A woman and a man meet at a park. They agree to go dancing later that evening. Afterwards, they go back to his flat. At some point, her dress is torn and his forehead is scratched. These are the facts of the movie. The details, well the details are a bit fuzzy. Mario Bava’s 1970 drama Four Times That Night takes Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece Rashomon and turns it into a goofy sex comedy. We see the events of the night from three character's points of view and then a final "this is what really happened" segment. (It may not actually be what really happened.)
The woman, Tina (Daniela Girdano), tells her side of the story to her materialistic, religious mother. In it, the man, Gianni (Brett Halsey), is a sex-crazed pervert who might just be the devil himself. He rides around in his car, hitting on every pretty girl he sees. When he catches her bending over in a short skirt to pet her dog, he pulls over and chases her all over the park. Eventually, she gives in and agrees to a date because he drives a really nice sports car. He picks her up at her mother’s house and takes her to a wild club. When she insists he take her home, he instead drives to his apartment. There, he says he must make an important business call before he can take her home. Once inside, he repeatedly makes increasingly violent moves on her, ripping her dress in the process. She narrowly escapes by tearing at his face with her fingernails and fleeing the scene as fast as she can.
He tells his story to a group of his dude friends. In it, he is a shy sophisticate who is seduced by her, the sex-crazed nymphomaniac. She approaches him at the park, has her hands all over him, pushes him to go to the night club. Once there, she is quickly bored and convinces him to take her to his apartment where she immediately seduces him. Insatiable, she takes him over and over, ripping her dress and scratching his forehead in the process.
Lastly, the overweight, slovenly, doorman (Dick Randall) tells his version of events to the milk man. Taking a break from cutting out pictures of naked girls, the doorman snuck up to the roof to peep in Gianni’s window when he sees him bringing Tina inside. The lady is ready for some fun but Gianni brushes off her advances. He invites two friends over and it comes out that Gianni is a gay man looking for some fun with the neighbor. The lady friend is a lesbian who does her best to convince Tina into a night of passion.
With this story having now been told three times, a scientist then lectures the audience on how a person’s perception can color the facts of a story. He then shows us a final version of the story, which may or may not be what actually happened. "Who can tell?," he seems to ask. In it, Tina and Gianni meet as people do, get along spectacularly, and her dress is ripped, his face scratched by accident.
Four Times That Night is the strangest of Mario Bava’s films I’ve ever seen. Admittedly, that’s a pretty small selection but where his other films I’ve seen are stylish, well-crafted horror films, this one is a strangely lighthearted sex romp. From its opening credits with its jaunty jazz score and its oh-so late-'60’s animation, it announces that this is not going to be your typical Bava film. Bava usually carefully places his camera to capture unique, immaculately framed, and beautiful images, Here, the camera work is more loose, aping the style of so many countercultural films of the time. He lingers on Tina’s body, posing her in less and less clothes and all too often lowering the camera to peer up her skirt.
Other critics have tried to make more of the film than I think exists in its text. I’ve read reviews that try to find meaning where there is none. They say that Bava is burying themes of perception and the allusive nature of truth within a lighthearted comedy. The film is asking some deep questions inside the guise of a sex romp. He’s coating his vitamins with chocolate. But I don’t see it. Sure, it is using the Rashomon method to tell a story from different points of view and as Kurosawa demonstrated, there is something quite intellectual to be taken from that method of storytelling, but Bava’s sugar is so sweet and his story so shallow that he’s unable to say anything new.
If you like attractive people doing silly things in a very early-'70s setting, then Four Times That Night is a film for you. Otherwise this is very skippable.
Kino Lorber's remaster looks pretty good. It's mostly cleaned up, though there are a few very noticeable blemishes, and quite a bit of shimmering is present but it's very decent looking. Audio likewise is decent. This is not a film designed to give your system a work out, but the audio is easily understood (or at east heard, for I listened to the Italian version and I don’t speak Italian) and the score sounds nice. There is an English language track included. It should be noted that in the segment with the scientist there is no English track due to that scene having originally been removed from the international release. Instead, you get a snippet of the Tim Lucas commentary track.
Extras include that Tim Lucas commentary. He does subscribe that Mario Bava was aiming for something more meaningful than a silly sex comedy and it's worth listening to. Also included are two deleted scenes, which actually don’t include the video for it was lost, but it does include the English audio. There are also four trailers for the film.
Four Times That Night is not a good movie. It’s worth watching if you are a Bava die hard, and Kino Lorber has created a decent enough release of it, but mostly, this is not worth recommending.