The Giallo Films of Mario Bava

The Girl Who Knew Too Much/The Evil Eye (1963)

On vacation, Nora Davis (Letícia Román) arrives by plane in Rome to visit her elderly ailing aunt. Nora’s aunt is being treated by Dr. Marcello Bassi (John Saxon). Nora’s aunt passes away on the first night of Nora’s visit and she walks to the nearby hospital to notify Dr. Bassi. On the way, she is mugged and knocked out in Piazza di Spagna. When she wakes up, she sees the body of a dead woman lying on the ground near her; a bearded man pulls a knife out of the woman’s back. Nora reports this to the police in the hospital, who don’t believe her when they find no evidence and think that she is hallucinating.

Later, at a cemetery, Nora meets a close friend of her aunt’s, Laura Torrani (Valentina Cortese), who lives in the Piazza di Spagna. Laura plans to vacation soon and allows Nora to stay in her house for the remaining time of the vacation. Nora explores Laura’s closet and drawers and comes across newspaper clippings of articles on a serial killer dubbed the “Alphabet Killer” due to his having alphabetically killed people according to their surnames. The killer has already murdered victims whose last names begin with “A,” “B,” and “C”. Nora also finds that the last victim is Laura’s sister, whom Nora had seen in a vision. According to the reports in the paper, this murder took place ten years ago. Nora then receives a telephone call, in which an anonymous voice tells her that “‘D’ is for death,” and informs her that she will be the killer’s next victim.

Nora receives help from Dr. Marcello, who takes her on a trip to various Roman tourist sites to calm her down as they become more romantically interested in each other. When they return to the Craven house, she receives a call from a person who orders her to go to a particular address. Nora goes there, and she is guided to a vacant room. With Dr. Marcello, she discovers that the voice that guided her to this spot is tape recorded, and the voice warns Nora to leave Rome before it is too late. Nora and Marcello discover that the room is leased to Landini. After several unsuccessful attempts to locate Landini, Nora and Marcello go to the beach to relax. Upon their return to the Craven house, they find Landini, who has been told that they were inquiring about him. Investigative reporter Landini (Dante DiPaolo) has secretly been following them since he spotted Nora in the square.

The reporter wrote about the murder story when it first broke, but he believes that the police would catch the wrong person if he reported the details of the crime. Landini’s refusal to publish a report of the murder has put him in financial need. Nora decides to help Landini, but, as they tour Rome, they find no clues. Nora visits Landini’s apartment the next day, finding clues that lead her to think that he is the murderer and that she is his next intended victim, but Landini appears to have committed suicide. The same day, Laura returns to Rome from her vacation while Nora and Marcello plan to go to America the following morning. From reading the newspaper, Nora learns that the body of a young woman was found, and she recognizes it as the murdered woman she saw on the night of her arrival in Italy. After identifying the victim’s corpse at the morgue, Nora believes that she has witnessed the murder. Alone in the house that night, Nora notices that the study door is open. On entering, she sees a man rising uncomfortably from his chair. Nora recognizes him as the man who had stood over the dead body she had seen after awakening from having been knocked unconscious upon her arrival in Italy. The man walks towards Nora but collapses to the floor, a knife in his back. Nora is then confronted by Laura who, enraged, confesses to the killings and explains that she stabbed her husband because of his attempts to turn her over to the police. Laura reveals that her desire to steal her sister’s money compelled her to murder. Laura attempts to attack Nora, but Laura is suddenly shot dead by her husband. Nora finds that the bearded man she had seen in a daze actually was disposing of the body for his murdering wife. Nora then leaves Italy, happily reunited with Marcello.

Prior to working on The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Bava had taken a six-month break after filming the last of the special effects shots for his previous film Erik the Conqueror (1961). Bava spent this extended period reading mystery and horror magazines. He pondered retiring from directing and thought he might only return to work on special effects for film. Bava was convinced to return to directing by Samuel Arkoff and Jim Nicholson, who had begun co-producing Italian films for release in the United States. The Girl Who Knew Too Much was the first film in this venture for Arkoff and Nicholson’s company American International Pictures. The opening credits credit Enzo Corbucci, Ennio de Concini and Eliana de Sabata and the writers of the film, while crediting Mario Bava, Mino Guerrini and Franco Prosperi as collaborators. Sergio Corbucci is credited as Enzo Corbucci in this film. Italian screenwriter Luigi Cozzi has said that the original script was more of a romantic comedy but the film became more of a thriller as it went into production.

Letícia Román was cast in The Girl Who Knew Too Much; her first leading role. Román knew actor John Saxon prior to production on the film. Saxon has stated that he was invited by Roman to work on the film by asking if he would be interested in an art film in Rome. Saxon agreed, but on receiving the script he found that he misunderstood her as she said horror film instead. Dante DiPaolo stated that Bava initially thought DiPaolo was too young for his role in the film, but after seeing his screen test he felt DiPaolo understood his part well and cast him in this film and later again in Blood and Black Lace.

The theme song of the film is sung by Adriano Celentano. The film’s score was by Roberto Nicolosi, who had previously worked with Bava on Black Sunday (1960) and Erik the Conqueror (1961).

The Girl Who Knew Too Much began shooting on May 2, 1962. Director Mario Bava thought the plot was silly, and focused more on the technical aspects of the film. This included shooting the film in black and white, Bava’s last film shot in this style. Bava had made earlier films in color, but films in the horror and thriller genre made in Italy were generally shot in black and white in this period. Location shooting in Rome took place at various locations including the Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport and the Trinità dei Monti. Some set pieces were borrowed from other Italian films, such as the painting in Nora’s aunt’s house, which is from Divorce Italian Style.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1969)

John Harrington is a handsome, 30-year-old man who feels compelled to murder young brides to remember details of a childhood trauma. John lives in a spacious villa outside Paris, where he manages a bridal dress factory belonging to his deceased mother and financially supported by his wife Mildred. He and Mildred are ill-matched, but she refuses to consider his appeals for a divorce. Whenever he hears that one of the models working at the dress factory is to be married, he hacks her to death with a meat cleaver while she is wearing her bridal gown, burns the body in the furnace of his greenhouse, and uses the ashes as fertilizer. Each murder gives him a slightly clearer image of his traumatic memory. Inspector Russell frequently drops by to question John about the six models who have disappeared from his bridal salon, but with a lack of hard evidence, cannot arrest him.

At his office, John meets Helen Wood, who has come to apply for the job “vacated” by one of the mysteriously disappeared models. Impressed by her wit and beauty, John hires her. Over the next few days, John falls in love with Helen. After dropping Mildred off at the airport for a weeklong vacation, he takes Helen out to dinner. He returns to find Mildred at home; she reveals that the vacation was a ruse, and she took the next flight back in hopes of catching him in the act of infidelity. Feeling entrapped by Mildred’s constant presence, he dons a wedding gown and hacks her to death with the cleaver. He buries her in the grounds of the greenhouse.

Everyone John speaks to Mildred, very much alive, but John cannot see or hear her. He burns Mildred’s remains in the furnace and keeps the ashes in a handbag, but she continues to haunt him until he scatters the ashes over a river and discards the handbag. When John attempts to murder another woman, he is foiled by Inspector Russell. His urges thus frustrated, when he returns home to find Helen waiting for him, he cannot repress the desire to murder her as a substitute. He takes Helen to the same concealed room where he murdered most of the models. After convincing her to change into a wedding dress, he tells Helen that he never wanted to hurt her, but wants to “fit this last piece into place.” He strikes at Helen with the cleaver. She blocks the blow, but the initial surge finally restores John’s memory: as a young boy, upset by his mother’s remarrying, he killed her and his stepfather with a cleaver.

Helen lets Inspector Russell and a team of policemen into the room; Russell had convinced her to take part in this sting operation before John had hired her. John is loaded into a police van with two policemen escorting him. One of them sets the handbag with Mildred’s ashes down beside John. Mildred appears, this time to John only. She tells him that now they will be together forever, “first in the insane asylum, and then in Hell for all eternity”. John goes berserk with terror.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon was initiated by Spanish producer Manuel Caño, who interested director Mario Bava in Santiago Moncada’s script. During preproduction, Laura Betti (who had recently won the prestigious Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the 29th Venice International Film Festival for Teorema) telephoned Bava and asked for a role in his next film. Betti explained: In Italy, I was always considered an intellectual actress. Bava, in my opinion, was a fantastic director, but he was also the opposite, let us say, of an intellectual filmmaker. After my victory – after that consecration – I called Bava and said, “Here it is, my Oscar, my prize, and now I want to shoot something with you!” And he immediately got my joke, do you see? He knew that he wasn’t an intellectual, but he had the same ironical point of view, as I do, about intellectuals. So that was the beginning of our friendship.

Bava wanted to work with Betti immediately, but Moncada’s script had no role remotely suitable for her, so he came up with the subplot involving Mildred Harrington in order to cast her. Having been promised she would be the female lead, and having met the producers’ requirement that she lose 25 pounds before filming, Dagmar Lassander was incensed when she saw that the revised script sidelined her character in favor of Betti. This, along with the fact that she was Caño’s lover at the time and a language barrier due to her only speaking German and some English, led to her having antagonistic relations with Bava and Betti on set; she later successfully sued Caño for failing in his promise to make her the film’s top-billed actress. At least one scene, in which John introduces Helen to Inspector Russell, was added solely to appease Lassander by giving her more screen time.

Lead actor Stephen Forsyth recalled that Bava did not give him detailed direction on set. When he approached Bava privately, he revealed that Bava “smiled and he said, ‘Listen, if you were doing anything wrong, if there was anything I had to tell you, I would tell you.'”

Hatchet for the Honeymoon had the least money allotted for special effects of any film directed by Bava, so nearly all of the visual effects were achieved in-camera, usually by rapidly adjusting the focus, or shooting through distorted lenses.

Principal photography took place from September to October 1968 primarily in Barcelona, under the working title Un’accetta per la luna di miele (literally “A hatchet for the honeymoon”). The villa of Francisco Franco served as the Harrington household. The cast and director both described the villa’s atmosphere as oppressive, with armed guards constantly present to ensure they did not shoot on the upstairs floors or damage the furnishings. The discothèque scenes were filmed at Balcazar Studios, also in Barcelona, before the crew moved on to the Villa Frascatti in Rome in order to shoot the scenes at the Harrington household which the restrictions at the Franco villa would not allow them to capture. These include all the scenes in the bathroom, bedroom, and mannequin-filled room.

Caño decided to set the story in Paris, so a second unit led by Bava’s assistant director and son Lamberto was sent there to capture some exterior scenes. By this time, the film’s budget had run out, and Forsyth had been working without pay for two weeks. He accompanied the crew to Paris, but refused to take part in the shoot until he was paid. As such, he was replaced by a body double for the Paris exteriors, which were shot at a distance to hide his physical differences from Forsyth; virtually none of the Paris sequences were used in the completed film.

With the budget spent, filming was halted and Bava accepted an invitation from Dick Randall to direct Four Times That Night. As that film neared completion, he showed the Hatchet for the Honeymoon script to Four Times That Night’s executive producer, Alfredo Leone, in the hope that he would rescue the film, but he was unimpressed with the script. However, in the interim Caño secured the funds needed to finally complete the film. Filming for Hatchet for the Honeymoon ended in October 1969.

Stephen Forsyth

SPOTLIGHT: Actor Stephen Forsyth
How did you come to work in the Italian film industry in the 1960s and 1970s?
Stephen Forsyth: While working in Paris as a singer/songwriter, I took what I thought would be a short vacation to Italy. While in Rome at a cafe on the Via Veneto. I was approached by a photographer who asked me if he could take my photograph to send to Gillette because they were looking for someone to do their print ads and television commercials for Europe. I ended up with an exclusive contract with Gillette. I hired an acting agent and on my first appointment, which was with the film director Riccardo Freda, I was offered the lead in a film he was about to shoot. Before starting to shoot the Freda film, I was offered another part in a romantic comedy which was a big commercial success and a big boost to my movie acting career.

What interested you in HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON?
Stephen Forsyth: I fortunately had the opportunity to do a variety of films ranging from historical period drama, westerns, political drama, romantic comedy, Eurospy and psychological thrillers — which kept things interesting. I found the HATCHET script intriguing and I knew Bava was a good friend of Riccardo Freda, with whom I had done two films, so I took the job.

Mario Bava already had an international following by the time you started shooting HATCHET. Did you enjoy working with him? Any stories or anecdotes that stand out?
Stephen Forsyth: I wasn’t aware that Bava had an international reputation when I worked with him. I never had a conversation with Mario regarding the character or interpretation of John Harrington. He left that completely up to me. When shooting, Bava would painstakingly set up a scene (sometimes for most of the day) and once done, he trusted and expected me to come in for a few minutes and do my thing. The setups were quite complicated, often requiring hitting many marks accurately while performing sometimes very long takes. As a rule, there was a walk-through and never more than one take. I remember after shooting for a couple of weeks and not having received any feedback from Mario, I asked him if he had any suggestions for me, and he simply said he would tell me if he did. He never did.

A common criticism of the giallo is its one-dimensional protagonists and killers. John Harrington, on the other hand, is someone who is both wickedly funny and very sympathetic. How did you make Harrington more than “just another killer”?
Stephen Forsyth: There was nothing literal about the character of John Harrington. I never looked at him as being evil, but as disturbed and lost in his own psychodrama, kindly and destructively hiding in the past and trying to destroy the present to maintain an even keel for his insanity. He was sympathetically deranged, and not to be taken literally. It is only in the last scene of the movie, as he is being taken away in the paddy wagon with the presence of his wife’s ghost, that he is caught up in the real horror of his existence.

Blood and Black Lace (1964)

In Rome, Isabella, one of many beautiful models employed at a fashion house, is walking through the grounds that lead to the establishment one night when she is attacked and violently killed by an assailant wearing a white featureless mask. Police Inspector Silvestri is assigned to investigate the murder and he interviews Massimo Morlacchi, the manager who co-manages the salon with his lover, the recently widowed Countess Christina Como. Morlacchi attests that he cannot provide any information whatsoever to assist the inspector, and it is revealed that Isabella had kept a diary detailing these vices and personal lives of the staff of the fashion house. Nicole finds the diary, and promises to provide it to the police, but Peggy manages to steal it from her purse during work. That night, Nicole drives to an antique store owned by her paramour, Frank. He is not there, and while inside she suddenly finds herself stalked by a black clad figure. She is caught by the figure who raises and slams a spiked glove into her face, killing her instantly. The murderer searches the corpse and her purse for the diary which he can not find, leading the killer to escape out of the shop. The murderer next visits Peggy’s apartment. The killer gains entrance simply by knocking on the front door, and when Peggy opens it, the masked figure abruptly walks inside. The assailant slaps and hits her repeatedly, and she explains that she no longer has the diary and had in fact burned it in the fireplace. When her attacker checks the fireplace to see if she has told the truth, she tries to pick up a telephone to call for help. Enraged, the murderer hits her repeatedly in the face until she is knocked unconscious. The assailant then carries her away just as the police arrive. Peggy is taken to another location and tied to a chair. The killer tortures her, demanding to know where the diary is. The woman reaches up and knocks off the mask. The shocked girl recognizes her assailant, who proceeds to kill her brutally by slowly pressing her face against the red-hot surface of a burning furnace.

Silvestri is convinced that the murderer is one of the men employed at the fashion house, so he arrests all of those he believes might be related to the deaths. While the suspects are in custody, Greta discovers Peggy’s corpse hidden in the trunk of her car, and is then attacked and smothered to death by the killer. After discovering the bodies of the latest victims, Silvestri releases all of the from questioning. Morlacchi visits Christina and reminds her about how he had assisted in the murder of her husband. Isabella had found out that Morlacchi had been involved in the crime, and began blackmailing him. When she started asking for more and more money, Morlacchi murdered her. It was only later that Morlacchi and Christina realized she had been keeping a diary that revealed everything. While attempting to retrieve the diary, Morlacchi had also killed Nicole and Peggy. When Morlacchi and the other men from the agency were placed under arrest, Christina had murdered Greta to give Morlacchi an alibi for the previous killings. Now, Morlacchi tells Christina that he once again needs her help and convinces her that after only one more death they will be safe. That night, the voluptuous Tilde is drowned in her bathtub by the masked killer who, immediately after the murder, removes the mask and is revealed as Christina. She uses a razor blade to slice the corpse’s wrists in order to make the death seem like a suicide. Christina prepares to leave the victim’s apartment when she is interrupted by a knocking sound on the front door followed by the loud voice of a man identifying himself as the police. She decides to escape out the second story window and then tries to climb down a drainpipe, which falls under her weight, slamming her to the ground.

Later that night, Morlacchi searches through Christina’s desk, looking for money and documents. Suddenly, a bloody and bruised Christina enters the room, shakily holding a gun aimed directly at Morlacchi. He had been the “policeman” knocking on Tilde’s door, and, knowing how Christina would attempt to escape, he had deliberately broken the drainpipe in such a way that it would be guaranteed to collapse. He attempts to persuade his lover and almost succeeds in getting her to hand over the gun, but she abruptly changes her mind and shoots him to death. The mortally wounded Christina collapses next to Morlacchi’s corpse.

Prior to directing Blood and Black Lace, Mario Bava directed a few films that were aimed at foreign markets, including Black Sunday and Black Sabbath, Erik the Conqueror, and The Girl Who Knew Too Much. These films were partially produced by the Italian production company Galatea, who had suspend their production and distribution by 1964, leaving Bava to then have the rest of his career move from producer to producer, with left Bava “not always happy with the results” according to Curti. Bava began work on Blood and Black Lace under the working title of L’atelier della morte (transl. The Fashion House of Death) for Emmepi Cinematografica, a small company founded on November 27, 1962 which had only produced four films at the time, and had minor contributions to Black Sabbath. According to ministerial papers, Bava signed the contract to work on the film on March 16, 1963.

