1) “The Ten Commandments” (1956)
2) “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001)
3) The giallo for this review, “5 Dolls for the August Moon” (1969)
Answer: They are all adaptations of top 10 all time top selling books. Sadly, there have yet to be any good film versions of “The Book of Common Prayer” or “Quotations from Chairman Mao,” but I hear that Universal has optioned the rights to adapt “Pilgrim’s Progress” with Sylvester Stallone eager to play the lead.
“5 Dolls for the August Moon” is directed by Mario Bava and unofficially based on “And Then There Were None” (1939) by Agatha Cristie. It is also known as “Ten Little Indians” although it was originally published under a different (and offensive) name. I won’t write it here, but if you’re curious, look it up. The international smash hit tells the tale of ten guests invited to an island mansion by a mysterious host who never appears. Trapped in a ritzy mansion, they are knocked off one by one, each in a different manner. Can you solve the crime?
It might not be worth trying, since the solution is fairly elaborate and non-intuitive, but it makes for a good yarn. Over the years there have been nearly ten film adaptations and a highly successful Broadway version. None are particularly good, but at least “5 Dolls for an August Moon” is a giallo. As the title makes plain, the emphasis is on the female half of the ten stranded islanders who are all conspicuously attractive. They also just happened to have packed enormous wardrobes of revealing outfits as well. The similarities to “Blood and Black Lace” (1964) are striking.
The plot has also been changed to give the ten guests more of a purpose. They are meeting on the island to bid for a scientific discovery made by Professor Farrell. He is uninterested in their monetary millions and is determined to make his formula known to the world. The others don’t like this. Eventually people start getting killed roughly along the lines of the source novel. After the first body is found, there is so much distrustful glancing that you know the murder-floodgate has been thrown wide open.
Could the murderer be Trudy, the professor’s cold, loveless wife…
The plot tends to be a little dull, since the “secret formula” is used so obviously as a MacGuffin. The characters are all so unlikable that we are asked to revel in their backstabbing schemes and untimely deaths rather than to care or understand them. They take an undeniable glee in their mercenary, amoral behavior. There is a certain undeniable pleasure in watching the characters complete their predestined roles, but if it wasn’t for Bava’s direction the film would be fairly tiresome.
Here are quotes that lend a little insight into the character dynamics:
Nick: “Now what was I saying?”
Marie: “That I’m a dirty whore. That’s why I’m showering, so at least I’ll be a clean whore.”
Nick: “Well, well, if it isn’t Trudy. A beautiful icicle.”
Jill: “Why did you marry such a beast?”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a giallo if the death sequences weren’t given a little extra spice. They include film history’s favorite focus pull (victim-to-gun / gun-to-victim):
And now for the art comparison, brought to you by Matisse: