Four Times that Night (1972)

a.k.a. - Quante volte... quella notte (ITA)

Brett Halsey stars in Mario Bava's Rashamon inspired take on the Italian sex comedy. ABUS R0 DVD

The Film

Gianni (Brett Halsey) is driving along, trying to chat up attractive women by the roadside. He catches sight of beautiful Tina and chases her into a park where he chats her up and invites her to come out to a nightclub. She agrees to go with him but when she gets home at the end of the evening, her dress is ripped and she tearfully confesses to her mother how the lusty playboy tried to force himself onto her at his apartment. Gianni himself tells a rather different tale to his friends at the nightclub, about how his date was a nymphomaniac who wouldn't let him have a break. The apartment block's night porter chats to his friend, a milkman and has a very different memory of the evening as he watched from an adjacent terrace only to see Tina being seduced by another woman...

Although largely overlooked by Anglo-American critics today and rarely exported, sex comedies were the most popular domestic films released in Italy during the 1960s and 70s, easily outlasting the more famous Euro-cult genres like the Spaghetti Western and Giallo. For his one and only incursion into the genre, director Mario Bava determined to make something different to the often rather generic entries that usually relied on gratuitous nudity and crude humour. Like many films before and since, the script for Four Times that Night took its inspiration from the work of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and his film Rashomon (1950) which dealt with the idea of truth through four different recounts of the same event.

The script here follows a similar pattern, the first three stories being from three who were present and who tell widly different versions of the tale, seemingly for their own motives - Tina to defend her honour in the eyes of her mother, Gianni as a boast to his pals and the porter as an erotic story for his friend. There is some good humour in these scenes as we see the extremely different portrayals of the same characters and particular events, while the film manages to largely avoid the genre's usual crude humour, even in the portrayal of a male gay couple who, quite amazingly for the era when the film was made, are treated completely rationaly and never played for cheap laughs.

Unfortunately, despite its potential, the script is not quite as clever at it first seems. The three versions of the story are completely different in most respects, yet include a few recurring elements such as scratches on Gianni's head - the writers try to cleverly include this element into all three of the tales but there seems no reason for Tina or the porter to include it as neither Tina's mother nor the milkman have seen the scratches to need them explaining, nor is there any real reason for Tina to include the recurring themes of the locked gate or the meeting with the gay pair. The motives behind the different versions of the stories also comes across as rather flawed - no reasonable explanation at all is given for why Tina would choose to tell her mother that Gianni tried to rape her, particularly if he plans to continue their relationship, Gianni's tale portraying himself as a weak and shy man in the face of a sexually demanding woman is also rather baffling.

The porter's version seems to be the most troublesome - he seems to have made it up entirely as an erotic tale for the amusement of his friend - he includes a lengthy flashback to a nightclub scene that adds some nudity (if making little sense in the context of the story) - but then misses out an apparent lesbian seduction as he has to run downstairs to get his binoculars, arriving back only after it has finished. The final, forth part of the story is introduced by a psychologist who interupts the film to discuss the idea of truth and perception. He provides yet another version of the story, but ends it by casting doubt on the version he has just told, making this whole final chapter rather pointless. The end result is a script that provides four almost completely unrelated stories and misses out on a lot of humourous potential - the concept would probably have worked much more effectively if the versions were much closer, with only a few differences as each participant added their own twist - the porter's version could instead have been based on his voyeuristic interpretation of what he was seeing and the final story revealing the actual truth.

After his beautiful gothic fairytales of the early 60s, Bava had developed a flair for a very contemporary 'mod' look which he used most effectively in Diabolik (1966) and 5 bambole per la luna d'agosto (1970), accordingly Gianni's apartment and the nightclub scenes have a wonderfully contemporary appearance that helps to give the film a distinctly Italian flavour - aided by a very suitable soundtrack from composer Coriolano Gori (Le scomunicate di San Valentino (1974)). Perhaps due to Bava's well documented coy nature, despite several shots of nudity in the porter's nightclub flashback sequence, the main story itself has only one briefly revealing topless scene and although there are several other nude and sex scenes, they are all tastefully covered up.

A former Miss Italia in 1966, the beautiful Daniela Giordano who plays Tina is fortunately more than just stunt casting and she had appeared in a number of films (largley Spaghetti Westerns, including Buon funerale, amigos!... paga Sartana (1970)), allowing her to play well the quite demanding variations of the character. Gianni is played by American actor Brett Halsey who made a series of films in Italy, also including a number of Spaghetti Westerns (most notably, Bava's own Roy Colt e Winchester Jack (1970)) and is again able to play the mix of characteristics well, even being prepared to play himself as a homosexual in one version.

Four Times that Night has a neat idea behind it with lots of potential but is poorly developed, leaving a script that has some humour but becomes quite repetitive and dull. There is some good acting and Bava's direction is solid, providing some superb set designs, but his coy nature means that the film is somewhat lacking in the nudity demanded by the genre. Lightly entertaining and inoffensive, Four Times that Night has simply nothing to recommend it. Of interest only to Bava completists.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Brett Halsey - an American actor who appeared in several Euro-Westerns including Oggi a me... domani a te!
Directed by anyone interesting? Mario Bava - best known for his horror films, he did work in several other genres, including Spaghetti Western (La strada per Forte Alamo (1964)) and comedy (Le spie vengono dal semifreddo (1966)).
Any gore or violence ? None
Any sex or nudity? A couple of revealing topless scenes and several covered-up nude and sex scenes.
Who is it for? Of interest only to Bava completists.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print is noticably grainy with occasional specs of damage, but the colours and detail are good.
Audio Italian mono - sounds fine.
Subtitles English subtitles for the Italian audio.
Extras None
Availability Only available in the The Mario Bava Collection Volume 2.
Region Region 1 (USA, North America) - NTSC
Other regions? Previously released in the USA by Image Entertainment and also available from Raro in Italy, same prints and no additional extra features.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut as per the original Italian release - for US release, the producers incorporated some more revealing nude scenes using deleted scenes from the original filming, Bava has insisted that the Italian version is his preferred cut. Print language is Italian.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 10th January 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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