Deadly Trust

Author: JJ Cooper
Publisher: Random House – Bantam Books
Published: 2010

A few months a go I reviewed JJ Cooper’s first novel The Interrogator. I made no secret that I really enjoyed it. I am actually hoping some of the readers here – particularly the Bond fans – will take the time to track the book down. I am interested in reader’s opinions on the climax of the story and if they believe there are any similarities between it, and Casino Royale. But that’s a discussion for another day – today I am looking at Cooper’s second book Deadly Trust.

I must admit I had some doubt about a second book by Cooper. Allow me to explain my reasoning. Cooper spent seventeen years in the army prior to writing The Interrogator, and one of the real strengths of that book, was the sense of ‘truth’ or ‘realism’ to the story. It was almost as if Cooper was revealing the secret knowledge that you should not know. This was not necessarily to do with the plot, but the nitty-gritty of intelligence gathering and HUMINT. Therefore, when reading the book, it became difficult to delineate where JJ Cooper ended and the character of Jay Ryan began.

Now I am sure that many of you have heard the old saying that you have your whole life to write your first book, but only a year to write your second. I thought that maybe Cooper had shown us all that he had – told us all his secrets – in his first book. Well, what can I say, I am an idiot. This is not the case at all. Cooper proves that he is a natural story-teller, and certainly has a lot more to give as a writer.

Deadly Trust begins about a year after the events of The Interrogator, which left Jay Ryan pretty badly shot up and even a little bit emotionally scarred. Since then he has been living in Byron Bay – keeping things simple.

The first sign of trouble occurs when he goes to get his car license renewed. Not much could happen in a Road Traffic Authority centre – could it? Well yeah – two gun men burst in and attempt to rob the place. Or so it seems. The strange thing is that they seem to be searching for a particular target. No prizes for guessing who?

The next incident occurs when Ryan is driving home after a late afternoon’s surfing at a local beach. On his way home, a four-wheel-drive vehicle attempts to ram his car into the path of an oncoming bus. After two attempts on his life in one day, Ryan suspects that these incidents are not simply coincidence, but someone is out to get him – but why? He has been living the simple life, out of harm’s way.

Ryan soon makes contact with a Military police officer, Toni Griffin, who is the cousin of Mark Simpson, a fellow Interrogator who served with Ryan in the Middle East. She explains that Simpson has been killed, as have three other interrogators that Ryan served with. What ties all these men together besides the fact that they were all interrogators that served in Afghanistan, is that they were inoculated against a rare and virulent strain of anthrax. It seems that someone is now very interested in Ryan, as the last interrogator and the anti-bodies that he is carrying in his body.

Deadly Trust is a wild ride that had me thumbing the pages well into the night. The story has more twists and turns than the ‘Mad Mouse’ at the fairground. But it is told with energy and pace and with just a hint of dry, laconic Aussie humour.

If I have a criticism of Deadly Trust, it once again takes place, primarily in Queensland – very much the same locations as The Interrogator – and pretty much the home territory for the character of Jay Ryan. In future Ryan adventures, I’d like to see him in less comfortable and familiar surroundings and see how in operates in less hospitable ‘theatres of war’. The news here however, is that it looks like my wish will be granted. In the closing of Deadly Trust, Cooper has set up a scenario in which Ryan can be moved out of his comfort zone – and possibly away from the shores of Australia.

Knowledge of the events in The Interrogator, though not essential, is rather handy. There are a few recurring characters, and more than one allusion to the events that transpired in the first novel. So I’d suggest that you track that down first and give that a shot…you wont be disappointed, and then you can follow it up with Deadly Trust… reading them back to back will not seem like overkill.

In closing, if you’ll forgive me, I want to hop on my soapbox for just a moment. I have heard that several major retailers in Australia are refusing to stock Deadly Trust. Let me stress that Deadly Trust is published by a major publisher – so it cannot be argued that it is a ‘nothing book’. The argument  seems to be that in these tough economic times, these retailers want to stick with ‘safe’ releases from proven (for that – read ‘big name’) authors. Sorry, but how dare they tell me what I want to read! Now I like popular fiction as much as the next guy, and my shelves are stocked with many ‘name’ authors. Prior to reading Deadly Trust, I read multi-million seller, Dean Koontz’s Velocity which I thoroughly enjoyed, but if I had to recommend just one of them to you – it would be Deadly Trust. That’s not to dismiss Koontz, or piss in Cooper’s pocket, and maybe that’s just my proclivity for spy novels shining through. But after all if you are reading this – and Permission to Kill is a spy themed blog – I’d presume that you you enjoy spy stories too.

I guess the thing to take away from this is to buy your books from a book shop and not a department store. I know department stores are cheaper – and we all want to save money – but by shopping at these stores and having your purchases dictated to you, by some pompous clown in purchasing is unwittingly killing the Australian publishing industry (and I am sure this applies equally to some foreign markets). End of rant!

From the blurb:

Former army interrogator Jay Ryan is enjoying the quiet life after leaving the military far behind – or so he thinks. Because old habits die hard and he’s quickly thrust back into the thick of things when a disgruntled scientist, backed by the Australian security industry, develops a weapon of mass destruction – a hybrid strain of Anthrax – to be used to create panic in a population apathetic to crime prevention.

Only one batch of Anthrax inoculations can resist the deadly new strain, and it was given to five military interrogators. One of them was Jay Ryan. When the other four disappear, Ryan is the last interrogator left with the antibodies to defeat the deadly Anthrax strain.

Racing against time and hunted by rogue soldiers, mad scientists and an organisation that operates beyond the law, Ryan digs deep into his past for a chance at a future.

In this heartstopping thriller, Jay Ryan wages a one-man war against enemies both known and unseen. There’s only person he can trust – or can he? Winning the war may have devastating consequences for the last interrogator …

For those who are interested, you can download the first chapter from the Random House website – scroll down to Deadly Trust.

Advertisements
Deadly Trust

Midsummer Nights Doom

By Raymond Benson
Appeared in American Playboy Magazine – January 1999

Midsummer Night’s Doom is a short James Bond adventure written to coincide with Playboy Magazine’s 45th anniversary. It is the second short story that Bond continuation author, Raymond Benson wrote that appeared in Playboy, the first being Blast From The Past which ran in 1997. And it goes without saying – I only read Playboy for the articles!

The story opens with a briefing in M’s office. As the story is fairly recent, M is Barbara Mawdsley – for those familiar with the films, but not of any of Benson’s continuation novels, Mawdsley is the character portrayed by Judi Dench. She asks 007 how much he knows about Playboy Magazine and Hugh Hefner. Bond reveals that he once bumped into Hefner whilst on a fishing trip in Jamaica.

Then M explains:

“It’s the bloody leak in the Ministry Of Defense again,” she said. “There is a river of information flowing out of there, and it’s apparently changing hands at parties being held at the Playboy Mansion West, Hugh Hefner’s home in Los Angeles.”

‘Hef’ is not the bad guy. His legendary parties are simply being used for the exchange. The seller is a rockstar named Martin Tuttle, whose ex-wife worked for the Ministry of Defense. She’d smuggle out secrets and give them to Tuttle, who’d fly them back to the US and then pass them on to the Russian Mafia at the Playboy parties.

Unknown to Tuttle, his ex-wife has been picked up by the authorities, and she has revealed the whole scam. But it is up to 007 to follow Tuttle to the Playboy Mansion and find out who his contact is.

In this instance, Tuttle is carrying the microfilm plans for infrared focal plane arrays (a camera device that can imitate the human eye and then process the data it receieves).

The Playboy party is a theme night – the annual Midsummer Night’s Dream party. The guests are expected to attend wearing their pajamas, nightshirts or (of course) exotic lingerie. Bond arrives at the party in his pajamas covered by an Oriental silk house coat. Soon after he meets ‘Hef’ who acts as ‘Q’, handing Bond a gold pen which acts as a radio transceiver, and the accompanying earpiece.

Also attending the party is Tony Curtis (from The Persuaders), Robert Culp (from I, Spy), and Jim Brown. There is also a borish Russian film-maker called Anton Redenius.