The film had a smaller budget than Bava’s previous horror films, with an estimated figure of 180 million Italian lire, while the effective one was 141,755,000. In comparison, Black Sabbath had a budget of 205 million Italian lire. It was the only film where it was a majority investor, as the film was a co-production with France and West Germany, with the respective quotas being 50% (Italy), 20% (France), and 30% (West Germany). The French partner was Georges de Beauregard, who would work with productions varying from Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless and Le petit soldat to genre film co-productions like Goliath and the Rebel Slave and The Vampire of Düsseldorf. According to documents at Rome’s Archive of State, De Beauregard’s largest contribution to the film was future film director Bertrand Tavernier as an assistant director. Tavernier dismissed this, saying that “These Italian credits are based on scams. French names were needed for the co-production. I have never been to Italy and haven’t met anyone involved in these films.” Tavernier concluded that his contributions to the film were that he “read a scenario of Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace and my name is in the credits.” The West German production was Top Film under the name Monarchia Film, a group based in Munich which only financed two other films.

The synopsis of Blood and Black Lace at the Archive of State in Italy and the script at Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia are credited to Marcello Fondato and Giuseppe Barillà. Fondato has previously worked on a number of comedies prior to Blood and Black Lace and had previously worked on the script for Black Sabbath. Barillà was a co-editor of the literary magazine Elsinore, with Curti suggesting Barillà only had minor contributions to the script. The estimated budget attached to bureaucratic papers submitted to the Ministry at the beginning of production list Fondato and Bava as the authors of the story and credits the script to the name Giuseppe Milizia who does not appear in any other documents. In contrast, the opening titles of the film credit Fondato as the author of the story and screenplay, with Barillà’s name listed as “with the collaboration of”. Ministerial papers state that Bava was paid 3 million Italian lire as co-scenarist, and 7 million for directing, while Fondato and Barillà were each paid about 1.5 million each for screenwriting. Lucas stated that the film Mannekäng i rött from 1958 may have also influenced the film which featured color cinematography similar to that of Bava’s with diffused lighting filters as well as the film’s plot being set in a fashion salon where murders are taking place. Lucas has stated he believed that Bava may have viewed the film and was influenced by it for Blood and Black Lace while Curti responded that the film was never released in Italy and it was unlikely that Bava or the screenwriters had seen the film.

Blood and Black Lace contained an international cast. It included Italians Arianna Gorini and Francesca Ungaro, American actress Mary Arden, French actor Claude Dantes, and Germans Thomas Reiner and Lea Lander. Lander moved to Italy to work on the film.She spoke positively on working with Bava, but was particularly excited to be working with Eva Bartok.[ Bartok at the time was known for her work in the American film The Crimson Pirate directed by Robert Siodmak. Lander recalled that Bartok kept her distance from the rest of the cast, had her own make-up room and had the cast and crew often having to wait for her on set. The cast also included some character actors, many of which who had worked with Bava previously such as Massimo Reghi who was in Black Sabbath, Dante DiPaolo who played a reporter in The Girl Who Knew Too Much, and Luciano Pigozzi who was in The Whip and the Body. Reiner and Dantes were last minute replacements in the cast, as they took over roles initially intended for Gustavo de Nardo and Yoko Tani respectively. Cameron Mitchell, a regular actor for Bava, had remained in touch with Bava since their last project. Mitchell stated “There was a special chemistry between us, Bava was one of my favorite people on the planet.” Mitchell stated that Bava’s mood on set was genial, which he didn’t bring up with him. Mitchell explained “in this business, frankly, everybody breaks down. I think it was fairly serious with Mario, however.” Actress Harriet White Medin who played did not remember anything bout the production, but confessed to Lucas that she thought the film was “absolutely horrible” and that “When you get to be my age […] violence on the screen loses whatever entertainment value it may have had when you were younger and thought of yourself as immortal and indestructible.”

The rest crew consisted of many other of Bava’s regular collaborators, including director of photography Ubaldo Terzano, film editor Mario Serandrei and costume designer Tina Loriedo Grani.

