Monday, June 23, 2014

Fourth Man, The

The Fourth Man (1983)
Movie rating: 9/10
DVD rating: 9/10
Release Date: April, 24, 2001
Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
Rating: R
Distributor: Anchor Bay Home Entertainment
List Price: $29.98
Disc Details
Special Features:  Commentary by Paul Verhoven.
Extensive biographical infor mation on the director and two leads actors.
Original storyboard artwork.
Theatrical trailer.
Scene selection.
Video Format: Anamorphic Widescreen
Languages: Dutch (Dolby Digital Mono)
Captions: English
Casing: 1-Disc Keep Case

While "Soldier of Orange" brought world attention to Paul Verhoven, it was his followup film "The Fourth Man" which brought Hollywood knocking at his door. A pleasingly, perverse thriller, "The Fourth Man" deals with human relationships in a frank manner seldom seen in American films. Gerard Reve (Jeroen Krabbe) is a gay, alcoholic writer who may suffer from schizophrenia as he is haunted by visions of death. Thrown into this psychic stew is the inner turmoil caused by the conflict between his sexuality and his Catholic faith. Gerard travels to Vlissagen to address the coastal town's literature club. There he meets Christine (Renee Soutendijk) a sensuous young woman who has her sights set on him. She also has three dead ex-husbands. Will Gerard become the fourth man? This powerfully depraved thriller will have you guessing and second guessing what will happen. You'll want to watch it a second time to figure out just what did happen. This is a great movie guaranteed to provoke conversation and argument.

In one of the most disturbing credit sequences ever filmed, Jon De Bont's wonderful camera work captures a hairy, scary spider as it crawls over the face of Christ on a crucifix. The camera meticulously follows the beast as it pounces on three flies caught in its web. They are wrapped in silk and saved for later. As the credits end, the camera pulls back and reveals Gerard waking up from an obviously rough night. He shakes uncontrollably as he walks down stairs to shave. His house is decorated in a crazy quilt combination of art deco and Catholic icons. A miniature of the Pieta is on his night stand. As Gerard tries to shave, we see his young boyfriend practicing the violin . Gerard suddenly picks up a shear black bra and strangles his lover to death. Quick cut to Gerard sitting at his kitchen table having a bit of the hair of the dog. He turns and offers a toast to the virgin Mary hanging above him. He then walks back into the room where his boyfriend is still playing the violin. This is the first taste of the insights we get into Gerard's fantasy world. Obviously he's not a happy camper. As his visions increase one wonders if his home really was decorated like that, or if he is lost in a world of mental illness and religious mania. Gerard leaves to catch the train for his speaking engagement.

At the Amsterdam train station, Gerard sees a young man in tight clothes and is aroused. He tries to make contact and chases the guy around the station. He sees the young man through the window of a departing train. The train is heading for Koln (Cologne). Having missed his prey, Gerard gets on his train. He looks out the window and sees a sign which says "Jesus is Everywhere." He looks on the wall in front of him and sees a advertisement for an art gallery. The painting depicts Samson and Delilah. A blond woman sits across from him with her young son who is wearing a T-shirt which says Daddy's Son. The woman peals her son an apple. The peal comes off in one long piece. She entertains her son with it. As Gerard looks at the boy, the woman holds the peal behind the boys head in a circular manner like a halo. Gerard is having a hard time with the religious symbolism. He looks at an ad above the woman's head which depicts the front of a hotel. Suddenly he is walking into that hotel. He picks up a key with the number 4 on it. He walks down the hall. He comes to the room. As he puts the key in the lock the number on the door turns into an eyeball which then falls out of the door in a bloody mass. Gerard is shocked out of his vision and looks back at the photo of the hotel. It is covered in blood. Fearing for his sanity, he cries out. The woman looks up and sees that her son's tomato juice can has burst in her bag.

Following his presentation to the literature club, Gerard hooks up with Christine. She seduces him. Christine is a thin woman. To Gerard, she looks like a beautiful boy. Christine straddles Gerard and places her breasts in his face. "These aren't boys" she says. Gerard cups her small breasts and pushes them to the side. In his mind, she looks like a boy now and he becomes aroused. The next morning, Christine asks Gerard to stay with her. She is a wealthy widow, but money doesn't buy happiness. Gerard is hesitant at first. He comes across a letter to Christine from another boyfriend. There is a photo with the letter. It is the young man from the train station the Gerard was after. Now that there is a chance that he might meet the man of his dreams, Gerard agrees to stay with Christine. The other boyfriend is Herman (Thom Hoffman). Christine says he is a brutal lover. Gerard assures her he will be able to use his psychic powers to get to the bottom of Herman's problems as a lover. The remainder of the film follows this twisted ménage a trois. Gerard is haunted of visions of death and the virgin Mary. Is Christine a black widow who lures men to their deaths? Is Gerard just a crazy old drunk? Is anything the viewer sees in this movie real or a figment of Gerard's fantastic imagination? You be the judge.

Verhoven has put together a visual treat. Shot in vivid colors full of symbolic meaning, Verhoven sinks the viewer into a world of erotic insanity. The acting is excellent. Ms. Soutendijk is a worthy predecessor to Sharon Stone. She is alluring, vulnerable, dangerous and mysterious at the same time. One never is sure if she is evil incarnate or the victim of a paranoiac's delusions. She is very sexy. Mr. Krabbe turns in a performance that most American actors would be to scared to do. In real life, people who sleep in the nude get up and walk across the room to go to the bathroom. In Hollywood movies, the actors and actresses usually find something to cover up with. Not so in this film. Both male and female full-frontal nudity is on display. In the context of the film it is natural and non-exploitive. The same goes for the film's portrayal of homosexual sex. I'm straight, and it's not really my cup of tea to see two guys kissing (two girls yes!)but from a cinematic point of view, Verhoven's approach to the subject is honest and real. This is due to the film's European origin. The puritanical hypocrisy which permeates Hollywood is not present.

Based on a novel by the Dutch writer Gerard Reve (yes he named the main character after himself), "The Fourth Man" is an excellent psychological thriller. A harbinger of Verhoven's "Basic Instinct," "The Fourth Man" is in many ways a superior film. The cinematography by future director Jan De Bont is crisp and exciting. This is an all around great movie. Thank God it was made overseas where filmmakers have balls. The film is not rated, but would probably garner an NC-17 under our system.

The Disc
Another nice job by Anchor Bay. This is a great overlooked movie. Anchor Bay realizes that there are a lot of movie buffs out there who want to see and own these films. The product is excellent. A real keeper. It helps that the movie itself is so good, but they built on that to come up with a DVD you want to purchase.

Picture Quality: 10/10
Jan De Bont's cinematography loses nothing in the transfer. Beautiful colors. A real handsome picture.

Sound Quality: 10/10
From the sound of a spider skuttling over a table, to the moans of passion, and the anguished cries of a nightmare, this DVD gives you eveything.

Menu: 7/10
If I have a grip with Anchor Bay's DVDs it is that the menus only list the chapters selections by name, and there is no illustrating still. It's a small grip but one I've meant to make before.

Extra Features: 10/10
I really enjoyed the director's commentary because of the highly symbolic nature of the film. It was great to get the film-maker's insights. It was also nice to get the background information about the writer of the source material, Gerard Reve.

The Final Word:
I had never heard of this film. I got it on the strength of my love for Verhoven's "Soldier of Orange" and "Spetters." Wow, great movie.

No comments: