The Fourth Victim Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: September 28, 2021
Audio: English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Run Time: 88:21
Director: Eugenio Martín
Julie (Carroll Baker) is the new bride of a wealthy British playboy (Michael Craig), whose three previous wives met with suspiciously accidental deaths. (From Severin’s official synopsis)
Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Italian: L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo, 1970) may have kicked Italian-made thrillers into the stratosphere in terms of international recognition, but the early ‘70s giallo template owed nearly as much to Umberto Lenzi’s first and second thrillers, Paranoia (aka: Orgasmo, 1969) and So Sweet... So Perverse (Italian: Così dolce... così perversa, 1969). Lenzi’s acting muse for both films was aging sex symbol Carroll Baker, who had recently moved from America to Italy to escape a contract dispute with Paramount. Baker became an almost instantaneous giallo superstar when she appeared in Romolo Girolami’s The Sweet Body of Deborah (Italian: Il dolce corpo di Deborah, 1968). She went on to lead four Lenzi gialli – including A Quiet Place to Kill (Italian: Paranoia, 1970), and Knife on Ice (Italian: Il coltello di ghiaccio, 1972); Osvaldo Civirani’s The Devil Has Seven Faces (Italian: Il diavolo a sette facce, 1971); Gianfranco Piccioli’s The Flower with the Petals of Steel (Italian: Il fiore dai petali d'acciaio, 1973); and, the subject of this review, Eugenio Martín’s The Fourth Victim (Spanish: La última señora Anderson, 1971). Assuming I’ve counted correctly, that’s a total of eight gialli roles – more than Mimsy Farmer, Edwige Fenech, Dagmar Lassander, Barbara Bouchet, Ida Galli, or any other of the genre’s crowned starlets.
The Fourth Victim – not to be confused with Maurizio Lucidi’s The Designated Victim (Italian: La vittima designata, 1971, which was just released on Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro) or Elio Petri’s dystopian comedy The 10th Victim (Italian: La decima vittima, 1965) – was Baker’s only foray into the world of Spanish-made giallo (again, we should really call these amarillos), but it’s otherwise not a departure in storytelling, style, or character (Knife of Ice also takes place in Spain, for the record). Over her tenure as a giallo star, Baker played fashionable, usually wealthy blondes. She established a Baker type, whether she was playing a sexpot damsel, an abused ‘older’ woman, a conniving co-conspirator, or mute heroine. This role occurred right in the middle of her giallo spree and doesn’t exploit her full repertoire of skills. In a lot of ways, she’s actually stuck replaying her So Sweet... So Perverse character. Still, her personality, which can turn on a dime from bubbly to disturbed, is a nice counterpoint to male lead Michael Craig’s understated mopiness. One of the more unusual aspects of the Baker type was her car stunts. In A Quiet Place to Kill, she plays a professional F1-style racer and is seen practicing a F1-style driving in So Sweet... So Perverse. I don’t know if that was because she had training as a racecar driver or if Lenzi just enjoyed shooting car stunts, but it certainly carries over into The Fourth Victim, where her white convertible coupé (I believe it’s a Jaguar) is as defining a characteristic as her blonde hair. There’s even a quick little car chase.
Eugenio Martín spent much of his directing career making Italian-style genre fare, including a number of what we could be categorized as spaghetti westerns, but he’s best known outside of Spain for making Horror Express (Spanish: Pánico en el Transiberiano, 1972), starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Telly Savalas. The Fourth Victim is his only giallo and he did a good job squeezing into his role as faux-Umberto Lenzi. The subject matter, on the other hand, is closer to what we’d expect from a common murder mystery and a British-made one at that, considering the whole thing takes place in the UK and is populated by British actors. The screenwriters – a veritable army that includes Sabatino Ciuffini, Vicente Coello, J.B. Gilford, Santiago Moncada, and Martín himself – include the wealthy lifestyle porn and romantic angst that characterizes early ‘70s gialli, but they opt out of the neurotic perversions and frustrations seen in the Baker/Lenzi movies for most of the film, replacing them with court procedure and standard-issue whodunit intrigue. Fortunately, the script has a good hook (two people who might be black widows get married and can’t trust each other) and, once Baker is introduced, it moves quickly towards a satisfyingly demented conclusion.
The Fourth Victim was never released on stateside home video, leading industrious giallo fans to cobble together a bootleg from Italian, Greek, and French PAL VHS tapes. Outside of tape trading and torrenting circles, it has gone unseen. Severin’s Blu-ray is, thus, the film’s US, digital, and HD debut. It is presented in 1080p, 2.35:1 and was taken from a new 2K scan of the original negative. The film shows its age and is a little more beat-up than some of the studio’s other recent Eurocult discs, but the limitations are largely based on the condition of the negative, rather than created via compression or digital tinkering. The heft of the grain and the slight brightness pulse are notable, though not un-film-like, and, thus, a comparatively smaller problem than compression artifacts. Cinematographer Guglielmo Mancori’s photography deals in stylized shadows and soft focus, but the bulk of the film is pretty naturalistic and a lot of the movie is shot outdoors, so the colors tend to be muted. Aside from some slight aberration (which is probably present in the original footage), however, the hue quality is consistent. The opening titles are a little messier than the rest of the movie, so don’t worry, it’ll clear up.
I keep referring to The Fourth Victim as a Spanish giallo, but it was an Italian/Spanish co-production and, like most movies from both regions at the time, it was shot without on-set sound and dubbed into multiple languages for international release. Severin’s Blu-ray includes the Italian and English dubs, but no Spanish dub. I’m not sure it makes any difference, especially since I opted to watch the majority of the film in English, but a Spanish track might have been an interesting addition. Both dubs are presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound. The English track has a more even-handed mix quality and the dub performances (a lot of the cast is clearly speaking English on set) are pretty good, while the Italian track exhibits consistent and louder vocals, but softer effects. To complete the faux-Lenzi vibe, the producers brought over Italian composer Piero Umiliani, who worked on Orgasmo. His jazz-meets-baroque score sounds about the same on each track, while exhibiting only minor distortion.
Eugenio Martín: An Auteur for All Genres (15:36, HD) – An interview with biographer Carlos Aguilar, titled after his Spanish language book on the director, co-written with his wife Anita Haas. As the title implies, this is a look at Martín’s career as a jack-of-all-trades type. Because he spoke fluent English, he ended up acting as assistant director on a number of American and British films that were shot in Spain and, due to his versatility, he ended up working across all genres. Aguilar also discusses the director’s good relationships with actors of different star levels from all over the world.
Deleted scene from the Spanish version of the film (2:43, HD) – A short scene where the accused wife killer speaks to a life insurance adjuster.
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.