Spains Sensitive Starlet – Remembering Emma Cohen (1946 – 2016)

Posted in Remember by - October 01, 2017
Spains Sensitive Starlet – Remembering Emma Cohen (1946 – 2016)

A lovely, talented and daring Spanish actress, Emma Cohen was a popular Euro-starlet in the Seventies, working with such notable directors as Eloy de la Iglesia, León Klimovsky and Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent. Flitting between comedy, drama and thriller, it would be a handful of cult horror pictures however, that she would be mostly remembered for.

Born Emmanuela Beltrán Rahola in Barcelona on November 21st 1946, Emma made her debut in Jorge Grau’s 1968 musical ‘Tuset Street’, before playing a vampire in Jess Franco’s strangely popular ‘Count Dracula’ in 1970. After a small role as a farmer’s daughter in the popular mystery ‘The Glass Ceiling’ (’70) Cohen played the daughter of Curd Jürgens’ betrayed husband, in the excellent giallo ‘Two Males for Alexa’ (’71), which had the beautiful Rosalba Neri as the cheating wife.

A change of pace that year saw Emma alongside Brigitte Bardot and Claudia Cardinale in the entertaining slapstick-filled western ‘The Legend of Frenchie King’ (’71). She was fun to watch, playing Bardot’s crazy and very short-sighted half-sister and fellow outlaw. The following year saw Cohen in two of her most memorable pictures. First there was Joaquin Romero Marchent’s superb (though very gory) western ‘Cutthroats 9’ (’72), a downbeat tale of a chain-gang of killers discovering that their chains are in fact made of gold. Emma played the daughter of the sergeant escorting the gang, who falls for one of the chained killers. Then there was Eloy de la Iglesia’s cult horror flick ‘The Cannibal Man’ (’72), where she played the fiance and later, victim, of a man who finds he must kill in order to cover up an earlier accidental killing. Atmospheric and sometimes grisly, the movie was once banned in the UK, and was the first film to be shown in theatres with free vomit-bags!

After playing Jane Birkin’s roommate in the silly comedy ‘The Powder Puff Gang’ (’72), Cohen was Elvira, the gorgeous girlfriend of Paul Naschy’s warlock, in Naschy’s cult favourite ‘Horror Rises from the Tomb’ (’73), a stylish exploitation piece that came in two versions, including an “un-clothed” edit. Next up was Jess Franco’s ‘Obscene Mirror’ which saw Emma as a suicidal lounge singer who retreats to an idyllic isle after her father’s tragic death. One of Franco’s better efforts, this also came in various versions, including one with unnecessary hardcore inserts. Still, it was a daring departure for Cohen and her sensitive performance would become one of the best to be found in any Franco movie.

Following dual roles in the little-seen comedy ‘Las Obsesiones de Armando’, Emma supported Catherine Deneuve in ‘The Lady with Red Boots’ (both ’74), a watchable fantasy directed by Juan Luis Buñuel, son of surrealist legend Luis Buñuel. A handful of little-seen comedies came next, including ‘Deseo’ and the brothel-themed ‘Come back, dear Nati’ (both ’76). Cohen later bared all in the “Peppermint” segment of the excellent anthology ‘Erotic Stories’ (’80), a memorable production in which Cohen also directed another story in the movie; ‘Broken Dreams’.

With her best movie work behind her, Cohen ventured into television, though she did find time to appear in the excellent comedy-drama ‘Voyage to Nowhere’ (’86), about a travelling family of theatre performers in 1950’s Spain. A multi-award winner, it was a standout in Spanish cinema, and has remained a favourite with Spanish viewers. Mainly retired, Emma would only appear in about half a dozen productions in the intervening years, with a small role in 2005’s ‘The Hidden’ the most notable.

The longtime companion of acclaimed actor/director Fernando Fernán Gómez, Cohen succumbed to cancer, on July 11th 2016. She was 69 years old. A genre-crossing actress, Emma Cohen injected sensitivity into a handful of memorable pictures, as well as a vulnerability in a few dark and disturbing productions. A favourite of mine, I think she will always be one of the most interesting figures of European cult cinema.

Favourite Movie: Cutthroats 9
Favourite Performance: Obscene Mirror

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