The story is an interesting diversion, but some of the passages are cringe worthy. Sure Bond is somewhat of a hedonist and is in a familiar environment when surrounded by beautiful women and dining on fine food. But I don’t see Bond as a disco dancer (even if it is with Miss October 1994).

Also I don’t like Bond entering or mixing with the entertainment industry. It also bothered me in Benson’s 2001 novel Never Dream Of Dying. I always see Bond mixing with (and battling) men with old world power and money. The entertainment industry, by it’s very nature is all smoke and mirrors, and ultimately fickle. One minute you’re up – next you’re down. So I don’t see characters from the film or music industries as having any gravitas.

I realise my point of view is without foundation in the real world. Anyone with large amounts of money has power, and as such can be a worthy adversary for James Bond. But in the Bond universe, I feel we need villains who are worthy of Bond’s snobery.

Having said all that, Midsummer Night’s Doom is a light Bondian confection written purposely to coincide and compliment Playboy Magazine’s 45th anniversary. The story is not exactly a throwaway piece, but certain liberties have been taken to bring the Playboy universe and the Bond universe together. It’s not exactly a snug fit. While some elements click, others do not.

I wouldn’t consider this story core bond material, so unless you’re a hardened Bond enthusiast (and I suspect there’s quite a few of you out there), I wouldn’t go hunting high and low for a copy of Playboy – January 1999.

Midsummer Nights Doom

Beautiful, Blue and Deadly (1958)

Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer: TV series (1958-1960)
Country:
United States
Director: Boris Sagal
Starring: Darren McGavin, Nita Talbot, Bart Burns, Robert Ellenstein, Tom Brown, Berry Kroeger

This incarnation of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer television series, ran for 78 episodes from 1958 till 1960. Of course, Stacey Keach starred in a series of the same name that ran from 1984 till 1985. This particular episode was the fourteenth in the series. With that kind of longevity, it must have been pretty popular in it’s day. If all the episodes were as solid and witty as this, then I don’t know why it’s not out there as a complete series on DVD. But hey, that’s not my decision. The blurb of the one video I have found extols the virtues of the series:

“This private-eye series was every bit as violent as the novels that made Mickey Spillane famous…

A typical plot had a man and woman thrown down a flight of stairs, a brutal fist fight, a knifing and a shooting, plus Hammer making what appeared to be a highly successful pass at a married woman…”

With a write up like that, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the series (or more correctly — to any episodes that I can find). This episode opens at Aikens Garage. Johnny Aikens is a fine mechanic (or so the voice over tells us). Mike Hammer (Darren McGavin) always takes his car to Aikens Garage for repairs.

As Aikens and Hammer are old friends, they spend a bit of time chatting in the office. Aikens says how he is keen to get his hands on a 1956 sports model Jag. The previous day, a gentleman called Arthur Phister came to the garage and said he would pay top money for a car that was exactly as he wanted. That is a baby blue 1956 sports model Jag, with white wall tyres, and a rear tyre rack.

At that moment a dame, Susan Reed (Nita Talbot) drives into the garage, driving just such a vehicle, and wishing to sell. Aikens cannot believe his luck.

Now Hammer has been around the block a few times and knows all the confidence tricks. He’s seen this one before. He quickly realises that Susan and Phister are working together. They have figured that if Aikens believed he had a buyer who was ready and waiting, he bump up the price he’d pay. But they haven’t counted on Hammer’s intervention.

Oh well, their scheme had failed, but Susan needs to sell the car. You see, she was just widowed a few weeks previously, and she needs the dividend from the vehicle’s sale to simply get by.

After the sale is complete Aikens and Hammer check the car over. They are surprised to find blood stains on the floor and a couple of bullet holes in the back seat. Hammer doesn’t waste any time and calls in his best friend Pat Chamber (Bart Burns).

Chambers arrives and examines the car, but it doesn’t require much examining. It had been impounded for the last four weeks after Harry Reed – Susan’s dead husband – had been shot after returning home one evening. The car had been returned to Susan the previous day, and it is perfectly legal for her to sell it. No mystery so far, so Hammer leaves the garage, but promises to return later in the day to collect his car.

