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George Stark is a wealthy industrialist who invites five business friends of his to his remote Mediterranean island for a weekend of relaxation and business when he introduces them to Professor Farrell, a brilliant chemist who gives investment ideas to the group. But against Farrell's wishes, the group goes behind each other's back to obtain information on Farrell's chemistry ideas and soon the guests and residents start turning up dead one by one as Stark and Farrell must rally the group together to determine the identity of the killer (or killers) despite nobody trusting anyone. Written by
Mario Bava arguably created the giallo; that very Italian brand of horror/thriller that combined psychosexual undertones with astonishingly beautiful women, a killer with black gloves, and penis-shaped weapons. Along with the likes of Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, the giallo was highly inspirational to American film-makers such as John Carpenter, leading to the creation of that very American brand of horror, the slasher. As innovative as Bava was (and still is), his filmography contains a few duds, and Five Dolls for an August Moon is one example.
Taking inspiration from, of all people, Agatha Christie and her novel Ten Little N*****s (now commonly referred to as Ten Little Indians, understandably), Five Dolls groups a bunch of wealthy people together at a weekend getaway owned by George Stark (Teodoro Corra). One of the guests is scientist Gerry Farrell (William Berger) who, as we come to learn, has made a revolutionary breakthrough in creating a new formula for industrial resin. Farrell quickly realises that he was invited to the retreat so Stark and his fellow industrialists can persuade him to sell his formula, which he declines. As frustration grows, the inhabitants shortly start turning up dead.
The film is sporadically fun, especially the running joke that has the victims wrapped in plastic and hung in the freezer one by one which, by the end, is almost overflowing. Yet, although the premise sounds like classic giallo material, Bava makes his group of characters so indistinguishable from one another (although there's no mistaking the stunning Edwige Fenech) that it's difficult to get engrossed by the increasingly outlandish plot. For a Bava film, the visuals are shockingly bland, with only brief glimpses of his famous visual flair and complex use of colour. There are also precious few memorable set-pieces to savour between the quieter moments, with many of the murders taking place off camera. Certainly lower-league Bava.
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