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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Foreign > Italian > Wife For A Night

Wife For A Night

(Widescreen, from the Italian Babes Of Yore Ivy Video set)


Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: C-     Films: B- each



Recently, we looked at a sad DVD copy of Valerio Zurlini’s 1960 drama Girl With A Suitcase starring Claudia Cardinale and Jacques Perrin.  It was a bad copy with bad sound and unacceptable picture.  The Italian film also only had an English soundtrack.  As we posted it for our readers to read, we discovered there was a second version issued by company called Ivy Video and got a hold of them immediately.  Usually when we wish for a better version of a film on DVD, we do not get it.  Their version was not only a big improvement, but part of a terrific boxed set called Italian Babes Of Yore.


As noted in the previous review, the story has to do with a sexy and frank woman (Cardinale) who beings to fall for a man (Perrin) her age, but when the relationship falls apart, she suddenly finds herself more attracted to his younger brother.  In the Koch version, it looked like a promising film was in there somewhere, but this copy really shows what was missing.  The 1.85 X 1 letterboxed image has much better composition and the subtleties of the shadow and lighting that further how the triangle of sorts develops.  The film is not necessarily Neo-Realist or Existentialist, but it is a solid piece of relation ship study that works much of the time.  Only a Dolby Digital 2.0 Italian Mono version is offered here, but it is far better and it looks like the English dub from the other DVD had actors reading from this older copy.  Cardinale is really good and this is a nice alternative to her biggest artistic and commercial success, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West (1969, reviewed elsewhere on this site).  If the only other alternate viewing you have had of her is from the original 1964 Blake Edwards Pink Panther, you will want to see this.


If that was not enough, the box offers two other good films.  Too Bad She’s Bad (1955) offers one of the less seen, but often amusing pairing of Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni (I guess they were always this good), with directing legend Vittorio De Sica turning in another one of his funny character actor appearances.  This is actually the first time they worked together and it is odd this film is not better known.  Mastroianni is a taxi driver who gets involved in everyone’s dysfunctional behavior, especially centered on a sexy big mouth (Loren) or the title.  Can she be tamed?  Can he handle her if she is not?  Are all these people crazy or just Italian?  These questions and more will be answered when you see the film, which includes an amusing sequence with a wire recorder.  The ending is rather politically incorrect by today’s standards, but it is also an Italian in-joke we will let you figure out for yourself.  No wonder Loren and Mastroianni became a legendary screen pairing.  The 1.85 X 1 image is not bad, with clean and clear enough image quality, with the Dolby Digital 2.0 Italian Mono subtitled in English.


Finally, there is another legend of the screen, Gina Lollobrigida in her 1952 romp Wife For A Night.  A poor Classical composer/musician (Armando Franciolo) needs money badly and thinks he can get it out of a rich count (Gino Cervi), but it will take more than clever conversation to get that gold.  He hires another woman (Lollobrigida) to pretend to be his wife while she sends his actual wife away!  Though not funny non-stop, it is still amusing and has some serious moments.  Billy Wilder essentially remade this as his 1964 comedy Kiss Me, Stupid! with Dean Martin, Ray Walston, Kim Novak, John Fiedler and Mel Blanc.  I have a feeling when I sit to watch that version again, it will make more sense, now that I have seen the original.  While Wilder’s film was shot in 2.35 x 1 Panavision scope, this is a black and white 1.33 X 1 film, but the image quality is equal to the previous letterboxed films in the set and the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is yet again Italian only.


The only technical complaints we can make is that all the prints are a bit aged, but in good shape for their age.  However, the white subtitles are of the older kind that fades into the background when the seen is too bright.  It would have still been nice to see the letterboxed films in anamorphic transfers, but they still look film-like enough despite that.  All three prints have their artifacts, scratches and dirt here and there; while a few pops were on the sound briefly on all three films from the optical sound sources off the print, so do not play them too loud.  Otherwise, the presentations and quality of the films, in content and playback, were consistently the same throughout.  This extended to the extras, which include a symphony music short and animated short on each disc.  The Rome Symphony Orchestra performs Mendlessohn’s Saltarello Ballet and Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra Symphony on Suitcase (which also has the animated Land Boom send up of buying real estate), Cimarosa’s Secret Marriage and Schubert’s Rosamund on Too Bad (which has the animated love story The Slob Story which features a blob in love!), and Rossini’s Barber Of Seville and Beethoven’s Prometheus Overture on Wife (which also has the amusing animated Report On Love, which mixes animation and some live action in dealing with the findings of the Kinsey Report On Sex!).  Italian Babes Of Yore is a fun set that offers laughs and a look at a vital cinema that was equal to what Hollywood was doing at the time.  It also breaks the Neo-Realist stereotype of what Italian films were after World War II.  More of these films deserve to be rediscovered and seen again.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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