It might make for an off-putting image, but Severin’s Blu-Ray cover for Eugenio Martín’s The Fourth Victim makes a lot more sense after watching the movie. The cover uses an Italian poster for the film of a woman floating dead in the pool, but makes it look like the “I” in “victim” is stabbing her. Clever, sure, but extremely violent.
Whether it needed to be used for the cover, the pool scene that opens Martín’s movie is fantastic, as audiences are introduced to a woman (Maria Gustafsson) sitting on a clear, plastic floatie, but is she sleeping or is she dead? As the cigarette in her hand starts to burn out that’s exactly what viewers are prepped to find out, and while the outcome of this literal slow burn’s predictable, it doesn’t take away from the suspense.
A lot of The Fourth Victim isn’t about being surprised so much as having characters react in unexpected ways. When the woman in the pool is identified as dead wife number three for Arthur Anderson (Michael Craig) — who tries to get away without an autopsy, but his insurance company aren’t having it — it only follows that Arthur will get remarried. It also follows that the potential “fourth victim” of the title will be played by Carroll Baker. You know a film is working when the lead takes a while to show up and it’s perfectly fine. Otherwise, you’re just hanging on to see if things improve once they show up. While everything’s better with Baker, the film is already moving on all cylinders when she arrives.
If Baker’s Julie Spencer was completely naïve and unaware that she might be in danger, The Fourth Victim wouldn’t be as fun, but Spencer’s reasons for pursuing a romance with Arthur are kept close to the chest, and while there’s a good chance some viewers will pick up on her identity as she starts to ask some very pointed questions, Julie may be a murder victim, depending on how her cards play out. She’s not a victim in the general sense. The film also offers some twists along the way when a third person shows up (played by Marina Malfatti).
To be honest, The Fourth Victim‘s bonus features seemed underwhelming at first, but quality beats quantity, and while the deleted scene is neither here nor there, the featurette on Martín by Carlos Agulier, who co-wrote the only book to be written on the Spanish director — An Auteur for All Genres — with his wife, Anita Haas, is a real boon to this release. Once you hear titles like Horror Express and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (on which Martín acted as assistant director), Martín’s name becomes more familiar, but Agulier’s overview of his career does exactly what you want it to — makes you want to check out more of his movies, like Bad Man’s River and A Candle for the Devil.
For anyone who got a kick out of Severin’s Lenzi/Baker Giallo box set last year, The Fourth Victim is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now from Severin Films.