Four Times That Night/Quante volte… quella notte (1971)

‘I’m a wild man with turbo hormones!’Four Times That Night/Quante volte… quella notte (1971)

A handsome young man about town picks up a beautiful girl in the park. Together, they go out on a first date, but she comes home afterwards with her dress torn. She relates her version of the night’s events to her mother, while the man tells a very different story to his friends. His apartment building’s doorman also has his own take on what happened…

Dated Italian romantic comedy which serves as a time capsule of an era, and perhaps a nation, by showcasing some very different attitudes towards women, sexual politics and relationships to those that we hold today. It also proved a rather odd, and unprofitable, diversion in the career of horror director and visual stylist Mario Bava.

Good looking playboy Gianni (Brett Halsey) is out for some action, cruising the daytime streets and trying to pick up women. After several rebuffs, he targets the beautiful, dark-haired Tina (Daniela Giordano) who is walking a dog. She flees into the park, but he chases after her, and they eventually meet when he trips over her pet. She returns home in the early hours after their first date with a torn dress and relates her version of events to her straight-laced mother. After getting her back to his place on a pretext, he tried to rape her. When she resisted, he hit her a few times before she escaped. Yes, my friends, it’s just your typical romantic comedy.

Four Times That Night/Quante volte… quella notte (1971)

Meanwhile, Halsey is in a bar with friends, explaining how he got scratched on the forehead. In his story, he’s a shy, awkward man pursued by women, particularly the voracious Giordano. She’s an aggressive, sexual predator who almost forced him into sex after their date, wounding him in her violent passion. A third version of the evening’s event is provided by doorman Beppe (Dick Randall), who enlivens the long hours looking after the building where Halsey lives by moonlighting as a part-time peeping tom. According to him, as soon as the couple get back, Halsey invites neighbours Giorgio (Robert H Oliver) and Esmeralda (Pascale Petit) to join them. Halsey and Oliver disappear behind closed doors because they’re gay, while Petit attempts to seduce Giordano by drugging her drink, so she passes out. Yes, my friends, it’s still just your typical romantic comedy.

The fourth version of events comes from lab-coated scientist Calisto Calisti, who explains the flexibility of the truth by citing the differing viewpoints of some of the animals on Noah’s Ark! His version of the evening’s events with Halsey and Giordano is far more grounded and less dramatic. She tears her dress by accident, and Halsey is injured at the same time. When she wonders how she will explain the damage to her mother, it’s Halsey who suggests a story of attempted rape. They both laugh because it’s so hilarious. Obviously. Don’t forget; it’s a romantic comedy!
Four Times That Night/Quante volte… quella notte (1971)

This last segment has led some commentators to theorise that Bava was using this scenario to examine notions of objectivity and the impossibility of arriving at absolute truth, much in the manner of Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Rashomon’ (1950). The figure of the scientist does appear to be providing an accurate record of events. However, he’s revealed at the climax as just another unreliable narrator; just a metaphor for the art of storytelling itself. That’s as may be. It could have also have been that Bava was simply trying to have a little fun with the lightweight material.

Fans of the maestro will spot a few of his signature touches here. There’s a 360-degree camera pan around Halsey and Giordano as they share a shower, and some foregrounding of objects in the nightclub scene to create the illusion of size and depth. There’s also a brief sequence where Giordano gazes at Halsey through a vase of red glass, but it’s slim pickings for fans of his more visually stylish work.
Four Times That Night/Quante volte… quella notte (1971)

The film is more interesting today for some of the attitudes laid out on casual display. Violence towards women is no big deal, rape is a source for humour, and our leading man is introduced kerb-crawling and trying to pick up women as if they were prostitutes. Giordano also gets some very unfortunate dialogue about homosexuality. Times have sure changed. Of course, it’s probable that this was also a reflection of the famous Italian ‘machismo’ as much as anything else. It’s interesting to note that Halsey is easily the most effective as the swaggering playboy and looks rather uncomfortable in the segment where he plays a homosexual. On the other hand, Giordano sails through the picture, convincing in all the various iterations of her character.

It was also a very troubled production. Money ran out early on, and the picture had to be re-financed. Additionally, despite being filmed in 1969, it wasn’t released in Italy until three years later, despite hitting cinemas in Canada in 1971. The delay was caused by director Riccardo Freda, who was working as head of the Italian censorship board at the time. He blocked the film’s release; in later years, claiming that he did it as a favour to his old friend Bava, because of the low quality of the finished work.
Four Times That Night/Quante volte… quella notte (1971)

Halsey was an American actor whose career began with small, unfeatured roles in big studio films before he transitioned to more notable work on US Network television, including appearances in ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Perry Mason’ and ‘Highway Patrol.’ His big break in films came in the title role of monster sequel ‘Return of the Fly’ (1959) and, eventually, to co-lead in ‘Follow the Sun’, a production from 20th Century Fox Television that followed the adventures of two dashing young journalists based in Hawaii. Offers of leading film roles followed from Europe, and he spent the rest of the 1960s starring in a variety of projects, including Spaghetti Westerns, crime dramas and spy flicks such as ‘Bang You’re Dead’ (1965) and ‘Espionage in Lisbon’ (1965). His continental tour ended with another Bava project ‘Roy Colt and Winchester Jack’ (1970) before he returned to the US and guest slots on countless Network TV shows throughout the 1970s and 1980s, like ‘Columbo’, ‘Fantasy Island’, ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and ‘Airwolf.’

Viewed half a century later, it’s necessary to make some allowances for the prejudices and attitudes on display. However, the film is simply not very funny and, as that’s the primary function of a comedy, that’s the standard by which it should be assessed.

Espionage In Lisbon/Misión Lisbo (1965)

Espionage in Lisbon/Misión Lisbo (1965)‘Every time I drink Martinis, I want to be a mermaid.’

An elderly scientist has developed an effective countermeasure to a new deadly weapon possessed by both the United States and Russia. He agrees to pass to his secret to the Americans, but an enemy agent has infiltrated their organisation, and he is assassinated. However, this is a blunder by the Russians as the formula is in code. When a top American agent arrives, the race is on to find the key to the cypher…

This week’s ‘Bond On A Budget’ is clean-cut American Brett Halsey, making a beeline for the usual mid-1960s mash-up of girls, guns and a couple of low-budget gadgets. This Spanish-French and Italian co-production was directed by Federico Aicardi and Tulio Demichili, with the latter on script duties with five other writers, including infamous Eurotrash filmmaker Jess Franco.

Isn’t it always the way? Secret agent 077 George Farrell (Halsey) is just about to grapple with latest flame Irán Eory when the powers that be call on the telephone, asking him to save the world. Again. He puts the meet off until the next day, but his masters know him only too well; almost immediately there’s a knock on the door and, just an hour or so later, he’s on his way to Lisbon. His mission is to contact renegade scientist, Professor Von Kelster (Rafael Bardem), but the old boy is hiding out at a top-secret location (his estranged wife’s art studio!)

And no wonder the boffin is worried. He possesses the only means to nullify this unnamed secret weapon which transmits ‘electronic waves at a velocity more than the speed of light.’ The vibrations it creates can blind people too! Sounds nasty. Oh, and don’t worry, about how the Professor calculated his formula or how he found out about the weapon in the first place or anything else really, because the movie never bothers us with such irrelevant information.

Espionage in Lisbon/Misión Lisbo (1965)

‘I’m sorry, ladies, but my dance card is already full.’

So Bardem has hidden his formula within the musical notations in two books with a 4-letter cypher key needed to decode them. It’s a wise move because the Ruskies have already infiltrated the US spy network, thanks to double-agent Robert Scott (Daniel Ceccaldi). Bardem’s contact has been killed and replaced by beautiful assassin, Olga (Jeanne Valérie). She finishes off the boffin with her purse gun when he realises that she’s an imposter because she can’t read music. Halsey arrives on the scene after the fact but picks up the cypher key, thanks to some invisible writing on a mirror.

A replacement for the American side arrives in the shape of dark beauty Marilù Tolo, but rather than reveal they are colleagues, Halsey proceeds to flirt with her in that charming 1960s way that borders on sexual harassment. She’s a rookie, chosen for this vital assignment because she can read music and go undercover as a singer in a local club. Didn’t the entire US spy network have someone with more experience who could read music as well? Given that the Russians had to use Valérie whose lack of ability in this area blew her cover and, ultimately, costs them the mission, it would seem that this skill is a rare commodity in the world of espionage. Perhaps most spies are just tone-deaf.

Espionage in Lisbon/Misión Lisbo (1965)

‘Have you got the latest Van der Graaf Generator LP recording?’

Of course, it’s up to Halsey to obtain the secret with Tolo’s assistance. They bond after disposing of the body of a dead foreign agent from her hotel room, and he does eventually reveal they are working together. I’m not sure when exactly, and why he didn’t tell her in the first place, but I guess those revelations may have been cut from the print that I viewed, which does seem to have lost approximately seven minutes from its original running time at some point over the years since. Even so, the first significant action arrives just over an hour into the film. That’s way too late for an audience to wait in an enterprise such as this. Although for cult movies fans, there’s always the early glimpse of Erika Blanc, appearing here as ‘Girl in Bikini’ under her initial screen name of Erica Bianchi.

In terms of gadgets, we are restricted to some non-standard surveillance equipment. Halsey has an electronic bug hidden in a remote-controlled bluebottle (geddit?), but it’s deployed only briefly. It may have been intended to use it far more, but it’s so poorly realised that probably the filmmakers didn’t care to linger on such a shoddy example of the FX technician’s art. Elsewhere, there’s a mysterious man in a suit, who identifies only as ‘Skylark’, who watches proceedings via a TV in a suitcase while sitting in hotel lobbies and cafés. It’s one of those magic ‘see all’ movie TVs that doesn’t need a camera at the other end to transmit pictures, although he spends just as much time perving on scantily-dressed women in their hotel rooms as he does following the main action. The highlight of the film is undoubtedly the climactic gun battle in a deserted monastery. It’s an excellent location and the drama is well-staged, but it’s taken a very long time to get to that point, and a good percentage of the audience may not have stayed the course.

Espionage in Lisbon/Misión Lisbo (1965)

‘Are you looking at me, Daddio?’

Halsey had begun his screen career in small roles, sometimes uncredited, which included an appearance in Gill-Man sequel ‘Revenge of the Creature’ (1955). By the end of the decade, he’d worked his way up to be a featured supporting player in low-budget movies such as ‘The Cry-Baby Killer’ (1958) which marked the debut of a certain Jack Nicholson. Just a year later, the busy young actor took the lead in teen-drama ‘Speed Crazy’ (1959) and appeared with Vincent Price in the title role of ‘The Return of the Fly’ (1959). Bigger budgets meant smaller parts, so he turned his gaze to Europe and the lead in Italian-French swashbuckler ‘The Seventh Sword/Le sette spade del vendicator’ (1962). Many leading European roles followed, including appearing twice for horror maestro Mario Bava in two of the director’s lighter, more mainstream efforts: ‘Roy Colt and Winchester Jack’ (1970) and ‘Four Times That Night’ (1971). After that, he moved back to the United States where he became a regular face on network television right up to the mid-1990s, appearing on ‘The Bionic Woman’, ‘The Love Boat’, ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century’, ‘Charlie’s Angels’, ‘Knight Rider’, and several times on ‘Fantasy Island’ among many others.

A rather slow-moving Eurospy without the dynamism or outlandish flourishes that mark out the best of the genre.

Trumpets of the Apocalypse/Murder By Music/Las Trompetas Del Apocalipsis (1969)

Trumpets of the Apocalypse:Murder By Music:Las Trompetas Del Apocalipsis (1969)‘You’re not hep, man! The music there is psychedelic.’

A sailor returns to London to see his sister but finds out that she is dead; an apparent suicide. Unconvinced by the official explanation, he teams up with her best friend to investigate and finds a strange link to a music professor who died in exactly the same way…

Loud, in your face, late 1960s Spanish Giallo murder-mystery set in swinging London and, man, it’s a stone-cold groove! There are cool cats with scenes to make and choice birds with vibes to dig. Yes, you’ll flip your wig over director Julio Buchs Garcia’s righteous take on what’s happenin’ in Soho’s underground clubland. Hang loose and ride easy, baby, it’s just the most!

Sailor on leave Brett Halsey comes home expecting to see his sister but she’s tried flying without wings out the window of her funky pad and The Man has it down as a bad trip. What a bummer. On the brightside, her flatmate turns out to be dishy brunette Marilu Tolo, and the two join forces to find out the truth about what went down. The dearly departed was well into the sounds spun by DJ Fabrizio Moroni at ‘The Mousehole’, a local hangout for the tuned out and the turned on. Halsey catches the eye of pretty flower child Romina Power, but doesn’t even try to score when he gets back to her place. He’s just such a square.

Trumpets of the Apocalypse:Murder By Music:Las Trompetas Del Apocalipsis (1969)

‘Hey, man, you wanna…like, groove?’

From there, his investigation (and the film) disintegrates into a series of murky scenes where he quizzes guys in black rollneck pullovers and silver neck chains, gets meaningless answers that might be clues and then gets beaten up in alleyways by various thugs. And repeat. There’s pop art, bongos, beads and bandannas for the guys, and glittery headbands, big eyelashes and too much makeup for the gals. It’s a gas!

Main suspect The Romanian (Manuel De Blas) is one bad dude. We know this because he wears his sunglasses indoors. The Man appears in the person of Police Inspector Gérard Tichy and there’s a blind beggar who uses his hurdy-gurdy as a dangerous weapon. In the end, it all comes down to this far out groove called ‘The Trumpets of the Apocalypse’ and some strange weed from somewhere or other. Despite being told this tune has been written for violins, we only ever hear it played on piano. But it’s outta sight anyway. Man.

Trumpets of the Apocalypse:Murder By Music:Las Trompetas Del Apocalipsis (1969)

‘Can you dig it?’

