5 Dolls For An August Moon
Released by: Kino-Lorber
Released on: September 3, 2013.
Director: Mario Bava
Cast: William Berger, Ira von Fürstenberg, Maurice Poli, Edwige Fenech
Purchase From Amazon
Directed by Mario Bava in 1970 and obviously influenced by Ten Little Indians, 5 Dolls For An August Moon follows a group of ten different people all brought together to take part in an island retreat held by a strange, and very well to do businessman. One of the guests is a brilliant inventor named Gerry Farrell (William Berger) who has created a resin that could revolutionize a certain manufacturing process. While he's on the island, Gerry is constantly harassed and pressured by certain men to sell the formula to his host. Substantial checks are passed his way, and there's no small amount of pressure put on him, but Gerry doesn't want to sell, end of story.
Meanwhile, the ten men that have been brought to the island, many of whom have brought their respective wives and/or girlfriends along for the trip, are indulging themselves, creating more tension and pressure. Soon enough, there's quite a bit of bickering and fighting going on amongst the group. When one of the servants turns up dead, the group starts to realize that something might be amiss and this is compounded by the fact that they're completely cut off from the mainland. Before you know it, the bodies start piling up - the corpses are being stashed in the freezer, and the surviving members of the group have to figure out who among them is the murderer.
A sort of giallo-light, Five Dolls For An August Moon is a decent Agatha Christie knock-off even if it doesn't look like Bava's heart was really in it. Don't expect the lush stylistic lighting and thick, rich atmosphere seen in films like Blood And Black Lace or even Bay Of Blood, though even here Bava’s technique and style is evident. The film looks good but compared to some of his better giallo's it is rather tame. It's nice to see the always lovely Edwige Fenech show up in a supporting role and the score courtesy of composer Piero Umiliani is quirky and interesting but the murders aren’t as vicious as they could be (they happen off screen and we are shown only the aftermaths, though this can sometimes be enough) and as such, lack some impact.
On top of that, the story is obviously quite derivative. Bava does play up the sex appeal of the female cast members very effectively, however, and the film is certainly framed nicely but it's obvious that he made this one quickly as it just doesn't feel as creative or inspired as some of his better known pictures. The film does make excellent use of some oddball locations, however, with the (at the time) very modern looking house where so much of this plays out making for some interesting opportunities to experiment with some odd camera angels and compositions.
Ultimately, Five Dolls For An August Moon is stylish enough to look good (the opening scene with the zooming towards Edwige is a stand out scene) and suspenseful enough to be interesting - it just isn't particularly original or inspired. It's a good movie that unfortunately has to pale in comparison to some of Bava's truly great movies. It's enjoyable and the director's talents shine through where they can, but the characters are shallow and the story is fairly predictable.
5 Dolls For An August Moon debuts on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and in short, it looks great. Detail is consistently impressive and whatever elements used for the transfer were obviously in excellent condition, meaning that we don’t really see much at all in the way of print damage. Color reproduction is beautiful, Bava’s use of color really helps to make this a great looking movie, while skin looks like skin, never waxy or bland. Texture is consistently impressive and there are no issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement. All in all, a very nice, film-like transfer and quite a big step up from previous DVD releases.
The only audio option for the feature is an English language LPCM 2.0 Mono track – some will lament the absence of the Italian language option that was included on the previous releases from Image and Anchor Bay, but the quality of the lossless track here is very good. Dialogue stays crystal clear and the score has nice depth to it. There are no problems with hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced throughout. No subtitles or closed captioning is provided.
The main extra on the disc is a new commentary track from Mario Bava biographer and Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas. As is seemingly always the case with Lucas’ commentaries on Bava pictures, this is an incredibly well researched piece that takes a scholarly approach to examining the history and importance of this film. He discusses the various cast and crew members and their respective contributions to the movie and also puts the movie into context, making some interesting comparisons to other Bava movies and giving us some insight into where the director was at, career wise, when this project came about. It’s a very solid listen and a nice inclusion on the disc.
Aside from that we get trailers for a few other Bava titles that Kino have released, menus and chapter selection.
The Final Word:
5 Dolls For An August Moon isn’t Bava’s best movie but it’s a rock solid thriller with a great cast, an excellent score and loads of the director’s own inimitable style on display. Kino’s Blu-ray contains only the English track but both the audio and video quality on the disc are top notch and Tim Lucas’ commentary is interesting and very informative.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!