Monday, 28 March 2016
Blu-ray Review: Five Dolls For An August Moon (Arrow Video)
Mario Bava's "Five Dolls For An August Moon" (1970) was deemed to be his worst film by none other than the great man himself.
I respectfully disagree with this brutally frank opinion, as Dolls is a showcase for Bava's artistry and ingenuity.
Mario became involved with the project as a 'gun for hire', replacing the original helmsman, and was immediately confronted with a script he labelled as a joke.
The screenplay was loosely based on Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" and though it's the weakest aspect of the film, what it does do well is to help generate some tense scenes.
The inhabitants of a remote island retreat anticipate a weekend of relaxation with some hard-nosed business at the top of the agenda. The Professor's formula attracts very lucrative offers from a trio of likely lads who seek possession of this valuable information.
Farrell's wife Trudy (Ira Furstenberg); sex kitten Marie (Edwige Feneche); wife-slapping, womanising George (Teodoro Corra) and Jack (Howard Ross) are all part of a group whose chances of survival grow slimmer by the minute, amidst the greed and deception.
Following a hoax stabbing, the real slayings begin, with a series of murders committed off-camera: presumably a directorial protest against the material he was given to work with.
This one really is a dry run for "A Bay Of Blood", with a large dose of the experimental at play, amidst amazing glass matte paintings and other ingenious compositions to give your 'pause' button a real workout.
Check out the crystal balls tumbling down a staircase, straight into a bathroom that plays host to another dead body; the scenes where the recently departed hang in a freezer beside real slabs of meat; the camera setting up the cast by zooming into their eyes, only to find an emptiness that matches their very souls, and a shot involving a scarf that demands repeated views.
While Bava couldn't fix the screenplay, he could push himself to create and solve visual problems which ensured Dolls is a stimulating affair, with Piero Ulmiliani's score matching the director's vision and innovative style.
Antonio Rinaldi's cinematography - shot under the watchful eye of his director - captures and contrasts cold interior beauty with the picturesque outdoor setting, with colours that really pop in Arrow Video's strong Blu-ray presentation.
Dolls is a worthy addition to Arrow's Mario Bava Collection; middle-tier Bava at best, but fascinating nonetheless.
The film is accompanied by a Tim Lucas commentary track, which begins with the assertion that "Five Dolls For An August Moon" was misunderstood by its own director.
Tim tlaks about the use of paintings in the film; the soundtrack -"one of the greatest scores Bava ever worked with" - and he discusses the director's craftmanship. Tim also compares certain scenes to other Bava films, such as "Kill, Baby...Kill!", "Danger:Diabolik" and "Planet Of The Vampires".
Those of us pondering the identity of the original director of this film will be intrigued by Tim's theory.
Another top-notch commentary from - for my money- the best in the business.
Fans of the excellent score will be pleased by the inclusion of a music and effects track, and there's also a documentary to savour.
While seasoned Bava buffs will undoubtedly have already seen "Mario Bava: Maestro Of The Macabre", it's easily worth repeat viewings, and newcomers will find it essential.
Here, we get input from the likes of Alfredo Leone, Sam Arkoff, Joe Dante, Tim Burton, John Carpenter, Carlo Rambaldi and Tim Lucas, while Mario's family are represented by son Lamberto, grandson Roy and granddaughter Georgia.
There are clips from "Baron Blood", "Black Sabbath" and "Black Sunday" to name but a few, and an abundance of insight and anecdote covering the great man's career.
There's also a collectors booklet featuring new writing by Glenn Kenny, and a new essay by Adrian Smith on the Fancey family and their efforts to deliver foreign exploitation titles to the UK during a three decade period.
"Five Dolls For An August Moon" is a Region B release, and available to buy now.