Five Dolls for an August Moon
five dolls for an august moon | mario bava | mario di nardo | based on | novel | agatha christie | william berger | ira von furstenberg | edwige fenech | giallo | mystery | thriller | italy | howard ross | helena ronee | todoro corra | ely galleani | edith meloni
Film: Five Dolls for an August Moon (5 bambole per la luna d'agosto)
Director: Mario Bava
Writer: Mario di Nardo
Starring: William Berger, Ira von Fürstenberg and Edwige Fenech
This is a movie that I didn’t know about until I got into horror movie podcasts. It is one that would pop up periodically, especially since it is directed by the great Mario Bava. I didn’t realize this was based on the novel from Agatha Christie. From what I’ve gathered, many of these gialli would use these types of murder mysteries or different stories, just tweaking things to flesh out a story. For this one here, the synopsis is an industrialist invites his colleagues and their wives to relax on his private island so they can exploit the monetary value of one of the guests’ revolutionary resin formula, but a killer within the group disrupts the proceedings.
We start here with Isabel (Ely Galleani) as she runs along the beach. She approaches a house where there is a party going on inside. As the synopsis alluded to, the industrialist who owns the house is George Stark (Teodoro Corrà). He is married to Jill (Edith Meloni), but we also see that these people due to their wealth seem to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh. Also at this party is Professor Gerry Farrell (William Berger) along with his wife Trudy (Ira von Fürstenberg). There is also Nick Chaney (Maurice Poli) and his wife Marie (Edwige Fenech) as well as Jack Davidson (Howard Ross) and Peggy (Helena Ronee).
Marie gets up and dances around the room, drawing everyone’s attention. George decides to play a game where knives are handed out and Marie is tied to a statue. The lights then go out and when they come back on, it appears that Marie is stabbed to death. Things aren’t as they seem though.
Going back to the synopsis, Gerry was invited here due to a formula he created. George along with Jack and Nick offer him each a million dollars. They want to pay him for the rights to it so they can get rich. Gerry refuses to sell it to them. There is no honor amongst them as Nick offers five million dollars for the formula, but for him to be the sole owner. Gerry once again denies him.
Something that should be pointed out is that it takes place on an island. The only way to get here is via a yacht. There is a guy who works on it, Charles (Mauro Bosco) and he’s having an affair with Marie. He is murdered and this is just the start. The next person killed is Gerry. The assumption is for his formula. Who is behind the killings? The people here don’t necessarily care to solve this murder if the formula can be found. It doesn’t help when we have this group of people who seem to lack morals.
That is going to be where I’ll leave the recap for this movie. What is interesting is that the story we have here is basic. The story that is used here is ‘And Then There Were None’ from Christie. I’ve not read this book, but I’m seen quite a few adaptations of it, even if it doesn’t give credit to it as this is a classic murder mystery set up. What makes this work here for this movie is the fact that it has all these characters, most of them being from money and lacking morals. As I’m watching this, I believe that they all could be the killer. This includes the men and the women.
To delve a bit more into this, I’ll start with the host of George. All his friends know that he will do whatever he can to pay people off. I’m pretty sure multiple characters in this movie confirm that. I don’t remember much about his wife, but I know she calls out Nick for trying to make a deal behind his back, knowing full well he’d do the same. Nick is interesting in that he doesn’t care that his wife is having an affair with Charles. His problem is that he is a deckhand for the yacht. He feels she could do better, including his friends. Marie is even on board to seduce Gerry if that will result in getting her husband the formula. I don’t recall Jack that much, but since these people are all friends, I’m assuming his in line with the rest there.
Before I move away from the story completely, something that is interesting here is that we see who kills Gerry. I won’t reveal who that is, but once I saw that it confused me. I started to think that this person was doing all the killings. All I will say is that there is more to the story and that they might not be working alone here. Being a giallo, we do have characters who aren’t the police trying to solve the mystery before it is too late. We are getting some of the other troupes that are known in this sub-genre, which I did find interesting. That was something I wanted to point out here.
What does make this work though is I believe Gerry’s kill is the only one on screen. If it isn’t, it would just be some of the later deaths. This became a problem for me because I love to see the effects used. It also makes me question if certain people are really dead or not. I understand why they were done this way. The reason being is that we would know who the killer is. Instead, we get to see another body added to the freezer to help preserve them until they can get back to the mainland. They get stuck on this island, which does add an element of tension since they can’t get away it would seem. It is hard to give credit to the effects for this though. What I will say is that the cinematography was well done.
Next will be the acting. I think it is good across the board. Berger fits as this professor. I like that he gets annoyed with his ‘friends’ who are pressuring him into giving up his formula. Fürstenberg fits as his wife. She is interesting as this movie goes on. Fenech is an actress that is stunning. I’ve seen her play a variety of roles and I like her here as this promiscuous modern woman. Ross, Corrà and Poli are all solid as the friends who will do whatever it takes to get that formula. I like Galleani as Isabel with the reveal for her character. Aside from that Ronee and Meloni aren’t fleshed out as much as they could be. The acting works though as I don’t know who to trust.
Then finally the last thing to go into would be the soundtrack. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan compared to other films in the sub-genre. It isn’t bad, but they focus more on using island music to fit the setting. I’m more of a fan of the jazz or synth inspired soundtrack of some of the heavier hitters personally. It didn’t ruin the movie for me; it just didn’t work as well.
So then in conclusion here, this is a solid movie that I’m glad I could tick off the list. It isn’t the most original story, but I can commend them for taking the source material and tweaking it for what we get here. The acting is good enough for what they needed. I’m disappointed we don’t get more with the effects, but I understand what they’re doing though. It makes sense to hide the killer and avoid a cheat there. This is shot well though. I did like the isolated location as that helps with the tension. The soundtrack seemed to fit more of being an island movie it does to build the atmosphere. I’d say that my rating here is above average and just lacking some elements to go higher.
My Rating: 7 out of 10