Meanwhile Oliver Lynch, Harry Reed’s silent partner has tracked down Susan. He wants the car. As she doesn’t have it any more, she points him in the direction of the garage.

Lynch arrives at the garage an claims to be a friend and wants to buy the car. Aikens shows him the vehicle, but then is distracted by a phone call. Left alone Lynch starts tearing the car apart, frantically searching for something hidden inside. Aikens finishes the call, and returns to Lynch. He is dismayed to see the damage Lynch is doing and tries to prevent it. For his trouble, Lynch hits him over the back of the head with a monkey wrench.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The episode has a few more good wisecracks, a couple of shootouts, and two fist fights – all this squeezed inside a thirty minute package.

As I mentioned at the top, I don’t know if all the episodes are like this, but if they are, then if you are a Mike Hammer fan, this series is one that is worth checking out.

Beautiful, Blue and Deadly (1958)

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Steve McQueen is one of the kings of sixties cool, but despite his successes in films like The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Cincinnati Kid, many people weren’t sure how he’d go dropped into a business suit. They needn’t have worried – it didn’t matter if McQueen wore a cowboy hat, jeans and a leather jacket, or a three piece tailored suit, he was still the epitome of ‘cool’.

The Thomas Crown Affair is one of the most famous sixties caper films, although ‘the heist’ isn’t the most important part of the film. It is a character study. Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) is a bored rich playboy, who plans the perfect robbery just to convey his frustration at the ‘system’. It’s never about the money, as he is already loaded. Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway) is the insurance investigator assigned to crack the case that the police are having no luck with. But she has an advantage that the police don’t – she is willing to almost ‘sell’ her feminine assets to get to her man.

Apart from being a caper film, and a character piece, The Thomas Crown Affair is also a lesson in style. It famously makes use of split screens and often blurs the images in certain panels to draw your eye to a certain section on the screen. Some images are repeated for emphasis, and in other instances, multiple story threads are being played out at once. Adding to the visual trickery is the music score by Michel Legrand. The score is very good, including the Oscar winning song, The Windmills Of Your Mind. The music is freewheeling swinging sixties jazz. It doesn’t always reflect what’s happening storywise, but it certainly captures the mood and the style of the film.

The film opens with Erwin Weaver (Jack Weston) walking up a hallway in a swank hotel in Boston. He knocks on a door – no answer. So he walks into the darkened room. Before he has time to react (like flicking on a light switch), he is suddenly blinded by two spotlights. Behind the lights, in silhouette, a man offers him a job as a driver. Weaver agrees, and is thrown an envelope full of cash to buy a car.

The film then employs the split screen effect, and we witness five men, from five different parts of the country traveling to Boston. Next we meet Thomas Crown. He is a successful business man with loads of cash. As he sits in his expansive office, he starts to receive phone calls from the five men who have arrived in town. Crown gives the word, and then the men go to work.

Their work is a down to the minute, perfectly planned robbery at a Boston Bank. The five men grab the bags of filthy lucre and place it in the back of the car, which Erwin Weaver is driving. Then the five men go back to where they came from. They will receive their cuts of the take later, in installments.

Weaver drives off with the money and travels to a cemetery. He takes the money bags out of the car and places them in a rubbish bin. Then he drives off. Crown then arrives at the cemetery in his Rolls Royce and collects the loot.

Despite their being thirty two witnesses to the crime, the police have no leads as to who pulled the robbery. The insurance company has to pay out for the $2,660,000 that was stolen. The head of the insurance company, Jamie McDonald (Gordon Pinsent) is not happy about the pay out, and calls in his own insurance investigator to look into the robbery. The investigator is Vicki Anderson. She always gets her man, but she has some very unusual methods in doing so.

It’s fair to say that The Thomas Crown Affair is a classic. But it is a flawed movie. Some of the scenes don’t quite ring true, but they are also the pieces that give this film it’s flavour. It is about ‘style’. It’s about getting your ‘kicks’. It’s about ‘beating the system’. While not being a ‘flower power’ film, it certainly encompasses some of the themes that we have come to identify with that era, and as such is an interesting time capsule.

