Though Mario Camerini's perhaps better known for his mythic film versions of “Ulysses” (1955) and the Kali Yug diptych from the Sixties, he certainly proved himself an able comedy director with his adaptation of the Anna Bonacci play (“L'Ora della Fantasia”) about crazy confusions, and the bubbling ribaldry between sex-starved men and corseted beauties.
Though the first reel of the source print for this DVD has a few nasty breaks early on, affecting the film's already break-neck pacing, the remaining reels are in good shape, and the original English subtitles (non-removable) follow much of the rapid-fire dialogue which bristles with bawdy wit. With Gina Lollobrigida swaying between the normally homely wife, and formerly closeted babe; Gino Cervi buzzing as the scheming, egotistical count; Nadia Gray as the wise courtesan, sometimes reflecting sadly on her chosen career path; and Armando Francioli as the serious composer tortured by the wife-swapping charade, the whole film feels like a crazy Billy Wilder ride – which is not surprising as Wilder would adapt Bonacci's play in 1963, as “Kiss Me, Stupid.”
Alessandro Cicognini's music ably flips between underscore and the blossoming opera (constructed in two unadorned acts), and Aldo Giordani's cinematography shows off the film's fine set décor. (Viewers should also look out for a naughty visual gag, involving an argument, and the naked male extremities of a framed painting that Camerini keeps reframing in the upper right corner.)
In tune with the sexy subject matter, Ivy Video has added two shorts that precede the film. Like other “Saturday Matinee” entries, the DVD starts off with the Rome Symphony Orchestra performing Rossini's “Barber of Seville,” and Beethoven's “Prometheus Overture.” Visually, the set design recalls the famous “Street Scene” prologue of Fox's early CinemaScope comedy, “How To Marry A Millionaire,” that had composer Alfred Newman conducting the studio orchestra, while cameras swoop, pan, and track around the musicians. Though full frame and in black & white, the short uses sufficient montage to convey a formal musical performance for filmgoers.
The second short (which can also be played separately, or as a lead-in to the feature film) is a tongue-in-cheek educational piece on the Kinsey report, produced in 1954. Using stylized graphics and live-action footage of ersatz subjects, the black & white short pokes fun at the meaning of monogamy and fidelity according to Mr. Kinsey, and functions as a suitable lead-in to the DVD's main feature.
An excellent example of a lost treasure, “Wife For A Night” is available separately, or as part of a 3-disc set titled “Italian Babes of Yore,” which also includes “Girl With A Suitcase,” and “Too Bad She's Bad.”
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan