31 October 2004 | phoenix2rachelsummers
bad taste can be so good
The late Italian director Mario Bava (1913-1980) made a handful of genuinely great films, like Black Sunday, Lisa and the Devil, and Blood and Black Lace, along with many that almost transcend kitsch, i.e. Diabolik and Black Sabbath, and some that are simply wonderful kitsch. Of the third category, this may be the best example.
A group of rich, decadent swingers in the most tasteless fashions of the time (the year is 1970) cavort about on an island owned by one of them. One guest is a scientist with a formula that could be worth a fortune. When he refuses to sell the formula, everybody on the island starts dying one by one (a la Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians,) the bodies literally piling up in the meat locker, just one example of the hilariously dark humor Bava brings to this dubious premise.
Bava made no bones about this movie being a paycheck job, or of his shame for it - the script was atrocious, the producer refused to let him have any say in the casting, or let Bava use most of his usual crew, and budget cuts forced the director to have almost every murder take place offscreen. But Bava's films always had a misanthropic wit(except Black Sunday, with its clear-cut good versus evil scenario,) and in the case of "Five Dolls For An August Moon," it almost seems like the director's contempt for the project actually made the end result funnier and more brazen than expected. Bava had a technical facility that most money-burning present day directors would kill for, and a complete lack of pretensions to being anything other than a hard-working director for hire. When the chemistry was just right, it could create a glorious bauble (or, less often, something even better.)
Is it good? Well, as the saying goes, how could something so right be so wrong?