Tolo and Halsey had already partnered in anonymous Eurospy ‘Espionage in Lisbon’ (1965) and Power took one of the title roles in Jess Franco’s ‘Marquis de Sade: Justine’ (1969) opposite Klaus Kinski. Actually, there’s some very odd product placement involving her when she plays kid’s racing game ‘Scalextrix’ for a minute or so. Just what you want to see in the last ten minutes of a thriller. Director Garcia did improve though, going onto make the pretty good murder-mystery ‘Alta Tension’ (1972) with Marisa Mell.

So trendy it’s incredibly dated, the ultimate irony here is that, for a film about music, the final results have so little rhythm and structure. There is a good idea buried somewhere here, but it’s buried very deep.

Sock it to me baby!

Spy In Your Eye/Bang You’re Dead (1965)

Spy In Your Eye/Bang You're Dead (1965)‘Someone’s Crazy! This is the third body in a month with the eyeball removed!’

After the death of a top research scientist, his daughter becomes the target of international spies after a secret formula. An American agent is sent to break her out of captivity on the other side of the Berlin Wall, but his boss has had a secret TV camera implanted behind his eye during what he believed was an operation to cure his sight.

Lacklustre Italian Eurospy doings that are most notable for a featured performance by ex-Hollywood leading man Dana Andrews. He’s the section chief responsible for this week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’ Brett Halsey, a handsome American actor who never really hit the big time back home. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t get to run around glamorous European capital cities, or wrestle much arm candy, although he does get to spend a little time in a hay barn with heroine Pier Angeli. In terms of gadgets, we do get a murderous waxwork of Napoleon, and a colleague who carries out a Quasimodo-like masquerade just so he can sometimes attack enemy agents with an unconvincing knife that comes out of his hump. The main villain’s lair also doubles as a doctor’s operating room, via an impressive mechanical set.

However, despite these implausible trappings, this is a much more grounded spy adventure than you would expect. It is more Sean Connery Bond, than the outlandish Roger Moore era. Unfortunately, it’s these gimmicks which are the only thing of interest in the film, and they are fairly peripheral to say the least. What we get instead is a hopelessly dreary 90 minutes of kidnappings, assassinations, cross and double cross, a few scenes with a helicopter and lots of men in suits talking in rooms.

Andrews gets a reliably authoritative performance, but he’s the best thing here by a long way, as none of the rest of the cast are able to invest their characters with any real personality. Similarly, director Vittorio Sala fails to bring a level of tension to the proceedings, and there is a complete absence of style or dynamism in his work. Andrews’ top line credentials were established with big studio hits like ‘Laura’ (1944), ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’ (1946), ‘Boomerang’ (1947) and, later on, the genuinely creepy ‘Night of the Demon’ (1957). Unfortunately, problems with the bottle accelerated a career decline which found him with an icebox full of Nazis in ‘The Frozen Dead’ (1966). But he cleaned up, went into real estate, made a fortune, and lived to the age of 83.

Blonde hero Halsey got his start in supporting roles at Universal in the late 1950s, even graduating to the lead in horror sequel ‘Return of the Fly’ (1959). But, by the 1960s, he’d decided to try his luck in Europe and spent the next decade in ltaly, appearing in projects like this and the similarly themed ‘Espionage In Lisbon’ (1965). He returned to the States in the 1970s and rounded out his career with many guest appearances on Network TV shows and the occasional character role in features, such as ‘The Godfather Part III’ (1990).

Spy In Your Eye/Bang You're Dead (1965)

‘Be careful! You’ll have someone’s eye out with that!’

Angeli was an Italian whose big break came opposite Paul Newman in ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ (1956), and was an early girlfriend of both James Dean and Kirk Douglas. Unfortunately, she could never capitalise on her initial success and ended her career, and her life (via barbiturate overdose), on the set of no budget monster snooze-athon ‘Octaman’ (1971).

Sala’s most noteworthy credit is probably ‘Colossus and the Amazons’ (1960) simply as it was the next film released starring Rod Taylor after his career making turn as H.G.Wells’ hero in ‘The Time Machine’ (1960). In the supporting cast, it’s always a pleasure to see Italian character actor Luciano Pigozzi, here appearing in a thankless role as a spy who plays both ends against the middle. If you’re interested in cult European cinema through the 1960s to the 1980s, you could do worse than check out Pigozzi’s filmography. He appeared in everything from ‘werewolf in a girl’s dormitory’ shocker ‘Lycanthropus’ (1961), to disasters like the idiotic ‘Devilman Story’ (1967), several appearances for horror maestro Mario Bava, including ‘Blood and Black Lace’ (1964), to classic guilty pleasure ‘Yor, The Hunter From The Future’ (1983).

If I’ve talked a great deal more about the careers of the major players here than the film itself, that should tell you all that you need to know. Dull, anonymous spy shenanigans with a few bizarre touches that turn out to be just window dressing and nothing more.