Richie Calhoun and Penny Pax star in 'The Submission of Emma Marx.'

‘The Submission of Emma Marx’: Adult Empire Porn Movie of the Year 2013

“This man had complete control over me . . . and I absolutely loved it.”

In 2013, The Submission of Emma Marx asserted its control over audience imaginations to become one of porn’s definitive statements on BDSM. Two factors led to the movie’s creation: the mainstream success of E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey books and the launch of the New Sensations Erotic Stories Series. 50 Shades, released in 2011, became a bestseller with its accessible yet provocative tale of a bondage relationship.

New Sensations executive Scott Taylor saw an opportunity to expand on the company’s plot-oriented line by capitalizing on the BDSM craze. He took the idea to writer/director Jacky St. James, who was in the midst of a series of collaborations with co-director Eddie Powell. At first, St. James wasn’t sure how to approach the material, although she had strong feelings about its mainstream inspiration.

“When my boss Scott Taylor at New Sensations asked me to do a 50 Shades of Grey type story, I didn’t know anything about BDSM. I hated 50 Shades of Grey – I thought it was the worst book ever written. I went on message boards and forums within the BDSM community and I was trying to educate myself, because I knew nothing,” St. James told Adult Empire in 2014. After educating herself on the particulars of the BDSM community, she was able to craft an incisive story about an impressionable grad student and the steamy relationship she develops with an enigmatic business executive. Casting the lead roles proved to be another challenge.

“[The original leads were] Remy LaCroix and Xander Corvus, both of whom temporarily quit the business . . . I had written the script for them, so then when we had to go back to the drawing board, I literally thought this movie was going to be a gigantic failure, and it turned out to be anything but! You now see Penny and Richie [Calhoun] in the leading roles – I can’t even imagine anyone being able to bring what they brought to the movie. Not Xander, not Remy – it was really Penny and Richie’s movie all along, and they just had it so that it worked out perfectly,” St. James said.

The movie signals its artistic intentions from the very start with thoughtful narration (St. James herself taking on the voice of lead character Emma) and mysterious music. Marx muses on the notion of conformity as we see her sister, Nadia (Riley Reid), have sex with her boyfriend after she accepts his marriage proposal. The contrast between the two sisters is immediate and obvious. Emma is bookish and serious; Nadia is carefree and fun-loving. Emma’s research on corporate America takes her to the office of William Frederick (Calhoun), an arrogant but fascinating executive who prefers to employ women over men. His comments are startlingly frank: “I get off on control. I get off on watching other people submit to it.”

Though taken aback by Frederick’s philosophy, Emma is undeniably attracted to him. The narration describes her cravings as we watch her masturbate in bed. Later, Frederick sends her a telegram saying he has a business opportunity for her once she reaches graduation. Months of anticipation pass before Emma is finally able to go to Frederick’s cavernous home to find out what he has in mind. As she thumbs through the document he presents to her, she realizes this is no normal job offering. “Is this a contract soliciting me for a BDSM relationship?” she asks incredulously. She feigns shock, but Frederick can tell the offer intrigues her. It’s merely the beginning of a sex-charged power game that makes 50 Shades look like a very pallid shade of gray indeed.

St. James and Powell are able to incorporate numerous memorable porn themes, including anal, without allowing them to overshadow the story. “In Emma Marx [the main characters] have an anal scene, but it wasn’t this crazy pounding, typical porno anal scene. There were a lot of dynamics within the relationship that appeared in that scene, with her resistance and then her sort of submitting to him. And that wouldn’t really be fully explored just through dialog. You see it in the sexual aspect, and I think it enhances the story to be able to do that,” St. James explained to AVN. Without giving too much away, the movie ends with a love scene that earns its sweepingly romantic tone much more honestly than the average porn feature. Even the strains of Edvard Grieg on the soundtrack seem completely appropriate rather than overwrought, as they might in less skillful hands. The gray-hued sight of Emma, blindfolded and quivering in pleasure, being drizzled with wax is certainly one of the most iconic moments of its porn era.

For Emma and the audiences who loved her, the story was far from over. The movie’s follow-up also rocketed to Adult Empire Porn Movie of the Year status, as detailed by Jackie Daytona in this retrospective.

Watch The Submission of Emma Marx instantly on Adult Empire VOD!

 

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