5 Dolls For an August Moon/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Chemist Gerry Ferrell (William Berger) has created a synthetic resin that several large industrialists have a great desire to purchase off of him. He has no desire to sell thanks to an accident that occurred during the creation, but wealthy George Stark (Teodoro Corr) invites him and several interested parties out to his secluded island home with the intention of creating a heated bidding war over the creation. The war becomes more heated than anyone had expected, though, when the house guests start dying off in all sorts of mysterious fashions. As the bodies start to pile up in Stark's vast kitchen freezer, the survivors find themselves trying to figure out who the killer is before they become victims as well.
It is certainly a great testament to the filmmaking abilities of Mario Bava that his least favorite, most rushed into production film (Bava was given the script on a Friday and asked to begin production that Monday according to Bava expert Tim Lucas) 5 Dolls For an August Moon is probably one of his most visually arresting films. Bava has always been known for his lush direction, but here his directing is quite stunning for someone who had a great distaste for the material he was creating. The framing of such scenes as the series of plastic wrapped bodies hanging from meathooks in the freezer to a great scene in which a ton of glass spheres roll down a staircase and into a sauna where a character has committed suicide are all great examples of Bava's meticulous care for the visual aesthetic of his films.
According to Lucas, Bava himself claimed that the reason he disliked the script was because it reminded him of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. The film does bear a great many similarities to what some call the first real "body count" story, but there is enough of an Italian flavor to it so as to give it its own distinct personality. A lot of this probably had much to do with on-set re-writes that Bava demanded so that he would be able to stomach the project a little easier. He had already tackled similar material in Blood and Black Lace to great effect, so it was apparent that the producers who pushed this film on Bava hoped to follow the same type of success as that film. Ironically, his next film Twitch Of The Death Nerve would also go on to follow the same "body count" formula (while also serving as the forefather to the entire slasher film craze of the late seventies and early eighties).
Besides some wonderful visuals and the distinct Italian air about the film, 5 Dolls for an August Moon also contains a wonderfully memorable score. The score was written by Peiro Umiliani and is the epitome of late sixties/early seventies lounge music. Particularly entertaining is the score that always accompanies the shots of the bodies in the freezer. This music has a distinct carousel music type groove going for it and its constant repetition throughout the film keeps in permanently in your head (and those who have seen the film are probably humming it to themselves right now). Many people championed the psychedelic soundtrack used for Jess Franco's 1970 film Vampyros Lesbos, but I, personally, would love a CD of the score for this film.
5 Dolls for an August Moon has been released on DVD as part of Image Entertainment's Mario Bava Collection. The film has been presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (non-anamorphically enhanced) and is actually the first time that the film has officially been released in the US. Audio options on the film include an Italian language track with optional English subtitles, a complete English dub, or an isolated score and effects track (a real boon for fans of Umiliani's offbeat score). Also included on the disc are cast and crew biographies, a poster and photo gallery, and trailers for six other titles in the Mario Bava Collection (though there is no trailer for this film included!). Extensive liner notes by Tim Lucas are also featured in the fold-out section of the snapper case cover. Although it was not one of the late Italian director's favorite works, this film is a wonderful indication of his expertise and fans should not pass up this disc.
Review by Pockets of Sanity