Wednesday, 17 February 2016



The overdue exhumation of the films of Mario Bava continues with this light giallo that mostly dispenses with horror and suspense and piles on the eye-popping production design and costumes. Less of a traditional giallo like, say, Blood And Black Lace (probably my favourite Bava film) and more a colourful whodunnit in which everyone seems surprisingly unconcerned about a homicidal maniac on the loose and the rising body count, its appeals are mostly visual and certainly not narrative.

Beginning with Piero Umiliani's horrible Hammond score that's probably the most annoying example of giallo's fixation with dramatically inappropriate easy listening/lounge music, 5 Dolls For An August Moon focusses on an obnoxious bunch of decadents having an extended holiday in a frankly gorgeous beach house on a private island. The house is owned by a rich industrialist who's trying to persuade a scientist to sell his revolutionary new formula for some kind of synthetic resin. Meanwhile the wives lounge around looking wonderful until someone starts bumping people off. The launch has gone, the supply yacht isn't due, the radio doesn't work - oh well, put on another colourful outfit and have another drink, and try not to worry about all the corpses hung up in the freezer....

It's light enough to get away with a 15 certificate - there are no black-gloved psychopaths on view and the fairly ordinary motives are a far cry from the genre's usual revenge and sex - but with no real suspense and no threat to the characters, there's not much reason why we should feel involved, and not much reason why we should try and work out who the killer is. In the end it doesn't really matter anyway: the final scene reveals all but you've rather lost track of it by that point. But who cares? It all looks fabulous. Bright colours, skimpy clothing, sunlight, interior decor: everything looks like a fashion spread for a glossy magazine and not like a multiple crime scene in which men and women are casually murdered with equanimity.

The Blu, of course, looks wonderful, with the option to watch in Italian with subtitles or the English language dub. I chose the latter: I usually go for original language but in the case of Euro horror and Hong Kong martial arts movies dubbing can give it a peculiar charm. There's also a commentary track by Bava expert Tim Lucas and an option to watch the film with just the music and sound effects in case you really can't get enough of that Hammond organ. Also included is the hour-long documentary "Mario Bava: Maestro Of The Macabre" from 2000, narrated by Mark Kermode and including rather too much footage from the genuinely terrifying "Drop Of Water" segment from Black Sabbath. Maybe that all bunks the package up to an essential purchase; personally I'd be more excited about a release for Planet Of The Vampires but it's still definitely worth picking up.


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