A water fountain with statues in front of a large home. The exteriors of the films Fashion house were shot at Rome at Villa Sciarra (Rome). Lucas stated that filming began in November 1963, while Curti found that the shooting schedule for the film started on September 26, 1963. Mary Arden who performed the role Peggy, recollected on the specifics of shooting, stating she finished her scenes shortly around the time of the Assassination of John F. Kennedy. While Lucas stated that filming ended into mid-January 1964, the documents found by Curti declared that the film was finished on October 26, 1963. The film was shot in Rome, with the exteriors of the fashion house filmed at Villa Sciarra, interiors shot at Palazzo Brancaccio, and other scenes shot at A.T.C. Studios. Other scenes such as the antique shop in the film were shot at the storage facility for film props.

Though the film was predominantly a European production, it was filmed with the majority of the cast speaking their lines in English. Arden spoke on the script saying the “Italian guy who wrote the script had no great knowledge of American or English conversation, so the script was full of mistakes.” Arden was fluent in three languages and offered to rewrite the dialogue for Bava during filming so it would make more sense. For the violent scenes in Blood and Black Lace, Arden remembered performing the majority of her own stunts in the film. These included scenes where she was to fall under a mattress that would be placed under her at the last second. The team would often miss their timing, leading to Arden getting bruises on the subsequent re-takes. The films stunt coordinator Freddy Unger explained that Bava had to deal with actors wanting to do their own stunts. When actors often requested to fight scenes, he then filmed them only briefly and then telling the actors they had all the footage they needed. Mitchell also recollected some of Bava’s methods, recalled that the tracking shots in the film were done by Bava mounting the camera on a children’s wagon while crane shots were made by using a makeshift see-saw that counterbalanced the camera with crew members. Curti countered the idea of the wagon, as Lamberto Bava stated on an Italian DVD audio commentary that the cameras used on set were Mitchell Cameras opposed to the lighter Arriflex cameras. For make-up on the film, Arden’s burned features took four hours to apply from makeup artist Emilio Trani for the five days she was on set as a corpse. To avoid having it added and removed each day, Arden took to having the make-up remain on her face for the later days of shooting. During post-production on the film, the title changed from L’atelier della morte to Se donne per l’assassino during post-production.

Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)

At the private island retreat of wealthy industrialist George Stark, a group of people have assembled for a weekend getaway; among the guests is scientist Professor Gerry Farrell. The first night passes uneventfully, but Farrell is enraged the next morning to discover that Stark and the other guests planned the weekend to coerce him to sell his latest invention: a formula for a revolutionary industrial resin, which he is reluctant to divulge due to his colleague’s death during its invention.

Farrell’s wife, Trudy, is having an affair with Stark’s artist wife, Jill. Stark’s business partner, Nick, is verbally abusive to his coquettish wife Marie, but does not object to her sleeping with other men, one of whom is the Starks’ manservant, Charles. Stark is less of a husband to Jill than he is a business manager. He arranges for her to have her paintings and artwork publicly displayed and is a source of constant criticism. The sole happy couple is Nick’s co-worker Jack and his wife Peggy. Also on the island is Isabelle, the teenage daughter of Stark’s game warden; Isabelle’s parents are away for medical reasons.

As Stark, Nick, and Jack badger Farrell for the formula the original documents for which he has secretly destroyed by offering him cheques for $1 million each from their Swiss bank accounts, Jill discovers the dead body of Charles on the beach. Having already sent the motor launch away to prevent Farrell from leaving the island, and with the radio out of commission, Stark has no way of contacting the mainland. Charles’ body is moved into a large walk-in freezer. The next morning, Farrell is walking alone on the beach. Trudy and Jill, walking hand-in-hand nearby, hear a gunshot and find Farrell’s body. They run away to tell the others. The sniper, Isabelle, drags Farrell’s body to the sea.

As tempers flare to Farrell’s apparent death and disappearance, the killings escalate. Peggy, standing on the balcony of her room, is shot dead by an unseen assailant. Jack arrives on the scene first and accuses Stark of being responsible. Marie is found to have been tied to a tree and stabbed in the chest. Jill turns up dead in her bathtub, her wrists slashed in an apparent suicide. Each of the bodies is placed in the freezer. The four remaining survivors Stark, Jack, Nick, and Trudy – hold up in Stark’s living room for the night. After bickering with Trudy, Nick storms off. The next morning, he too is found dead, and his body is placed in cold storage.

