Emmanuelle is the lead character in a series of Frenchsoft pornerotic movies based on a character created by Emmanuelle Arsan in the novel Emmanuelle (1959). Only films and episodes produced by the ASP ("Alain Siritzky Productions") film company are official and based on Arsan's character.
The name Emmanuelle (and its various spelling combinations) has gone on to become a by-word for erotic film.
Emmanuelle appeared as the nom de plume of Marayat Rollet-Andriane, a French-Thai actress born in the 1930s in Bangkok. Her 1957 book The Joys of a Woman detailed the sexual exploits of Emmanuelle, the "bored housewife" of a French diplomat. Rollet-Andriane's book caused a sensation in France and was banned.
The producer of another Arsan/Rollet-Andriane film Laure, Ovidio Assonitis, claimed that all books published under the nom-de-plume Emmanuelle Arsan were written by her husband Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane rather than by Marayat .
The first Emmanuelle film was the 1974 French theatrical feature Emmanuelle starring Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel (1952-2012) in the title role. She came to be the actress best identified with the role. This film pushed the boundaries of what was then acceptable on screen, with sex scenes, skinny-dipping, masturbation, the "Mile High Club", rape, and a scene in which a dancer lights a cigarette and puffs it with her vagina. This film was created and directed by the Frenchman Just Jaeckin.
Unlike many films that tried to avoid an X-rating, the first Emmanuelle film embraced it, and became a success with a viewing audience estimated at 300 million. It remains one of France's most successful films, and played in the Arc de Triomphe theatre for over eleven years. In France and the US the film was uncut, but British censors balked at masturbation and explicit sex. Heavy cuts were made to the film including the complete removal of the opium den rape and the infamous 'cigarette' sequence in the club.
Several sequels starring Kristel followed, beginning with Emmanuelle 2 known as Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman in its U.S. release, and also Emmanuelle l’antivierge in some European press materials, including the soundtrack LP and CD. Kristel sold her interest for $150,000, missing on a share of the film's $26m domestic gross. She was paid $6,000 for her role but negotiated a $100,000 contract for the sequel, Emmanuelle 2.
Kristel stepped away from the role in the 1980s, yielding to younger actresses, but returned for the seventh feature film. In 1992 and 1993, Kristel reprised the role of an older Emmanuelle for a series of made-for-cable films with title such as Emmanuelle's Love and Emmanuelle's Perfume, which featured Marcela Walerstein as a younger version of Kristel's character. Kristel did not take part in any love scenes for this series, which also co-starred George Lazenby, also in a non-sexual role. Kristel also appeared in films throughout her career that capitalized on or parodied her Emmanuelle image, such as the American sex comedyPrivate Lessons.
A number of unofficial productions in Italy, Japan and the United States cashed in on the Emmanuelle craze, changing the spelling of the title. In a number of cases, the character's name was spelled "Emanuelle" suggesting these films were not authorized. Among the best known were Italian "Black Emanuelle" films starring Laura Gemser, who became the second most popular actress to play Emanuelle in the 1970s. The 1978 spoof Carry On Emmannuelle (with double "N") starred Kenneth Williams as the French ambassador to London. Having lost his libido by landing on a church spire during a parachute jump, he discovers his sex-starved wife, Emmannuelle Prevert, has seduced a string of VIPs. It starred Suzanne Danielle in the title role.
After the last official Emmanuelle theatrical feature film, Emmanuelle au 7ème ciel (the seventh film for which Kristel returns as the main character), ASP took Arsan's character to made-for-cable instead. These included a science fiction series in the 1990s called Emmanuelle in Space starring American actress Krista Allen in one of her first roles. Emmanuelle: The Private Collection introduced Natasja Vermeer in the lead role for another slew of video episodes, one featuring an erotic showdown with Count Dracula.
The film played to packed houses in Paris, running for years. Emmanuelle was also an international hit and has played to 300 million. French distribution company Studio Canal has acquired home video rights for a number of Emmanuelle movies and has released remastered DVDs of the films. Taking video and DVD into account revenue is estimated close to 650 million.
The sexual explicitness in Emmanuelle films varies from arty softcore to full hardcore, although no penetration or oral sex made it to public versions. Many question the place of hardcore scenes in Emmanuelle and ASP never attempted to mix the two genres after experimenting in the late 1980s.
Emmanuelle 4 (1984), starring Kristel and new Emmanuelle Mia Nygren, had hardcore scenes shot, but they were never used. These scenes, which did not involve the main actors, were included in television versions and turned up as extras on European DVD editions of Emmanuelle 4 and in a version called "Emmanuelle 4X" on a VHS in France in the 1980s.
Emmanuelle 5 (1986), directed by Walerian Borowczyk, was released in two versions: one with softcore love scenes, and a French home video version that extended several scenes with hardcore sex directed by Borowczyk (apparently Borowczyk said that he had not directed them). The scenes are the Love Express and dance studio segments, embellished with penetration, ejaculation and a woman urinating. This VHS version omits several minutes of footage seen in the public version (including dialogue and plot).
Emmanuelle 6 (1988) also had two hardcore scenes (one short without ejaculation - but fellatio and penetration - with the couple comprising a man and a woman, whom Emmanuelle watches in a horse box, and the second longer, with fellatio, penetration and ejaculation, starring the same couple entering the place where Emmanuelle was being held prisoner at the end of the movie), directed by erotic horror specialist Jean Rollin. However, they were not used in the theater version, but were included on a hardcore VHS version in France.