Five Dolls for an August Moon

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Five Dolls for an August Moon
Original Italian poster
Directed by Mario Bava
Produced by Luigi Alessi
Written by Mario di Nardo
Starring William Berger
Edwige Fenech
Renato Rossini
Music by Piero Umiliani
Cinematography Antonio Rinaldi
Edited by Mario Bava
Produzioni Atlas Consorziate
Release dates 14 February 1970
Running time 78 min.
Country Italy
Language Italian
Box office ITL 65,000,000

Five Dolls for an August Moon (Italian: 5 bambole per la luna d'agosto) is a 1970 Italian giallo film directed by Mario Bava. It concerns a group of people who have gathered on a remote island for fun and relaxation. One of the guests is a chemist who has created a revolutionary new chemical process, and several of the attending industrialists are eager to buy it from him. Business problems become a moot point, however, when someone begins killing off the attendees one-by-one.

Plot synopsis[edit]

At a desert island retreat owned by wealthy industrialist George Stark (Teodor Corra), a group of people have assembled for a weekend getaway of relaxation. Foremost among the guests is Professor Gerry Farrell (William Berger), an inventor/scientist who is badly in need of a vacation. While the first night passes uneventfully, Farrell is enraged to discover on the next morning that Stark, together with several of the guests, had planned this entire getaway as an opportunity to coerce him in to selling his latest invention: a formula for industrial resin.

Farrell is immediately established as a decent man, and although his marriage to his wife, Trudy (Ira Furstenberg), appears to be content, she is actually involved in a secret romance with Stark's artist wife Jill (Edith Meloni). Stark's business partner, Nick (Maurice Poli), is verbally abusive to his coquettish wife Marie (Edwige Fenech), but does not object to her sleeping with other men, one of whom is the houseboy and manservant Charles (Mauro Bosco). Stark is less of a husband to Jill than he is a business manager. Stark arranges for Jill to have her paintings and artwork publicly displayed and is also a source of constant criticism. The sole happy couple appears to be Nick's co-worker Jack (Renato Rossini), and his wife Peggy (Helene Ronee). Also among the guests is Isabelle (Justine Gall), a young teenage girl who seems to be in Stark's care while her parents are away.

As Stark, Nick, and Jack privately badger Farrell for the secret of the formula by offering him $1 million each from their Swiss bank accounts, Jill makes a horrible discovery on the beach: the dead body of Charles. Having already sent the motor launch away to prevent Farrell from leaving the island, and with the radio strangely out of commission, Stark has no way of contacting the mainland. So, Charles body is moved into a large walk-in freezer where it hangs with other 'chunks of meat'.

A little later, Farrell himself is the next victim. While he is walking alone on the beach, a sniper shoots him down. Trudy and Jill, walking hand-in-hand nearby, hear the gunshot and find Farrell's dead body and run way to tell the others. The sniper is revealed to be Isabelle, who places Farrell's body in a rowboat and pushes him out to sea.

As tempers flare to Farrell's killing and 'disappearance', the killings then escalate with alarming regularity. Peggy, standing on the balcony of her room, gets shot to death by an unseen assailant. Jack arrives on the scene first, and accuses Stark of being responsible, which he denies. Soon after, Marie turns up dead, having been tied to a tree with a knife sticking out of her chest. Then, Jill turns up dead in her bathtub after being electrocuted. Each of the bodies are placed in the freezer. Rather than risk anymore bloodshed, the four remaining survivors of Stark, Jack, Nick, and Trudy hold up in Stark's living room for the night. In this way they believe, the killer cannot strike without revealing him or herself. After bickering with Trudy, Nick storms off into the night. The next morning, he too is found dead, and his body is placed in 'cold storage'.

Up to this point, Stark is the most possible suspect when he sneaks out of the house and uncovers a motorboat which will take him to the mainland. As he returns to the house to get supplies, Jack confronts him where he reveals himself to be the killer, having killed off everyone to steal the $1 million cashiers checks from their bank accounts. Before Stark can do anything, Jack shoots him dead. But its revealed that Jack has not been acting alone. After killing Stark, Jack meets in the freezer with Trudy who is the real mastermind behind the whole scheme. Trudy had met with Jack before arriving on the island and offered to kill everybody so she can steal the million dollar cashier checks from Stark, Nick, in order to hand him over the formula for the resin. Jack even was forced to kill Peggy too because she got too close to discovering his plan. Jack then offers to hand Trudy over the three $1 million cashier checks, as she produces the microfilm for the resin formula. But Trudy tries to pull the same trick on Jack, by shooting him in the head, and stealing the three million dollar checks for herself. But having anticipated Trudy's betrayal, Jack manages to shoot her with his gun before expiring. At this point, Isabelle, who had been hiding in the secret passageways in the house through most of this time, enters the freezer where Trudy and Jack killed each other, and calmly collects the three checks from Trudy's handbag.

In an incredulous, off-the-wall twist set several months later, as well-dressed Isabelle arrives at the state prison to visit a very-much alive Farrell who is incarcerated. It turns out that Farrell, the apparent 'hero' of the story, actually stole the invention of the resin himself, murdering the true inventor in the process. Together with his wife, Trudy, it was Farrell who concocted the whole scheme of murder and duplicity for the sole purpose to steal Stark's, Nick's, and Jack's money. But Farrell's treachery has not gone unpunished. In their conversion on the island earlier, Farrell had met with Isabelle and had her shoot him with a drugged bullet to make it appear that he would be dead to get away from the others, whom he duped Isabelle into thinking were trying to kill him. But after shooting and drugging the professor, Isabelle pushed him out to sea in an open boat hoping someone would rescue him. Unfortunately for Farrell, his rescuers ended up being the police on their way to Stark's island and, unknown to him, the drug Isabelle used on him made him so delirious that it made him confess his crimes of murdering the inventor for the resin and orchestrating with Trudy, who subcontracted Jack, to murder everyone on the island for the money. Isabelle runs off with the $3 million all for herself, leaving Farrell behind on death row to be hung for his crimes.



Five Dolls for an August Moon was one of Bava's most obscure films, and did not receive an official American release until 2001 when Image Entertainment distributed it on DVD. After the Image disc went out of print, Anchor Bay re-released as part of the "Mario Bava Collection Volume 2" box set on 23 October 2007. The film was released in France as L'île de l'épouvante / Island of Terror. In 2013, Kino International released the film on Blu-ray in the United States.

Critical reception[edit]

AllMovie gave it two stars out of five, calling it "a confusing and not terribly exciting whodunit."[1]

In his review of the 2013 American Blu-ray release for Slant Magazine, Budd Wilkins writes "Five Dolls for an August Moon isn't top-tier Bava by any means, but for those with eyes to see, there are pleasures aplenty to be gleaned from this playfully abstract jeu d'esprit."[2]

In his commentary track for the Kino International Blu-ray release of the film, Mario Bava scholar Tim Lucas argues strongly against Bava's own assessment of the film as one of his worst and calls it one of his most beautiful and innovative films.



  1. ^ Butler, Craig. "Five Dolls for an August Moon - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Wilkins, Budd. "Five Dolls for an August Moon - Blu-Ray Review". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 

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