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  Emily Stark NakedBuy this film here.
Year: 1976
Director: Henry Herbert
Stars: Koo Stark, Sarah Brackett, Victor Spinetti, Jane Hayden, Constantine Gregory, Ina Skriver, Richard Oldfield, David Auker, Jeremy Child, Jeannie Collings, Jack Haig, Pamela Cundell
Genre: Drama, Sex, Trash
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Emily (Koo Stark) was born in New York City, but moved to London early on, which explains her English accent. Now she is heading off to the countryside to stay with her mother (Sarah Brackett) who lives with her lover Richard (Victor Spinetti) in a mansion house, complete with maid (Jane Hayden) and cook, but what Emily doesn't know is how her mother is able to live in the lap of luxury. After arriving by pony and trap, she greets her mother and at dinner that evening gets to know her mother's friends, including artist Augustine (Ina Skriver) and pilot James (Richard Oldfield) who catches her eye with his modesty and American charm...

That latter of whom she consequently spends the rest of the night fantasising about in bed, because yes, it was soft porn time and this was a British entry in the form, supposedly the British Emmanuelle, a French film that was still raising a fortune when this was released, but probably closer to Bilitis, considering that too concerned a teenage protagonist on a sexual awakening. Actually, more often than not your typical softcore effort of the seventies out of the United Kingdom would be a comedy and watching something like Emily made you realise why so many of these included the jokes: not necessarily because the sex was funny, more because it was embarrassing.

It was certainly embarrassing for Koo Stark, who in the eighties was still pursuing a career as an actress and moving into photography, but had gained far more fame than she was able to cope with when she became the girlfriend of Prince Andrew. The tabloids sniffed around and were predictably delighted she had doffed her togs in a few piffling skinflicks, giving them so much exposure that the rumour was the Prince was advised to drop poor Koo by those in authority since there was no way she would ever be the Duchess of York with that reputation, so any thoughts of wedding bells were thoroughly silenced. Thereafter she drifted into semi-obscurity, recalled by a hardy few.

Well, a hardy few who pursued an interest in British trash movies, as despite the trappings of sophistication producer and writer Christopher Neame tried to elicit, this was pretty tawdry stuff that focused on its seventeen-year-old heroine's virginity and who would eventually claim it. When you know one of those candidates was Victor Spinetti, who shares a scene with Emily that looks unpleasantly less like a seduction and more like sexual abuse, you'll have an idea of how seriously you should be taking this on any level but of the sexual fantasies of middle-aged Neame (not to be confused with the other Christopher Neame, the actor who was Johnny Alucard in Dracula A.D. 1972). Whether he was trying to relive the reveries of his youth - this was set in the nineteen-twenties, but he wasn't that old - or seeking to make a fast buck was debatable.

They're not mutually exclusive, of course, but there were strong signs Neame believed this was as classy a sex film as he could muster, which made it all the more ludicrous. Was there anybody who wanted to see Spinetti naked, for instance (a really big fan of Beatles supporting actors, perhaps?), and anybody satisfied by the climactic coupling that resembled a bout of all-in wrestling a referee should step in to break up would have to be very easily pleased. Yes, Stark was attractive, yet the plot featured her character being seduced by older men and women, which was exploitation whichever way you looked at it, no matter such dialogue as Emily musing out loud about being conquered by someone more mature. Despite the self-serious mood (with a few lame gags thrown in), it was often funny for the wrong reasons, not least erstwhile poet Rod McKuen's dreadful songs which sounded more appropriate to a contemporary TV variety show than a steamy romp. A relic, yes, but it did have a place in pop culture, just an ignominious one.

Aka: The Awakening of Emily
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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