On June 23rd, Rolfe Kanefsky’s ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS was released on DVD by Wild Eye Releasing. Kanefsky is a veteran independent filmmaker whose 1991 debut feature THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE beat Wes Craven’s SCREAM to the meta-horror punch by five years by sending a video store clerk/horror junkie on a trip to a cabin in the woods with a bunch of his horny friends (and, of course, a murderous monster). Since then, Kanefsky has directed nearly two dozen features and written many more, and has been a key figure in the official EMMANUELLE series produced by Alain Siritzy.
ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS is Kanefsky’s director’s cut of EMMANUELLE’S SEX TALES (a.k.a. EMMANUELLE IN WONDERLAND), one of the entries in the most recent EMMANUELLE series, EMMANUELLE THROUGH TIME. ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS is a throwback to the sex-comedy fairy tale films of the 1970s, like Charles Band’s THE OTHER CINDERELLA. Kanefsky directed all seven films in the EMMANUELLE THROUGH TIME series, and while it has run on cable in the United States, it has only been released on DVD in Japan by Nikkatsu. Daily Grindhouse talked to Rolfe Kanefsky for an interview about this highly unique production, and about his involvement in the EMMANUELLE series.
Daily Grindhouse (DG): Please give us a few words of introduction for readers who may not be familiar with you and your work.
Rolfe Kanefsky (RK): I am an independent filmmaker (writer/director, sometimes producer) who has been working professionally in this crazy business for over 25 years, starting in the horror genre with THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE, when I was twenty years old. I’ve gone on to write and/or direct over fifty films in almost every genre including horror (NIGHTMARE MAN, THE HAZING, CORPSES), comedies (PRETTY COOL, BLONDE & BLONDER, ROD STEELE 0014), thrillers (1 IN THE GUN, TOMORROW BY MIDNIGHT, Lifetime’s WATCH YOUR BACK), family fare (MY STEPBROTHER IS A VAMPIRE?!?, MY FAMILY TREASURE, A TIGER’S TAIL), and erotica (EMMANUELLE’S INTIMATE ENCOUNTERS, ALIEN EROTICA, and the recent EMMANUELLE THROUGH TIME series.
DG: When did you first become aware of the EMMANUELLE series? Not as a filmmaker necessarily, just as a viewer or fan?
RK: I probably saw them first on late night cable growing up. It might have been one of the unofficial ones, starring Laura Gemser of BLACK EMANUELLE fame. One “M” means it was a rip-off and not produced by the original French team. I met producer Alain Siritzky in 1996 at the AFM (American Film Market). The previous year he had produced EMMANUELLE IN SPACE and was about to start the CLICK and BUTTERSCOTCH series based on the work of Milo Manara. That’s when I first got involved in the genre as a filmmaker.
DG: How did the “Emmanuelle Through Time” series come to be? Was the concept your idea?
RK: This was the brainchild of producer Alain Siritzky. A few years before we made this series, he had pre- sold the idea of doing a time travel series to Japan called EMMANUELLE THOUGH TIME. Scripts were written, but the series was never produced because the cost of doing a time travel series was too expensive. So he re-thought the idea and figured out “Through Time” could also refer to traveling through wormholes to different parallel universes. Alain was always interested in science fiction and cutting-edge science fact. He had a dinner once with Dr. Brian Green and talked about about String Theory.
Alain also became fascinated by blimps and “clean air” transportation. On top of this, he had in his possession a very rare “double-coconut” that kind of looked like a woman’s shapely buttocks. So he asked me to combine Emmanuelle, a huge futuristic blimp that looked like his coconut, and the concept of traveling through wormholes to different dimensions as the premise for EMMANUELLE THROUGH TIME. And that’s what I did, for better or worse.
DG: ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS is unusual in that it’s a tribute to a small movement of sex comedy/musical fair tale movies in the 1970s. Was that a tough pitch for the series?
RK: Well, basically Alain was open to my ideas as long as they worked with his ideas. When we were about to do the series, Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND had just come out and I thought putting Emmanuelle in that environment could be a lot of fun. I am a big fan of musicals of all kinds: THE BLUES BROTHERS, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, and THE FIRST NUDIE MUSICAL are some of my favorites. I remember seeing other off-beat muscials growing up like Charlie Band’s CINDERELLA and FAIRY TALES and Bill Osco’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND. I realized that nobody had really done an “adult” fairy tale movie in over 35 years so why not try to make one now?!
Alain was not for it at first. He was not a fan of ALICE IN WONDERLAND so I told him it would be more like an adult version of SHREK. Now, when I say “adult”, I mean soft-core. All of these movies were always soft-erotica. Nothing pornographic. My original tagline for what became ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS was “For Children Of All Ages… Over 18.” Finally, Alain let me write it. He was amused that I wanted to make it a musical but had no idea how we were going to pull it off. I told him “By sheer willpower”.