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Hum se Badhkar kaun (1981)

Release Year: 1981
Country: India
Starring: Mithun Chakraborty, Danny Denzongpa, Amjad Khan, Vijayendra Ghatge, Ranjeeta, Kajal Kiran, Neeta Mehta, Padmini Kapila, Ranjeet, Purnima
Screenplay: Khalid – Narvi
Director: Deepak Bahry
Cinematography: Arvind Laad
Music: Raam Laxman
Producer: Pranlal V. Mehta

I am going to have to hire myself a translator because there are just some films that you really, really, want to know what’s going on, and Hum se Badhkar kaun is one of them. You may be thinking why do I keep watching films that I can’t understand? Generally, it stems from a modicum of boredom with mainstream cinema. Look, I love a good movie starring Pitt, Clooney, Damon… whoever, but let’s face it — after you’ve watched a certain number of films (meaning ‘lots’), the formulas start to become quite apparent. Even independent cinema is formulaic, simply because there is money for independent cinema. It’s not as much as the blockbuster studios, but the directors who choose to work in independent cinema know how to make good, reliable small-budget films. And there is nothing wrong with that.

But there is something unpredictable about older foreign cinema. Even the humble Eurospy film from the 1960s is completely unpredictable. We know they should be like a Bond film, but they never are. Budget restraints and even simple things like talent and ability stop these films from being what they want to be, and in the process they became something new…unpredictable.

The same applies to Bollywood. Over the last ten years or so, Bollywood has almost become respectable. In some instances, with so many Hollywood studios in trouble (at the time of writing MGM is in the crap again), Bollywood almost seems like it could be the saviour of modern cinema. I don’t know how many reports I have read that Spielberg is being (or going to be) backed by Bollywood money.

But it wasn’t always like that. Bollywood, like European film in the generation before it, were learning the ropes. And while they were learning, they were inadvertently breaking the rules too. That dear reader, is why I keep watching films that I can’t understand. It’s this rule breaking – the serving up of the unexpected and the unpredictable – that keep me coming back.

Now I have mentioned Eurospy in my intro – and if your aware of my proclivity for spy films, you’re probably expecting this to be a Bollywood spy film. Well, you’d be wrong. What we have in Hum se Badhkar kaun is an engaging crime thriller with just a hint of swashbuckling treasure hunt, and it features Gunmaster G-9 himself, Mithun Chakraborty. But maybe it’s best if I start at the beginning. As I cannot speak Hindi, this is how I perceived the film – whether this is factual, is rather doubtful.

The film starts off with a family of six; that is Mum – Radha, Dad – Mohan and four children – Chandan, Raju, Bablu and Pappu, paying a visit to their bedridden Grandpa. Gramps is old and frail, and as the family present him with a gift, which happens to be a sculptured bust of his long since passed wife, he almost has a heart attack. This spurs Gramps into action. He has some family business to attend to before he dies.

Gramps tells Mohan that there is a family treasure hidden away, and that he will lead his son to it. Unfortunately, one of Gramps servants, Lalchand (Ranjeet) overhears the conversation and is itching to get his hands on some treasure.

Gramps takes his Mohan to a temple and reveals a secret door way. They go through into a secret chamber (that’s the thing with ‘secret doors’ – they often lead to ‘secret chambers’). Gramps gives Mohan four keys and points to four keyholes at the other side of the chamber. Mohan scrambles over and unlocks a large door and opens a giant pink cupboard. Inside the cupboard is the families hoard of gold and jewels.

The family secret has now been passed to Mohan. The timing is fortuitous as Gramps falls down the stairs as they are leaving the secret chamber. He dies. After the funeral, Lalchand approaches Mohan and demands to be given the keys to the treasure. Naturally Mohan refuses. But Lalchand doesn’t take no for an answer and one evening as Mohan is out for a casual stroll, Lalchand shoots him with a rifle.

