shot on the Seychelle islands and Laura later admitted that she had accepted the role as little more than an excuse to travel abroad.

While the film was not overly successful, Laura was offered a small part in Emmanuelle: L'antivierge (1975) by director Francis Giacobetti who had worked with Laura in the past as a photographer. The second of the Sylvia Kristel Emmanuelle films, following on from the iconic Emmanuelle (1974), Gemser's role was small, playing an unnamed masseuse in an erotic massage sequence, but it caught the attention of audiences and film makers and she was offered a part in Emanuelle nera (1975). Although seemingly intended as little more than a cash in on the popular French series, director and co-writer Bitto Albertini created a completely different character for Laura to play - a strong willed independent woman who has sex for her own pleasures, rather than the somewhat weak minded character whom Sylvia Kristel played. The film proved to be an enourmous success and Laura was quickly picked up for a sequel Emanuelle nera: Orient reportage (1976) for director Joe D'Amato. Although remaining very close to the original film in style, the Italian director who would become infamous for his sleazy erotic and horror films, put his trademark on the series with a violent gang rape and Mondo style footage of animals fighting.

Another successful film, Laura Gemser's name was becoming associated with erotica and with producers looking to cash in on the genre's popularity Laura quickly found herself offered numerous film parts; including co-starring with Jack Palance in Harry Alan Towers' Eva nera (1976); kissing French erotic star Annie Belle in Velluto nero (1976); taking holy orders in Suor Emanuelle (1977) and travelling to Greece for I mavri Emmanouella (1979). In true exploitation style Laura's presence meant that all of these films, and a great many more she starred in, would be marketed, particularly in English speaking markets, as Emanuelle films. Imbetween all these roles, Laura did appear in one 'straight' film - the Terence Hill/Bud Spencer family comedy I due superpiedi quasi piatti (1977), playing quite inexplicably a Chinese woman called Susy Lee, the rest of whose family is played by Chinese actors.

Laura returned to work with Joe D'Amato on four more Black Emanuelle films - Emanuelle in America (1977) and Emanuelle - Perché violenza alle donne? (1977) continued the episodic storylines with a dramatic increase in sleaze, while in Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali (1977) the series underwent a complete sea change as D'Amato looked to make a jungle cannibal adventure and the sex was exchanged for violent gore. The final entry to the series came with La via della prostituzione (1978) which boasts some of the series' most erotic scenes in the opening half hour but soon descends into suprisingly tame boredom. It was while on location in New York on the filming of the series that Laura married co-star Gabriele Tinti whom she met on the set of the original Black Emanuelle and she moved permenantly to live in Italy with him. Laura continued to appear in erotic films, appearing for the original Emmanelle (1974) director Just Jaekin's L'île aux sirènes segment of the anthology film Collections privées (1979) as well as West German film Die Todesgöttin des Liebescamps (1981) about a sex crazed cult and in two decidedly brutal women-in-prison productions for Italian exploitation maestro Bruno Mattei - Violenza in un carcere femminile (1982) and Emanuelle fuga dall'inferno (1983), the latter actually ressurecting the photo-journalist Black Emanuelle character for the last time.

Outside of erotica, Laura was cast in Riccardo Freda's final film, the giallo Murder obsession (1981); as a half-cast female samurai in the Anglo-American production The Bushido Blade (1981) and travelling into the jungle in the Indiana Jones rip-off Horror Safari (1982). The highlight of her acting career came with a lead role in the American television film Love Is Forever (1983) playing a woman from Laos being rescued by an Australian journalist - the effect on her career was considerably muted however when director Hall Bartlett insisted that she change her name to sever any links with her previous erotic films and so she was forced to appear credited as Moira Chen. Despite travelling around the world for filming, her loyalty remained with Joe D'Amato and she would appear in many of his films including the unsuccessful horror/erotic mix of Le notti erotiche dei morti viventi (1980) and the sleazy erotica Caligola: La storia mai raccontata (1982). He also brought her in for low budget sword and scorcery film Ator l'invincibile (1982) and the post-apocalyptic adventure Endgame - Bronx lotta finale (1983). As the decade rolled on, D'Amato moved from sleaze and attempted to mimic the more sophisticated softcore films of Tinto Brass, casting Laura in L'alcova (1984), Il piacere (1985) and Voglia di guardare (1986).

By the middle of the decade, Laura was wanting to step away from her busy acting career and for the next few years made just a few minor and cameo appearances in Joe D'Amato's films, including her last nude scene in Top Model (1988). D'Amato was such a fan of the actress however that he was determined to keep her on-board and hired her as a costume designer. In this role she worked on several films that D'Amato was producing for his Filmirage production company, including the ubiquitous bad movie Troll 2 (1990), haunted house horror La casa 5 (1990) and Lucio Fulci's final film Le porte del silenzio (1991). Two final acting parts came in George Eastman's horror film Metamorphosis (1990) and D'Amato's sword and scorcery 'Ator' sequel Quest for the Mighty Sword (1990). In 1991 her husband Gabriele Tinti died of cancer and Laura retired completely from the film business. Since then she has given occasional interviews and although admitting some embarrasment at what she had to do in the films, she never regretted making them.

DVD Reviews: Films starring Laura Gemser

L'Alcova (1984)

Severin US R1 DVD
Laura Gemser and Annie Belle star in Joe D'Amato's well written, classy softcore film.
Black Emanuelle (1975)

Optimum UK Region 2 DVD
The first of the Black Emanuelle series is low on plot but has plenty of sex and beautiful African scenery.
Certainly of interest.
Emanuelle Around the World (1977)

Severin US R0 DVD
Even sleazier than before including beastiality sequences, it does at least add a decent narrative flow.
Of interest.
Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)

Shriek Show USA R1
Joe D'Amato makes a major shift of genre and all but drops the eroticism in this jungle cannibal film.
One for cannibal movie fans
Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade

Severin US R1 DVD
The final film in the series is surprisingly tame. Some superb softcore in the first half hour then it loses its way.
Partly recommended.
Emanuelle in America (1977)

Blue Underground US R0 DVD
Joe D'Amato takes the series to new depths of sleaze with some incredibly depraved snuff movie sequences.
Of interest.
Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976)

Severin US R0 DVD
The first of the Joe D'Amato films has some good sex and storyline but also sees the start of the sleazy trend.
Sister Emanuelle (1977)

Severin Films USA R0 DVD
Gemser plays a nun in this enjoyable softcore film that follows on quite neatly from the official series.
Recommended to softcore fans.
Velluto nero (1978)

Severin Films USA R1 DVD
Laura Gemser's Emanuelle meets Annie Belle's Laure in this unusual surrealist erotica.


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All text in this page written by Timothy Young - November 2010.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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