The Fourth Victim is a stylish but tame 1971 Spanish/Italian thriller from Horror Express director Eugenio Martín. The film follows a wealthy English playboy whose wives have all died under mysterious circumstances. Starring Carroll Baker and Michael Craig this Giallo-adjacent film offers plenty of amusing twists and turns with some much-needed comedic elements. Severin Films brings this underseen mystery to Blu-ray with a serviceable A/V package including a new 2k scan of the camera negative. For fans of thrillers and whodunnits, this is Worth A Look.
“What are you doing here? Looking for a story?”
Wealthy English playboy Arthur Anderson (Michael Craig, Turkey Shoot) buries his new wife Gladys after she tragically drowned in his pool. At the funeral, he is charged with murder. His three deceased wives all carried generous life insurance policies and the company is now seeking to prosecute him for fraud. At the trial, he is found not guilty after his maid Mrs. Downing (Miranda Campa, Easy Down There!) offers a surprise testimony regarding Gladys’ supposed abuse of pills. On Arthur’s tail is the bumbling Inspector Dunphy (Jose Vazquez, One Billion for a Blonde) who is certain Arthur has been killing his wives. After the trial Arthur slumps around the massive house then goes to the attic to watch slideshows of his dead wife in a bikini.
That night Arthur discovers hot toddy Julie Spencer (Carroll Baker) diving into his pool unannounced in the middle of the night. “Are you sure you don’t want to be more friendly?” she asks after Arthur berates her for trespassing. She leaves but offers a flirty “I live in that Dracula house on the other side of the lake.” She returns to the empty gothic manor house, undresses, and lights the candle by a tent on the top floor. “I just met him,” she says into the phone.
At its heart, The Fourth Victim is an Italian psychological thriller that aspires to be a Giallo but in practice is more Hitchcock than Umberto Lenzi. Tension and scares are earned but never reach the heights of a blood-and-black gloves flick. You won’t see any gore or insane kill scenes here which keep the feature anchored to character development rather than sensationalism. Most of the film is occupied with the cat-and-mouse game between Arthur and Julie which is closely monitored by Dunphy and an unknown woman lurking in the shadows near Julie’s home.
There is rarely a dull moment in The Fourth Victim with the proceedings moving along at a decent clip allowing for enough time to digest the twists and turns before the wallop of an ending. At 88 minutes, director Eugenio Martín keeps it lean and when combined with the gorgeous shots from cinematographer Guglielmo Mancori (Black Emanuelle 2) this tame mystery thriller becomes an enjoyable romp.
Michael Craig and Carroll Baker's magnetic performances are the highlights of the film as their characters navigate the ups and downs of flirtation and murderous intention. Baker’s Giallo legacy is cemented with her work in Umberto Lenzi’s films which typically showcases the actress as a damsel in distress. Here she ditches the helpless act for a devilish demeanor keeping audiences entranced with her every move. Michael Craig is having some fun here skirting Inspector Dunphy’s accusations and chasing down beautiful women.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Fourth Victim arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Severin Films. The film is pressed on a Region A BD-50 disc and housed in a standard black keepcase. Loading the disc offers the Severin logo followed by the Main Menu screen with typical navigation options.
The Fourth Victim makes the leap to Blu-ray with a new 2k scan from the original camera negative which provides a watchable but problematic HD image presentation given the source print’s age and condition. Severin typically does a bang up job with their releases which makes me think the rarity of this film provided some unforeseen hurdles in its path to home video.
Sadly the specks, flickering, lines, and dirt are a constant menace to the new 2k scan. Black levels are inconsistent, losing detail in shadow, and appearing with a bluish tint. Murkiness is prevalent with dark scenes lost in a fuzzy void. Fine detail is apparent in close-ups like Mrs. Downing’s face when called to the courtroom or Arthur’s glaring visage upon seeing Julie arrive home after a quarrel. The color palette is quite dull and lifeless with primaries barely holding onto life. Skin tones are reddish when not overexposed.
At times I found the image flickering too much when viewed in a dark room. I had to raise the lights a bit to offset the harsh effect and save me from a migraine. Those looking forward to this release will easily look beyond the technical deficits of the HD transfer and enjoy the feature for what it has to offer.
The Fourth Victim arrives on Blu-ray with a passable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono track in either English or Italian. The mix runs hot during heated dialogue exchanges and when the orchestral score swells for dramatic effect. Dubbing issues are apparent in both audio tracks so I’d suggest going with the English track as the two main cast members are native English speakers.
Not much here but the interview segment with biographer Carlos Aguilar is quite interesting.
Resurrecting lost gems seems to be Severin’s modus operandi which gives us plenty of interesting films like The Fourth Victim. Here the entertaining whodunnit offers enough thrills and twists to make the time spent on the romantic courtship of our main characters seem well spent. Severin’s Blu-ray offers a serviceable A/V package that affords viewers the opportunity to see this underseen gem at the cost of an aged source print. Most cult collectors won’t care in the slightest and enjoy the hijinks that come with insurance fraud. The Fourth Victim is definitely Worth A Look.