Written by: Nick Frame on April 29th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1972
Director: Mario Bava
Cast: Brett Halsey, Daniela Giordano, Pascale Petit, Brigitte Skay, Nino Korda, Michael Hinz, Ini Assman
DVD released: March 2006
Approximate running time: 83 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1:85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: VM14 (Italy)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: Raro Video
Region Coding: Region 2 Pal (Italy)
Retail Price: €11.90
Mario Bava’s Quante Volte…Quella Notte (Four Times That Night) is a real departure for those who know him more for his Gothic horror like Black Sabbath or taut gialli like Blood and Black Lace. Quante Volte is something completely different, yet his direction and storytelling ability are still very much apparent. On the outset, it looks like a simple Italian sex farce, as we are introduced to Gianni Prada (Brett Halsey) in his kerb crawling sports car while he eyes up the lovely Tina (Daniela Giordano) who is out walking her dog Coolie. He strikes up a conversation and they agree to go out later that night. However as the film progresses, we learn that it’s slightly more than a simple sex comedy, indeed its really more an investigation into human perception that borrows its structure more from Kurosawa’s Rashomon rather than Edwige Fenech’s School Teacher series.
After accepting the offer of a date, Tina returns home afterwards, very late and with her beautiful dress ripped, while attempting to explain to her mother what happened. After asking Gianni to take her home, he persuaded her to go back to his apartment as he was expecting an important business call. From there, she sobbingly recounts, he turned from a gentleman into a lecherous monster who tried to rape her. Despite all this and during a struggle she manages to scratch his forehead, somehow escape from his evil clutches and make her way home. We now move onto Gianni, who is telling his side of the tale to his salivating buddies in the nightclub, who want all the pertinent details. Conversely Gianni paints himself as the shy young boy and Tina not as the scared young girl protecting her virginity, but as a total sex kitten who wants constant sexual satisfaction. He is now the timid gentleman unable to cope with the lusty whore. Only a knock on the door by his friends Giorgio (Michael Hinz) and Esmerelda (the lovely Pascale Petit) save him from her wanton clutches. Gianni’s unnamed portly doorman is next to deliver his side of the evenings events; as the rooftop voyeur spying on Gianni and Tina, in the hope of a free show! However he describes Gianni to be a sly homosexual who has taken Tina to the apartment not for his own delectation but for that of his lesbian friend Esmeralda, while he and Giorgio get it on in another room. What is the real truth? Did Gianni really try and rape Tina? Could Gianni be gay? Is our Catholic schoolgirl really an insatiable sex machine? Only Bava can reveal the truth in the fourth and final act of this tantalising tale.
Quante Volte is something of masterpiece in my opinion and a film I’d longed to see. Images original release is long OOP and this edition from Raro Video in Italy is long overdue. I’ve long been a fan of Bava from my first experience with Blood and Black Lace to my favourite fumetti Diabolik being brought to life with his classic Danger: Diabolik. This however is a film to truly savour and one that really needs to be seen a few times to really devour it and ensure we’ve picked up all the relevant clues and symbolism. The reason it works so very well is that Bava is a fine storyteller and with this film he questions our ideas about truth and perception and pleasingly nothing is always as it seems and the truth is often murky.
Performances are really good from Halsey, whose performance suits each viewpoint perfectly, and what can be said about Daniela Giordano, the former Miss Italy. She is impossibly beautiful and a fine actress into the bargain. Indeed doubt could surely be cast on Gianni’s version of events if he was able to spurn her sexual advances, how could any man resist? Again despite budget restraints, Bava has once again created a wonderful look for the film. The groovy funked up disco looks sensational, while Gianni’s apartment has everything a tricked out playboy could want, the hidden drinks cabinet with the obligatory bottle of J&B whiskey, the psychedelic turntable and the swing that has so many erotic and sexual connotations. Also interesting to note that Bava generally did not like nudity in his films, but at the time in Italy, no nudity suggested you were un finnochio or gay. To be fair, there is very little nudity in the film, but at the same time Bava has managed to make it surprisingly erotic. Whether that is down to Miss Giordano or solely Bava himself, I’ll let you be the judge.
If you a fan of Bava, you simply must see this, and you will appreciate him even more for the genius that he was. If all you have seen of him are the horror and gialli with a dollop of Diabolik, prepare to be surprised and mesmerized once again. Highly recommended.
This release from Raro has a 1:85:1 anamorphic image that holds up pretty well for a lesser known Bava film. I’ve not seen the Image release at all so I can’t compare the two. I will say that the titles and the opening 7-10 minutes have quite a few white specks, but this calms down as the film progresses and at no time does it distract you from the spectacle. The DVD cover states that this version has been digitally restored, and to its credit it looks as good as it probably could. I also must mention that this version of the film still has the original intermission (Fine Primo Tempo) from its cinema run. Indeed this still exists today in Italian cinemas and while I was at the cinema in Florence recently it gave me time to stock up on some snacks!
Just one audio option is available and it’s the original Italian mono and its sounds perfect except for one or two slight pops, but you’ll be too engrossed in the film to notice. Very well translated removable English subtitles are available for non-Italian speakers. Extras unfortunately are only a Bava biography and filmography. The important element here though is the film itself and it’s great that it’s available to own again.