Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970) | Mario Bava’s pop art whodunit is simply ravishing on Blu-ray

Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)

With a Pop Art nod to Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit, Ten Little Indians, Mario Bava’s 1970 giallo Five Dolls for an August Moon (aka 5 bambole per la luna d’agosto) is a tour de force, while Arrow Video’s new HD restoration release is a must-have. And here’s why…

Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)

Playboy industrialist George Stark (Teodora Corrà) gathers a group of bourgeois friends at his beach house retreat for the weekend, where the guest of honour is Professor Farrell (William Berger (Faccia a Faccia), a brilliant chemist who has developed a new formula for a revolutionary synthetic resin. Armed with $1m cheques, the guests try to woo Farrell, but he’s just not interested. The potential investors then turn on each other, with one of them restorting to murder to get their hands on the formula…

Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)

Maria Bava called Five Dolls his worst film and said he only did it for the money. But I think he does it an injustice (and it’s not anywhere as bad as Dr Goldfoot & the Girls Bombs). OK, it might have a wayward narrative, but it’s difficult not to get carried away by Bava’s dazzling visuals and production design, the camera and editing, the jazzy go-go lounge score, and the colourful characters, played by genre favourites, including Edwige Fenech and Howard Ross.

Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)

A master of the giallo, each time Bava returned to the genre he tried something different. This misfire, which he edited as well as directed, is no exception. If his Girl Who Knew Too Much was a ‘monochrome Hitchcockian masterpiece in terror‘, and his Blood and Black Lace, a ‘spellbinding essay in sexual perversity‘, then his Five Dolls is a dazzling Pop Art portrait of bourgeois excess, brought to maximum effect by the film’s gaudy fashions, modernist décor, and sly camera tricks (especially those purposefully hilarious close-ups).

Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)

While Bava’s slasher prototype Bay of Blood showed us each murder in explicit gory detail, all the deaths in Five Dolls occur off-screen. But it doesn’t matter, as Bava comes up with a gleefully grim-tastic device: wrapping his corpses in plastic and then having them hang them like butcher meat in a freezer to the tune of some off-key carousel music.

Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)

And speaking of music, the film’s kitsch jazz lounge score is by Piero Umiliani, who is best known for the novelty song Mah Nà, Mah Nà, which I’ve always associated with Sesame Street. But it was actually first used in an Italian mondo called Sweden Heaven and Hell. Now, I’ll never think of it the same way.

Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)

I can’t stress how gorgeous the Arrow Video restoration release looks on Blu-ray, which I’ve watched three times now (one for the film itself, one with Tim Lucas’ hugely informative audio commentary, and one with just that brilliant music). Which means I can finally chuck my copy of 2001 Image Entertainment DVD release.

Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)THE ARROW VIDEO RELEASE
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations, re-mastered from the original film elements. Once you’ve seen this, you’ll be chucking out your old DVD versions (which is exactly what I did).
• Optional English and Italian soundtracks in original uncompressed mono PCM audio.
• Optional isolated Music and Effects track: If you don’t already have the Cinevox OST CD then this is the closest you’ll get to hearing Piero Umiliani’s knockout score, which includes his Eyes Without a Face homage, Fantoccio Grottesco.
• Optional English subtitles for the Italian audio and English subtitles
• Tim Lucas audio commentary: This is a must-hear as Lucas provides some amazing insights into the film’s production and underlying themes. But be prepared for some big reveals (like the fact the fab house is just a matt painting and a studio set).
Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre: This documentary may be 16 years old, but it does boast some informative interviews with genre favourites Joe Dante, John Carpenter and Tim Burton.
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collector’s booklet featuring articles on Bava’s film and exploitation distributor Edwin John (EJ) Fancey.

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About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on February 25, 2016, in Cult classic, Horror, Mario Bava, Must See, Must See, Thriller, World Cinema and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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