Now this is kind of dumb. Because if Mohan dies, no-one will know where the treasure is. But luckily for Lalchand, Mohan doesn’t die from the gunshot wound. Instead, the blast sends him toppling over the edge of a cliff – with an avalanche of boulders as well. Amazingly (well I was amazed), Mohan survives. Bloodied and battered, Mohan staggers home and into the kids bedroom. There he pins one of the four keys to each of his sons bedclothes. Just in time too, because Lalchand turns up and once again demands to know the location of the treasure. But Mohan dies.

Lalchand believes that Mohan must have passed the secret onto his wife Radha (Purnima). He asks her for the keys. She doesn’t know. But Lalchand doesn’t believe her and begins to whip the children to make her talk.

During the burst of violence, one of the boys has his key knocked free, but Lalchand is too busy beating people to notice. After dolling out an amount of physical abuse, Lalchand leaves the family locked upstairs, while he goes somewhere (I dunno where – I don’t speak the lingo – maybe he needed a can of Sprite?). On his way down the stairs, he finds a key on the ground, and this starts the cogs in his mind turning.

Meanwhile, Radha has found a convenient rope in the room – just lying on the floor near the window. She ties it off and she and the children escape out the window and run to a nearby boat. The family get in the boat and begin to row away from shore. By this time, Lalchand has realised what the key is, and runs up stairs to retrieve the others only to find the family have fled. From the window he starts firing his pistol at Rahda and the children as the sail off. Lalchand’s rein of terror comes to an abrupt end when the police arrive to arrest him.

Meanwhile as Radha and family sail off, the boat capsizes and the children are all washed ashore in different locations. And folks, all this happens before the main title sequence. Yep – the film hasn’t even started. This is the appetiser.

Alone and widowed, Radha, separated from her family goes mad with grief. Of course, time passes and the boys grow up, and we slowly get introduced to them one by one. Chandan now calls himself Bholaram (Amjad Khan) and he runs a milk dairy farm. He’s essentially a good guy, but is struggling to make ends meet. Raju now goes by the name of Tony (Danny Dezongpa), and he is a small time crime boss. Bablu has become Vijay (Vijayendra Ghatge), who is a police officer. And finally we meet the youngest, Pappu, who has also drifted into a life of crime He now calls himself Johnny (Mithun Chakraborty), and in a weird twist of fate, on occasions works for Tony, unaware that he is his brother. Johnny is a super thief, and with his introduction we also get the film’s first big production number with Mithun strutting his stuff – in a dayglo red terry-towelling robe – with a bevy of bikini clad women falling at his feet. Then he moves to the disco floor where he gets a chance to not only display his moves, but also model a wide lapelled white gaberdine suit. Very chic, indeed.

Above I described Johnny as a ‘super thief’. That isn’t a lazy metaphor. He is more than an elusive cat burglar. He dresses like a super hero in a purple costume with a cape – and he wears a Zorro mask. Not quite ‘The Phantom’, but still what’s the point of being a super criminal if you can’t dress like one of them?

Lalchand, now out of prison ropes Tony into helping him out on a little job he has planned. He needs Tony to track down three men and steal some keys from them. Of course, Tony doesn’t realise that these three men are his brothers. Also, because he was the boy who lost his key – Lalchand still has it – he doesn’t realise the significance of the keys.

Of course, each of the four brothers is going to be drawn inexorably towards each other as the film builds towards in climax. And essentially, what you have is two good brothers, Bholaram and Vijay; against the two criminal brothers, Tony and Johnny. There is no prize for guessing how it all ends.

As I mentioned at the top, this is one film I wouldn’t mind seeing a subtitled version of. It appears to be a great deal of fun. Sure the plot has holes that…let’s be honest, that just don’t make sense. Four boys go missing, yet are found and brought up living right on top of each other. Didn’t the people that found the children ask around if anybody had lost a child (let alone four)! There’s even a mad woman; Radha going around pining for her lost children. And even the whole treasure thing is rather silly. Lalchand knows where the treasure is, but can’t get to it because the door is locked. C’mon! A sledge hammer, or a drill could open the safe. It’s not really a safe, but a steel doored, pink cupboard. It’s not rocket science. But this film is first and foremost a slice of wild, kung-fu, disco dancing mayhem. The intricacies of the plot don’t really matter except to move the story forward.

The film may not be Ocean’s Eleven but it is an interesting caper and the four main stars handle themselves pretty well. Mithun and Amjad Khan get most of the screen time, but their styles are very different – Mithun, young fast and sleek, and Amjad, large slow and almost performing as comic relief – in a Bud Spencer kind of way. Yeah, I enjoyed it.

Hum se Badhkar kaun (1981)

Four Times That Night (1972)

Original Title: Quante volte… quella notte
Director: Mario Bava
Starring: Brett Halsey, Daniela Giordano, Dick Randall, Pacal Petit, Calisto Calisti
Music: Coriolano Gori

Four Times That Night is an Italian sex comedy. I know what your thinking – why on earth would I want to sit through a tacky Italian sex comedy from the early seventies? The answer is simple – it’s the people in front and behind the camera who are of interest to me. In this instance, it is director Mario Bava that draws me to this production. Bava hardly needs any introduction for most film fans. But for those who may have joined us late, check out my review of Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs and Tanner’s review of Danger: Diabolik.

Four Times that Night is a fairly simple concept film – the concept (borrowed from Rashomon) being that the same story is told from four different points of view. The basic heart of all four versions is that beautiful Tina Brandt (Daniela Giordano) and John Price (Brett Halsey) meet at a park one afternoon and decide to go on a date that evening. Price picks Tina up from her home and takes her out for a spot of dancing. Later he takes her back to his place, and somehow she ends up with a ripped dress and he ends up with scratch marks on his forehead.

Each of the four stories differs in how Tina’s dress happened to get ripped and how Price’s forehead was scratched. The first telling of the story is from Tina’s point of view, and it is probably the most unsettling of the four. In this version Tina implies that Price tried to rape her. In the struggle her dress was torn, and Price’s face was scratched as she tried to fight him off.

The second version is from Price’s point of view, and he paints Tina as a wild nymphomaniac. This is followed by a version told by the voyeuristic doorman at Price’s apartment block. His version of events paints all the tenants of the apartment block as gay. The fourth retelling comes from a psychiatrist (Calisto Calisti ) who informs us that we all see the same story through different eyes.

I once read (I can’t recall where) that Bava once said that all Italian directors in the early 1970’s had to make a sex comedy to prove that they weren’t homosexuals. It’s a strange little comment considering that the film is not homophobic at all. One of the four segments in the film presents us with homosexual and lesbian characters. It appears that certain sections of the industry at that time were more homophobic in real life, than the stories they were quite happy to present on the screen.

Four Times That Night is a strange little film. For a sex comedy, there doesn’t seem to be many comedic moments in the film – then again, I don’t think there ever was meant to be. As far as sex goes, there’s not to much going on here, and when there is, body parts are discretely hidden through clever camera angles, or even a light reflection on a glass shower wall. But that leads to another point – as you’d expect from Bava, the film is beautifully shot. The colours are all pumped to maximum levels, and the film features some fantastic mod sets and fashion design.

On the whole, Four Times that Night is a curiosity. I can’t call it a bad film, but it doesn’t really work as a sex comedy. Maybe if the rape and gay scenes were presented in a more controversial manner, then maybe the film would have worked as a study of social mores. Then again, maybe Bava’s heart wasn’t really in this film. Peer pressure may have forced him to make a sex comedy. But really there were other film genres that held more appeal for him.

SPY CONNECTIONS:

As previously mentioned, director Mario Bava is well known to film buffs for his lurid pop-art films. He is primarily known for his horror films, but Danger: Diabolik and Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs put him on the map as far as spy films go (I know Diabolik isn’t a spy film…but you know…it drips with sixties spy atmosphere, underground lairs and all the other trapping you’d expect.)

Brett Halsey appeared in at least two Eurospy flicks. Firstly in Spy in Your Eye, alongside a clearly inebriated Dana Andrews. Then Misión Lisboa in 1965.

Pascale Petit also racked up a couple of Eurospy credits, appearing in Codename: Jaguar and Killer’s Carnival (AKA: Spy Against the World).

Four Times That Night (1972)