Not one of director Mario Bava's better films (he did it as a strictly work-for-hire basis and had next to no input on the screenplay), Five Dolls for an August Moon is a confusing and not terribly exciting whodunit. But, despite his fairly limited involvement in the film, Bava nonetheless does manage to provide some real visual interest to what is otherwise a routine, unexceptional little flick. The opening four or five minutes, for example, allow Bava to have a great deal of fun focusing on the characters. This sequence is supposed to introduce and differentiate the players in this tale, but Bava, perhaps realizing that they are so poorly written that they are practically interchangeable, concentrates instead on having visual fun with the way in which they are introduced. In addition, Bava's moves his camera throughout with the grace and fluidity that one expects of him, allowing for long and languid takes that suddenly erupt in a frenzy of camera movements. Bava's decision to keep most of the murders off-screen is not as successful; presumably, this is both to make the film "different" and to allow him to focus on how the deaths affect the other characters, but the former is self-serving and the latter ineffective (due to the lack of character depth in the film). The incredible 1960s set designs and fashions are also noteworthy. But despite all this, the mundane, run-of-the-mill story and the only-adequate cast keep Dolls from being anything but a mediocre movie.
by Craig Butler review