If there were ever a director that couldn’t be placed solely into one specific genre, it’s Mario Bava. Sure, he’s most widely associated with giallo, a genre he helped create, but he’s much more than that. He always bounced around, getting his feet wet in various parts of the pool. In 1972, in what ended up being one of the last film’s of his illustrious career, he gave us the sharp and darkly humorous, Four Times That Night.
Four Times That Night is an Italian sex comedy told from four different viewpoints. In any other hands, this film could have easily become a fairly typical sex romp with slightly crude humor. Perhaps an enjoyable film still, but more or less forgettable over time. In the care of Bava, however, this ends up being a smart, clever film with an interesting message regarding truth and perspective.
The film revolves around two main characters, Tina (Daniela Giordano) and John (Brett Halsey), and the date they went on. What exactly happened on said date changes depending on who you ask. The first POV we hear comes from Tina. And as far as she can recall they went out dancing, went back to John’s place and then he got a little handsy. In fact, when Tina gets back home after her date, with her dress ripped, she tells her mom that John attempted to rape her.
When John is sitting around telling his buddies about his wild night out, he tells things a bit differently. As he remembers it, Tina is the first girl he hooks up with that actually has a sexual appetite that outdoes his. In his version of the events they have sex and then Tina wants more and more and more and more. Eventually, John is “saved” when some friends stop by. The next day he’s exhausted.
Our third retelling comes via the creepy old doorman (Dick Randall) that works at John’s apartment building. It’s established that he’s fascinated by porn and has a fetish where he watches the tenants in his building as they have sex. In his perverted mind, he believes he saw John and Tina going at it until John’s friends, Esmerelda (Pascale Petit) and George (Michael Hinz), stop by. From there, he believes John and George go back to John’s room and hookup while Esmerelda seduces Tina in the living room.
The final version of our story takes bits and pieces from the three prior versions, adds in some new twists and turns and ends up with a final result that is far different than anything else we heard prior. If we’re to believe this final tale, the whole thing was basically your standard first date with plenty of awkwardness, that just ended up having a bizarre finish thanks to some unforeseen mishaps.
This is a film that teaches us people will always tell stories in the way that best benefits them, while also highlighting that sometimes the truth is so absurd and unbelievable that a lie is just easier. And it’s all told with humor, even if some of it is a bit on the dark side. Both Tina and John view themselves as sweet and innocent while seeing each other as sex-crazed maniacs. In reality, they’re just a standard pair of young people that went on a first date, that was enjoyable but awkward, as first dates often are.
Or maybe that’s not the reality. The film isn’t exactly clear which story is the truth, leaving that for the audience to decide.
Bava, as he did so often, served as his own cinematographer, and did a wonderful job using his unique style as only he can. There are so many beautiful, vivid colors in this film, and Bava was an absolute expert and using those colors to his advantage. The movie was released in the early ’70s, but this is, without doubt, a slice of the swingin’ sixties. In fact, John’s apartment actually has a literal swing hanging in the middle of the living room.
The best shot in the film comes with Tina laying on the couch while John is on the other side of the apartment. Tina picks up what appears to be a cup or a vase made out of glass, and it’s a really striking red. Despite it being red, it’s see-through, and Tina lifts it up and looks at John through it and the entire screen is covered with a gorgeous red tint. It’s a little thing, but it’s visually appealing and sticks with you.
I love the picture presentation on most Kino Lorber releases and this one is no different. This is remastered in HD, but it retains that gorgeous film quality. There’s texture present, giving the film depth. The visuals are clear and the colors look great, but there are little imperfections here and there. It’s like you’re watching an actual film presentation and I always appreciate that.
There are two deleted scenes, one with John and Tina and another with Tina and Esmerelda, but I’m not sure calling them deleted scenes is entirely appropriate. It’s true they are deleted, but the visuals are completely deleted, leaving only audio. This happened because the film was released in Italian and English – both versions are present here – and the English version contained extended scenes. Well, unfortunately, these scenes were censored in Italy and the actual film was cut and lost, leaving us with only the English audio. So when you watch these scenes you start with the parts that are still in the film and then it cuts to black and you get just the audio.
Speaking of the two different versions of this film, there’s an important tidbit to know if you watch the English version. There are two short scenes towards the end of the film that was cut from the US release. These scenes still exist within the English version of the film, but there is no audio so when they come up during the movie Tim Lucas pops in just to let you know that it’s going to be silent for a moment.
Audio Commentary with Tim Lucas:
Bava expert Tim Lucas provides a detailed and informed audio commentary of the film. Lucas knows all there is to know about Bava and his commentaries are always. This one is no different. Listen and you’ll learn more than you could have ever imagined.
A collection of Mario Bava trailers from other Kino Lorber releases is included. As a trailer guy, I always love getting these tossed in.
FOUR TIMES THAT NIGHT proves that even in his later years Bava was still extraordinarily talented. It’s a sex comedy done with a smart angle and an arthouse vibe. Think Bava doing his best Fellini. Highly recommended.
Four Times That Night is available now on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.