Friday, September 26, 2014

Streaming the 1970s via two bottom-of-the-barrel Bava movies: the Giallo-esque 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON and LISA & THE DEVIL

For anyone who knows Italian director, cinematographer and sometimes writer Mario Bava (above) via his best film Kidnapped (aka Rabid Dogs) or even his most widely-known movie, Black Sunday, streaming some of his lower-end work may come as surprise. Bava did an awful lot of work-for-hire, precisely at the time when the Italian giallo movies were all the rage, and some of these are, well, pretty terrible, though even at their silliest, they contain some nice cinematography and alternately creative and cheesily entertaining moments. So, for film buffs willing to try anything, both of the below might be worth a recommendation.

Giallo queen Edwige Fenech (below and upside down) is prominent in the ensemble cast of 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON (1970), the title of which proves one of the more meaningless in movie history. Yes, I believe there are five corpses in the pantry by movie's end but a couple of these are men, and I don't recall noticing a moon anywhere. Still, you can expect lots of blood and little sense (seemingly a neces-sary combination in far too many of the giallo I've experien-ced) by the time the movie rolls to its end.

The plot plunks down several couples on a tropical island. One fellow, above, is a scientist with a special "formula" the other men want to buy. He won't sell, so murder ensues. The movie opens with shots of a nubile young lass (below) running about and spying on the "adults." Keep her in your view for full plot enjoyment.

Otherwise, it's pretty much the old Ten Little Indians thing, as one after another of our cast falls away. Bava only directed and edited here but had no hand in the screenplay. The movie is pretty, bloody and short (it runs only 78 minutes).  Oh, yes -- and the Netflix transfer is NOT in high definition.

LISA & THE DEVIL (from 1973), on the other hand, is of the classier sort, and runs 95 too-long minutes. It also boasts a hi-def transfer on Netflix and a cast made up of actors who, though definitely slumming, were probably raking in enough money to make it worth their while. These would include the stately and beautiful actress, Alida Valli (below, center), along with bald TV star Telly Savalas (below, right). You might also include Elke Sommer in this group, though Ms Sommer never had quite the career of the other two.

Here we have the story (using this word is quite a stretch) of a pretty tourist (Sommer, clad in an odd combo of blue and green) in Spain, getting off her bus for a look around and discovering Mr. Savalas' devilish image on a mural and then finding him in the flesh in a small shop off the village square.

Frightened, she gets lost and hitches a ride with a wealthy couple and their chauffeur, and when their car breaks down, the quartet finds itself at the mansion of a family for whom Savalas acts as butler. Of course they spend the night, and most of them die by morning.

This is one of those extremely dysfunctional family movies in which one character (Sommer) looks exactly like someone important from the family's past. Saving graces include some titillating nudity, a gorgeous young man (Alessio Orano, above) who plays the Valli character's son, and Savalas, using this nonsense as an opportunity to camp it up rather spectacularly -- for maximum audience enjoyment.

Bava had a hand in the screenplay of this one (no great shakes). The movie relies far too much on repetitive and silly visual "effects" that may have been a bit new in their time but by now just look faintly ridiculous. Still, for those inclined, both films can now be streamed -- along with an amazing amount of other giallo movies -- via Netflix.

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