1971, 88 mins. 21 secs.
Directed by Eugenio Martín
Carroll Baker, Michael Craig, Miranda Campa, José Luis López Vázquez, Marina Malfatti
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
During her flurry of giallo classics made with director Umberto Lenzi over a busy four-year period, transplanted Hollywood star Carroll Baker managed to find time for a few other thrillers designed to ride on the coattails of that quartet as well as the non-Lenzi one that started it all, The Sweet Body of Deborah. Among them were the lukewarm caper film The Devil with Seven Faces and the Spanish-Italian co-production The Fourth Victim, a rarely-seen thriller directed by Eugenio Martín back to back with two of his most widely distributed films, Horror Express and Bad Man's River. Though milder than the films it's imitating due to Spanish censorship restrictions, The Fourth Victim is a stylish and enjoyable little twist-a-thon that fits in nicely with the cosmopolitan tales of murder and deception among the idle rich that had become Baker's stock in trade at the time.
English businessman Arthur Anderson (Mysterious Island's Craig) finds himself in hot water when his third wife is discovered floating dead in their swimming pool after an apparent barbiturate overdose. Both of his previous spouses died under mysterious circumstances as well, so the police headed by Inspector Dunphy (Vázquez) press ahead with murder charges that don't quite stick. Nonplussed by losing his spouse and being accused of murder, Arthur quickly enters into an affair with his neighbor, Julie (Baker), who likes to take unsolicited dips in his pool and isn't opposed to rushing into marriage with him. Meanwhile a stern-looking blonde (The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave's Malfatti) prone to traumatic flashbacks is lurking around and might be the key to a dark secret from the past.
Anyone who's watched a few of these Spanish-centric gialli knows they tend to be a little looser and grittier than their Italian cousins, and that's the case here as the scope framing is used more for disorientation and lots of wandering. Martín was never one of the more formally elegant directors anywhere, instead prone to lots of dark, quickly edited set pieces. That more or less works well here as the story indulges in lots of misdirection by having every single character besides our inspector behaving as suspiciously as possible, which becomes a bit of a logic issue considering how the story ultimately turns out. Of course, we don't really watch these things for narrative coherence anyway; it's all about shifty people plotting homicide and lying to each other in swanky settings, which is entirely what you get here. If anything, the real star here is composer Piero Umiliani who delivers a wonderfully entertaining lounge score still very much in his Five Dolls for an August Moon mode.
Impossible to see for ages outside of a Greek VHS tape dating back to the '80s (sometimes on the gray market as Death at the Deep End of the Swimming Pool), The Fourth Victim makes its welcome U.S. home video debut from Severin Films on Blu-ray and DVD. The 2K transfer from the original negative looks great with vivid colors and the full scope framing finally restored, while retaining some inherent limitations in the source (like some occasional baked-in photochemical flickering). The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track is the way to go here as it retains the leads' original voices; the supporting actors are dubbed despite visibly speaking English, of course, with Vázquez sporting the goofiest detective accent this side of Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye. The Italian dub track is included as well but is only worth checking out for a brief comparison, especially since the only subtitle track here is English SDH and doesn't really match up. The main extra here is "Eugenio Martín, Auteur" (15m36s), an interview with biographer Carlos Aguilar about the director and primarily focused on sifting out how to categorize the filmmaker given his genre-hopping tendencies and the common artistic traits among his work. An extra deleted scene (2m43s) exclusive to the Spanish version is also included in nice condition with English subtitles; it's a totally extraneous bit about Anderson dealing with his insurance situation in the aftermath of the murder charge, but nice to have for the sake of completeness. The lengthy English trailer is also included.
Reviewed on September 12, 2021