Stark offers Trudy his cheque for Farrell’s formula, which she reveals still exists on a microfilm, and uncovers a previously-hidden motorboat which will take them to the mainland. As he returns to the house to get supplies, Jack confronts him and reveals he killed everyone, except for Farrell, to steal their cheques; he also killed Peggy for nearly discovering his plan. Jack shoots him dead. Confronted by him in the freezer, Trudy offers to give him the formula in exchange for his cheque; during the handover, they simultaneously shoot each other; Trudy dies first. Isabelle steals the cheque and the formula, but not before an expiring Jack tries to stop her.

Sometime later, a now-wealthy Isabelle visits Farrell in prison, where he is awaiting execution for the murder of his colleague, the rightful discoverer of the resin. Isabelle claims that she loves Farrell and had decided to save him by rendering him unconscious with a sodium pentathol pellet of the kind her father had used to tranquilize animals, but was unaware of sodium pentathol’s truth serum properties, leading him to confess to killing his partner to the authorities. Isabelle reveals that she is broke, having cashed and spent George’s and Jack’s cheques but not Nick’s due to her not knowing the account number. Aware of his inescapable fate and thankful to her, Farrell gives Isabelle the number, and she happily leaves, instructing her chauffeur to drive her to Lausanne.

Produzioni Atlas Consorziate purchased Mario di Nardo’s script for Five Dolls for an August Moon with plans to make it into a vehicle for actress Edwige Fenech, though early publicity instead spotlighted Princess Ira von Fürstenberg (who was one of the film’s principal investors). The film lost its director just days before filming was scheduled to begin, leading producers Mario and Pietro Bregni to appeal to Mario Bava to take over. Though there is no record of who the original director was, Mario Bava biographer Tim Lucas reasons that it was mostly likely Guido Malatesta. Bava was very reluctant to take on the project, since he felt the script was a poorly written ripoff of Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None, but agreed to do it under the condition that he be paid up front. He was further dismayed when, at the meeting where he was presented with the contract for the movie, the Bregnis told him that the original director’s departure was so last-minute that the cast and technical crew had already been selected and filming was to begin in just two days, leaving him no time to rework the script.

However, in addition to insisting on the use of his usual camera crew (headed by Antonio Rinaldi), Bava made two significant changes to the film’s script: putting the corpses in polythene bags inside a walk-in freezer (di Nardo’s script put them in underground graves with cross-shaped headstones) and adding on the twist ending with Farrell and Isabelle.

The film’s budget was so low that most of the cast had to wear their own clothes. The exterior of the Stark house was a matte painting painted by Bava himself, while the interior was a real beach house located not far from the beach where many of the scenes were filmed, on the Torre Astura coastline. Five Dolls for an August Moon was the only film where Bava had to do the editing entirely by himself.

A Bay of Blood (1971)

At night in her bayside mansion, wheelchair-bound Countess Federica Donati is attacked and strangled to death by her husband Filippo Donati. Moments later, Filippo himself is stabbed to death by an assailant, and his corpse is then dragged to the bay. Upon investigation, the police find what they believe to be a suicide note written by the Countess, but Filippo’s murder goes undiscovered.

Real estate agent Frank Ventura and his lover Laura are plotting to take possession of the bay. After the Countess refused to sell her home and property to them, the couple hatched a scheme with Donati to murder his wife. To finalize their plan, Ventura needs Donati’s signature on a set of legal documents. They have no idea, however, that Filippo himself has been killed.

Their curiosity piqued by news of the murder, four local teenagers break into the seemingly deserted mansion and are murdered. The Countess’s illegitimate son Simon, who lives on the grounds in a separate shack, is the killer. After killing Filippo, he is now conspiring with Ventura, who offers Simon a large cash pay-off in exchange for signing the relevant legal documents. Their scheme is dealt a potentially ruinous blow when Filippo’s estranged daughter Renata appears, determined to ensure that her father’s estate comes into her possession. A search for a will proves unsuccessful, and Ventura, who believes that Renata may be the rightful beneficiary, urges Simon to kill his stepsister.

Accompanied by her husband Albert, and leaving their young son and daughter in a caravan nearby, Renata visits the house of Paolo Fassati, an entomologist who lives on the grounds of the Donati estate. Fossati’s wife Anna tells them that Filippo was responsible for the Countess’s death, and says that Simon will probably end up with the property. Renata, who had no idea she had a stepbrother, makes plans with her husband to murder Simon.

After discovering Filippo’s mangled and rotting corpse on Simon’s boat, Renata and Albert head to Ventura’s house. Upon their arrival, Ventura attacks Renata, but Renata gains the upper hand and stabs Ventura with a butterfly knife in his femoral artery. Paolo Fassati, who witnesses the assault, attempts to telephone the police but is confronted by Albert, who strangles him to death. To ensure there are no additional witnesses, Renata decapitates Anna with an axe.

Ventura’s partner Laura arrives, planning to meet up with him. When Simon discovers that it was the pair who had plotted with Filippo to kill his mother, he strangles Laura to death. No sooner has he exacted his revenge than Simon himself is murdered by Albert. The wounded Ventura reappears, but Albert kills him after a brief struggle.

Secure in the knowledge that there are now no other living heirs, Albert and Renata prepare to return home to await the announcement of their inheritance, when they are shot dead from the caravan by their son, who has mistaken their shotgun for a toy. Thinking that their parents are playing dead, the son and daughter rush off outside to play along the bay.

The genesis of A Bay of Blood was when producer Dino De Laurentiis heard that Dardano Sacchetti, screenwriter of the popular The Cat o’ Nine Tails, had fallen out with the film’s director Dario Argento. He contacted Sacchetti and persuaded him to collaborate with director Mario Bava on a giallo film. Sacchetti and Bava got along well, and together came up with a story in which two parents commit murder to secure a better future for their children. In this early version of the story, the parents are driven to commit one murder after another in a chain reaction, becoming so caught up in their plan that they abandon their children for several days. When they return home, the starving and terrified children kill them. The thirteen murders were conceived as isolated sequences, with no initial idea of how they would fit into the story; Sacchetti credits Bava with the idea of two people being killed with a spear while making love and himself with the idea of a woman being killed in her wheelchair.

Sacchetti wrote the first draft of the script, titled Cosi imparano a fare i cattivi (“That Will Teach Them to Be Bad”) after a line spoken by the children after killing their parents, with his writing partner Franco Barbieri. However, spectacular arguments with Bava and the production team led to Barbieri being fired, and Sacchetti quit as an act of solidarity with his partner. De Laurentiis, disenchanted when The Cat o’ Nine Tails failed to recreate its domestic popularity when released abroad, also abandoned the project.

Bava, owing a massive amount in back taxes, felt he needed to complete a film soon, and turned to Giuseppe Zaccariello (who had silently backed Bava’s earlier films Hatchet for the Honeymoon and Five Dolls for an August Moon) to take over as producer. Zaccariello insisted that the shooting script be written by Filippo Ottoni, who was reluctant to take the job since he did not like exploitation films. Numerous other writers, including Zaccariello himself, had their hands involved in devising the final screenplay.

The cast included Laura Betti, who had got along well with Bava on Hatchet for the Honeymoon. At the time De Laurentiis approached Bava about working with Sacchetti, Bava and Betti had been toying with the idea of making a movie called “Odore di carne” (“stench of flesh”) about cannibalism on Los Angeles colleges.

The film began production in early 1971, still under the shooting title Cosi imparano a fare i cattivi, which was soon changed to Reazione a catena (“chain reaction”). Yet another title used during shooting was La baia d’argento (“the bay of silver”), discarded for fear that the movie would be perceived as a parody of Dario Argento’s works as a result. The final title of Ecologia del delitto was suggested by Zaccariello because the word “ecologia” was in vogue at the time. The movie’s budget was extremely low, and it had to be shot very quickly and cheaply. Due to the severe budgetary restrictions, Bava not only acted as his own cinematographer, but also utilized a simple child’s wagon for the film’s many tracking shots.

The location shooting was mostly completed at Zaccariello’s Sabaudia beach house and its outlying property. Bava had to resort to various camera tricks to convince the audience that an entire forest existed when in fact, only a few scattered trees were at the location. Betti recalled, “All of this had to occur in a forest. But where was it? Bava said, ‘Don’t worry. I will do the forest.’ And he found a florist who was selling these little stupid branches with little bits of foliage on them, and he began to make them dance in front of the camera! We had to act the scenes strictly in front of those branches—if we moved even an inch either way, the ‘woods’ would disappear!”

To ensure the utmost realism in depicting the thirteen different murders, Carlo Rambaldi was hired to provide the special make-up effects. To create the deaths of Anna, Brunhilda, and Denise, wax effigies of the actresses’ throats and backs were constructed and rigged to expulse brightly colored blood when cut. The illusion of Bobby being stabbed in the face with a billhook was achieved with a prop blade which was swiftly pulled out of frame to hide the fact that it was sculpted to conform exactly to actor Roberto Bonanni’s profile.

CREDITS/REFERENCES/SOURCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
Scream Magazine#40
Scream Magazine#41
Mario Bava – All The Colors of the Dark
Fangoria#42
Fangoria#43
dailygrindhouse.com

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