Four Times That Night (1972)

Original Title: Quante volte… quella notte
Director: Mario Bava
Starring: Brett Halsey, Daniela Giordano, Dick Randall, Pacal Petit, Calisto Calisti
Music: Coriolano Gori

Four Times That Night is an Italian sex comedy. I know what your thinking – why on earth would I want to sit through a tacky Italian sex comedy from the early seventies? The answer is simple – it’s the people in front and behind the camera who are of interest to me. In this instance, it is director Mario Bava that draws me to this production. Bava hardly needs any introduction for most film fans. But for those who may have joined us late, check out my review of Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs and Tanner’s review of Danger: Diabolik.

Four Times that Night is a fairly simple concept film – the concept (borrowed from Rashomon) being that the same story is told from four different points of view. The basic heart of all four versions is that beautiful Tina Brandt (Daniela Giordano) and John Price (Brett Halsey) meet at a park one afternoon and decide to go on a date that evening. Price picks Tina up from her home and takes her out for a spot of dancing. Later he takes her back to his place, and somehow she ends up with a ripped dress and he ends up with scratch marks on his forehead.

Each of the four stories differs in how Tina’s dress happened to get ripped and how Price’s forehead was scratched. The first telling of the story is from Tina’s point of view, and it is probably the most unsettling of the four. In this version Tina implies that Price tried to rape her. In the struggle her dress was torn, and Price’s face was scratched as she tried to fight him off.

The second version is from Price’s point of view, and he paints Tina as a wild nymphomaniac. This is followed by a version told by the voyeuristic doorman at Price’s apartment block. His version of events paints all the tenants of the apartment block as gay. The fourth retelling comes from a psychiatrist (Calisto Calisti ) who informs us that we all see the same story through different eyes.

I once read (I can’t recall where) that Bava once said that all Italian directors in the early 1970’s had to make a sex comedy to prove that they weren’t homosexuals. It’s a strange little comment considering that the film is not homophobic at all. One of the four segments in the film presents us with homosexual and lesbian characters. It appears that certain sections of the industry at that time were more homophobic in real life, than the stories they were quite happy to present on the screen.

Four Times That Night is a strange little film. For a sex comedy, there doesn’t seem to be many comedic moments in the film – then again, I don’t think there ever was meant to be. As far as sex goes, there’s not to much going on here, and when there is, body parts are discretely hidden through clever camera angles, or even a light reflection on a glass shower wall. But that leads to another point – as you’d expect from Bava, the film is beautifully shot. The colours are all pumped to maximum levels, and the film features some fantastic mod sets and fashion design.

On the whole, Four Times that Night is a curiosity. I can’t call it a bad film, but it doesn’t really work as a sex comedy. Maybe if the rape and gay scenes were presented in a more controversial manner, then maybe the film would have worked as a study of social mores. Then again, maybe Bava’s heart wasn’t really in this film. Peer pressure may have forced him to make a sex comedy. But really there were other film genres that held more appeal for him.

SPY CONNECTIONS:

As previously mentioned, director Mario Bava is well known to film buffs for his lurid pop-art films. He is primarily known for his horror films, but Danger: Diabolik and Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs put him on the map as far as spy films go (I know Diabolik isn’t a spy film…but you know…it drips with sixties spy atmosphere, underground lairs and all the other trapping you’d expect.)

Brett Halsey appeared in at least two Eurospy flicks. Firstly in Spy in Your Eye, alongside a clearly inebriated Dana Andrews. Then Misión Lisboa in 1965.

Pascale Petit also racked up a couple of Eurospy credits, appearing in Codename: Jaguar and Killer’s Carnival (AKA: Spy Against the World).

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