The Fourth Victim Blu-ray Review: Stay Till the End

A pretty blonde woman lounges languidly in the swimming pool of a large estate. When her cigarette pops a hole in the floater she’s sitting upon causing her to slowly slip into the liquid depths, we realize that she’s dead, and has been for some time. She is the third wife of Arthur Anderson (Michael Craig) and the third one to die under suspicious circumstances. They’ve also all had rather substantial life insurance policies of which he has been the sole beneficiary. The police are naturally suspicious. The film then subjects us to a rather long and rather dull bit of courtroom drama at which point I began wondering why this film is considered a giallo and not something of a more typical European crime thriller. By the time the credits rolled, I still didn’t have a sufficient answer to that question.

The Fourth Victim (1971) is not exactly a lost film but it has been very difficult to find on home video. According to one website I found, the only home video release it has had was in Greece many years ago. Severin Films has just released a very nice-looking Blu-ray of the film. While it is unlikely that it will rush to the top of anyone’s list of greatest gialli, it is always exciting to see an obscure film becoming more available to the masses.

Thanks to the (perhaps not all that honest) testimony of his devoted housekeeper (Miranda Campa), Arthur is acquitted. That very night he finds a woman swimming in his pool. She says she’s her name is Julie Spencer (Carroll Baker), that she lives in the house over the way, and that the heat was keeping her from sleeping. She didn’t know anybody lived in the house and figured a dip in the pool would cool her off.

Arthur doesn’t really believe this story but that doesn’t stop him from bedding Julie and then marrying her after only a few weeks. Before they get married, we see her go to her home (or at least what she claims is her home). The house is cluttered and dusty and she sleeps inside a tent filled with pictures and newspaper clippings of Arthur. Soon enough, he discovers (surprise!) that she might not be what she seems. A quick visit to the local police and Arthur discovers that a Julie Spencer was suspected in the death of her husband and spent time in an institution for it. The question becomes who will kill whom by the end of the film.

Meanwhile, Inspector Dunphy (José Luis López Vázquez) has never been convinced Arthur didn’t murder all three of his previous wives and continues to investigate. Adding to all this mystery is a mysterious woman clad in all black wanders about the manor’s grounds in the dark of night.

Most of this is interminably dull. The murders almost all take place before the film starts, or off-screen. There is no black-gloved killer. The set designs are creepy enough but the camera never does anything interesting. There is nothing on screen even close to as lurid as the movie’s poster (and the Blu-rays cover art) would have you believe. This film is almost chaste. As I mentioned other than the fact that this is a mystery made in Europe during the 1970s there isn’t much to classify this film as a giallo.

During the film’s last 20 minutes, things begin to change. The twists become more interesting and we finally figure out who that girl is that has been wandering about in the dark. The resolution is exactly the kind of nonsensical nuttiness one expects from a giallo and it almost redeems the entire thing. Almost. Getting to that point is quite a bit more of a slog to really make it worth it in the end.

Extras on this disk include an interview with director Eugenio Martín a deleted scene and the film’s trailer.

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Mat Brewster

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