5 Dolls for an August Moon (1970)
By: CJ on May 2, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Image Entertainment (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 2.0 Mono, Italian DD 2.0 Mono. English Subtitles. 78 minutes
The Movie
Director: Mario Bava
Starring: William Berger, Ira von Fürstenberg, Teodoro Corrà, Edwige Fenech
Screenplay: Mario di Nardo
Country: Italy
AKA: 5 Bambole per la Luna D'agosto, Island of Terror

A few years ago, Image Entertainment treated Euro-cinema fans to a series of classic movies from Italian maestro Mario Bava. So, I decided to plunder the archives and revisit their release of 5 Dolls for an August Moon and give my opinion on what I consider to be a long overlooked gem. I have ulterior motives though, as it is my hope that by presenting Digital Retribution with this review that many others may also discover this fantastic Giallo that is often ignored and rarely talked about. I feel it deserves wider recognition as the masterwork that I feel it is. So, proceed onwards, intrepid reader…

The story tells of a wealthy industrialist, George Stark (Teodoro Corra), who invites a group of his friends and colleagues to stay with him at his island retreat. Stark introduces the group to Gerry Farrell (William Berger) a brilliant chemist who has created a formula for a new industrial resin. Each of the guests, who are also wealthy and prospective investors, tries to buy the formula from him. Double-dealing and murder ensues as each of the guests try to acquire the formula. With the bodies piling up and paranoia escalating, the ever-decreasing group continues to connive and, even with the fear of death looming, these avaricious guests are still focusing on their greedy intentions. Money, it would seem, is more important than survival…

This film divides the opinion of viewers and it's easy to understand why. It is so typically unlike Bava with manic zooms, trite dialogue, and is decidedly non-graphic in its depiction of violence with the murders taking place off-screen. However, this is probably the best fun you'll ever have watching a film. Gaudy 70's fashion, a superbly loungetastic music score from Piero Umiliani, inane dialogue, and splendidly larger than life characters – what's not to love?

The way the bodies are hooked up one-by-one in the freezer room, as the characters carry on in a business-as-usual fashion, is highly amusing. They continue seducing and dealing and it all adds up to some great, deliciously macabre fun. It is obvious that everything is presented exactly as Bava intended; he was by no means setting out to make a classic and achieves his goal in making a fine lowbrow film that will first and foremost entertain – but there is a lot of subliminal imagery too; for instance, the spiral staircase that is often framed to look like a dollar symbol. It may seem like a throw-away effort from Bava (and on the surface it appears that he seems intent on making us believe it is), but there is a lot of intelligence at work here too, you just have to know where to look for it. In fact, it's quite a subversive little number, and is deserving of repeat viewings to properly soak up all that is going on.

If it's a high gore-score you're after, then forget this; but if you're looking for something deliciously mischievous and entertaining, then look no further. I can't recommend this highly enough.
Although an obviously old film now, Image have done a superb job in restoring it to DVD. The colours (it has that Eastmancolor feel to it) are deep and vibrant and complimented with a sharp image which is free from artefacts but suffers from the occasional spot of print blemish, but nothing to complain about. Overall an impressive presentation and I'm being generous because I loved the film so much. However, although it's presented in 1:85:1 there is no anamorphic enhancement. Fortunately, Image addressed this for future releases – but if this were re-released with 16x9 enhancement, I'd pick it up in a heartbeat.
Presented in DD 2.0 mono the sound is perfectly adequate with the dialogue crisp and clear and also renders Piero Umiliani's fantastic score very pleasingly. Mono doesn't always equal poor quality, and the quality here is very good in fact. However, with advances in DVD authoring technology, there's probably room for minor improvement. Let's hope that in the future that a company like Blue Underground or NoShame Films will add this wonderful movie to their catalogues and give us a brand new sparkling restoration of it on DVD. I keep my fingers crossed.
Extra Features
Extras are rather thin on the ground with little more than a handful of bios and filmographies, trailers for other Bava titles from Image and a stills and poster gallery. At least some extras are provided allowing it be just above a bare bones disc. More effort could have been made thinks this reviewer.
The Verdict
This is a superb entry in the Bava canon in my opinion. It won't be to everyone's taste and will more than likely prove disappointing to those looking for full-on horror. Despite lacking many of the Giallo's trademark trappings such as the graphic violence present in so many others, it is none-the-less a Giallo, and a damn fine one at that. Definitely worth a watch and if the soundtrack doesn't have you grooving around the living room then you must be either paralysed or deaf. Cheesecake moviemaking at its finest, classy cheesecake at that - I adored it.
Movie Score
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