DG: How long was production on ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS? It seems like a pretty ambitious project, there are a lot of characters and the musical aspect means there was a lot of composition work to be done. How did that all come together?
RK: Well, ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS started as part of the EMMANUELLE THROUGH TIME series. The task was to make seven 90 minute feature films all in for $300,000.00 which was impossible! The only way this could even be attempted was to shoot all these movies simultaneously and that’s what we did. In 54 days, myself, my producer, Esther Goodstein, the cast, and a few dedicated crew members made the entire series. Nobody has ever tried to make seven movies at the same time and I highly doubt anyone will ever try to do it again, especially when one of them is a full-out musical!
Broken down, ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS was probably shot in about 6–7 days. We had to lose one musical number “The Big House” because it was impossible to shoot 3 full musical numbers in one day! Also, we were shooting two versions of some of these movies for an “R” rated version and unrated cable version. If all the footage of ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS was put together, I think the film would be close to 2 hours and 45 minutes in length! I’m still amazed we pulled all this off.
It was a real team effort. Post-production took a while. We had so little money and time that the process of making this series wasn’t much fun at all. We were always under the gun. When the budget exceeded the original sum, Alain told me just to cut all the musical numbers but I refused. That’s why I was making this film in the first place! In the end, I got 12 musical numbers and despite the lack of everything, I think the film works as a fun homage to this strange sub-genre of sexy musicals.
DG: Did everyone do their own singing, or was there a lot of lip-syncing?
RK: Actually nobody does their own singing in the finished film, even though some were very good singers. I realized early on that there was no way to professionally record original songs so before I wrote the script, I asked a few of my composer friends what songs they had finished that I could use. I was given about 24 songs and widdled it down to the 14 I could use. I then wrote the script around the music, figuring out who would sing what and when so they would come out of the story organically. Then the actors learned the songs to lip-synch and dance along. In the end, I think it works very well and the songs are a lot better produced than we could ever do on our budget and schedule.
The only vocal that was re-recorded was the Evil Queen’s song, “New Boobs” because it was originally sang by a man with slightly different lyrics. My producer, Esther Goodstein, ended up providing the vocals for the song in the final film. (NOTE: For real fans or those who are curious, “New Boobs” is an altered version of “Mood Boobs,” the title song for a short film I made years ago under the same name starring Tiffany Shepis. It is available in the 2-disc Troma release of THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE as a special feature.)
DG: Are there any plans for more US DVD releases for the other EMMANUELLE THROUGH TIME entries?
RK: Unfortunately, last October, Alain Sirizky passed away and his estate is up in the air as far as I know. He did sell most of this series to HBO/Cinemax and they played late night cable throughout the past few years. They bought five of the seven movies. With the release of ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS, there is only one film still not released in any form in the states. It’s called SEX, CHOCOLATE & EMMANUELLE. My original title was WILLA WANKER AND THE SEX FACTORY which should give you a pretty good idea of what that one is about.
Currently, there are no plans to release any of Alain titles until they figure out who takes over the company and library. Alain owned/produced close to 100 titles and overall, probably less than half ever received any kind of DVD release in the states. Internationally, they are a lot more available because that’s where he really made his money. America was always kind of a write-off for him. Even though Roger Corman made a lot of money on his titles, especially EMMANUELLE IN SPACE with Krista Allen.
But for me, I put the genre to rest with EMMANUELLE THROUGH TIME and wrapped up, with the final film of the series, EMMANUELLE’S FORBIDDEN PLEASURES, not only the EMMANUELLE series but all of the erotic series that I worked on between the years of 1996–2012. I’m proud of the work I did in this genre and hope, one day, the library comes in for the super collectors. There were a lot of talented artists and filmmakers who worked on these films and tried to make something with very little.
So, keep on the look-out for EMMANUELLE 2000, EMMANUELLE’S PRIVATE COLLECTION, THE SEX FILES Vol. 1–3, THE CLICK, BUTTERSCOTCH, PASSION & ROMANCE, SCANDAL, and EMMANUELLE THROUGH TIME. None of these series have ever been really given their due in the States. That’s 70 feature-length films. Many of which have never never seen.
They are not all great but many are worth checking out. ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS is not the norm, but it is the tip of a crazy iceberg and the last official release of a film produced by Alain Siritzky, my employer for many, many years, and a friend. When he saw the final film, he was very happy and said it reminded him of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, which is probably the best compliment I could ask for.
ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS is available on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing and on VOD platforms. The DVD includes a number of deleted scenes, extended and alternate musical numbers, and trailers.
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