Apr 10, 2010

Four Times That Night (1969)

Four Times That Night is completely inessential for the Mario Bava enthusiast. But if you're an enthusiast and must see everything that the master directed, as do I, then you'll probably want to see it anyway. But whatever you do... rent it first, before you decide to plunk down some hard-earned cash to purchase it.

This is one of those efforts in the late 1960's which Bava directed with complete indifference. Like any other Italian genre filmmaker, that country's greatest fantasy director nonetheless had to do his share of work in other subgenres, like sword-and-sandal, or even spaghetti westerns. This, his sole contribution to the "saucy sex farce", may be worth a look for the curious, but it is clear he had little interest in this project (typified by the sledgehammer use of the "let's get this over with quick" zoom lens). For the record, it is a feeble "Swingin' 60's" version of Rashomon, in which four points of view are offered over whether pretty virginal Tina was sexually assaulted at Gianni's groovy pad, and to a lesser extent, how Gianni got those scratches on his forehead.

Tina's version, given to her mother who frets over her daughter's torn dress, asserts that Gianni attempted to ravage her, yet she managed to escape by locking him in the bathroom. The scratches came from a self-defense maneuver. Gianni explains to some lonely bachelor friends that he brought the girl over to her place and even this man whore was quickly expired by the girl's unending appetite for sexual fulfillment. The scratches, in this version, are the result of the throes of passion. Most depraved of all, is the recount by the doorman of Gianni's apartment building, who tells his leering friend of that night's exploits. From this peeping tom's vantage point, he could see that the pair were visited by a male-female couple of neighbours, each of whom nonetheless cruise for members of their own sex. (We see this couple peripherally in the previous versions, as well as the doorman, who is busily cutting out nude pictures). This tasteless segment not only features some grotesque sexual stereotyping, but it ends with an offensive gang-bang sequence. Here is flashback filmmaking at its sloppiest. From the pervert's vantage point in the tree, we are nonetheless led to believe that he can not only hear their dialogue from so far away, but even fill us in on a flashback sequence within this flashback, in which the lesbian explains how she switched to same-sex preference.

Then we shift to the fourth, most idiotic and most bizarre sequence, given by some onscreen narrator, who poses as a psychiatrist, I guess, but his function is eerily similar to Bela Lugosi's in Glen or Glenda. First he rambles on about how all or none of the previous accounts could be true, which he then compares to the ambiguous accounts of the story of Noah's Ark! Okay then.

As infantile, morally ambiguous and skin-deep this effort is, I do concede that Four Times That Night is beautifully shot. With its pastel colouring and, otherworldly art decoration (ie- the swing in swingin' Gianni's living room), this and other Bava pictures of the period impeccably capture the 1960's "mod" pop-art world like no other. This exaggerated time capsule is nonetheless evocative of its period. That said, it is a good-looking package with nothing inside.

(adapted from a review originally published in ESR #9)

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