Saturday, 6 February 2016

Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)

“The best thing about it is the title”

         Not one of director Mario Bava’s best (although it is better than DR GOLDFOOT & THE GIRL BOMBS which I had the misfortune of reviewing on here last week) FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON has been given the lovely Blu-ray treatment by Arrow. If you’ve never seen a Mario Bava film before don’t start with this. I made that mistake many years ago and wondered why on earth people thought his work was so impressive. Watch BLACK SABBATH (1963) instead (probably my favourite) or maybe LISA AND THE DEVIL (1972). But not this. If you’re undecided about watching this specific Bava picture then hopefully the following will help.

Nice framing
         A group of unpleasant Italians with appalling fashion sense and a taste for J&B (there are often two bottles of it on display) congregate at a “modern” (for 1970s loonies with no taste and no sense of practicalities) villa on an isolated island. Cut off from the mainland they soon start to be bumped off. Everyone’s there to try and bid for the formula to a revolutionary resin. But Professor Farell (William Berger) is sticking to his chunky sweater and sandal-wearing roots and says he wants to ‘do science for the good of mankind’. Or something like that. Which begs the question why is he there in the first place. 

More nice framing
         As we near the end virtually everyone is dead. We eventually discover who the killer was in one of the stupidest endings for one of these things ever filmed. Seriously - I’ve watched FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON three times now (because I’m possibly as mad as whoever came up with some of the dreadful costumes in this) and the final revelatory speech still makes my jaw drop. It’s a very poor ending indeed, and smacks of someone who has got so bored with the project they’re decided to do a Jess Franco and leave the audience with any old nonsense.

Horrible rotating bed in case you like nausea with your sex.
Ah yes, Jess Franco. If you had shown me the opening thirty minutes of this with no prior knowledge and asked me to guess a director it would have been His Jessness. The camera zooms in and out and in and out, there are a few wobbly shots of the setting sun, and an interest in weird architecture, all of which would suggest the slide-trombone-wielding hand of Mr Franco here. 

One reason to watch FIVE DOLLS
         But it’s not. It’s Mario Bava, who really should have known better. As should whoever approved the music score, which is another truly awful aspect to this film that cannot be forgiven. It’s as if someone lost the tapes for the orchestral Bruno Nicolai score that was intended to accompany this one and instead some bloke knocked it up on his Bontempi in 24 hours. Possibly one of the worst, most intrusive and most inappropriate scores to grace an Italian horror film, Piero Umiliani’s jazzy rubbish will be stuck in your head for hours afterwards, even though you won’t want it there.

Two reasons to watch FIVE DOLLS
         Are there any good points? Well, it IS Bava and so there are a few nicely framed shots, as well as at least one clever discovery of a murder. But the rest of the film is so boring that these are little recompense. At about forty minutes in one character says “Everyone seems to be waiting for something that’s not happening” and we know exactly what she means.

Bloody murder! At least you can't hear the music
Arrow’s Blu-ray comes with Italian and English dialogue tracks, and an option where you can just play the music if you’re completely insane. Tim Lucas provides us with his usual, thoroughly scholarly, work in a commentary track and there’s an hour long Bava documentary from 2000. 
         Oh, and I should probably mention FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON has got the supremely lovely Edwige Fenech in it. So there you go - one good reason for watching it after all. And I bet I end up watching it again someday for her if nothing else. If I ever get that theme tune out of my head. 

Arrow Films released Mario Bava's FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON on dual format UK Blu-ray and DVD on 
1st February 2016

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