Plot: What’s it about?
Gerard Reve (Jeroen Krabbe) is a novelist with a vivid imagination, which is only further enhanced by his abuse of alcohol. In other words, he is often drunk out of his mind and when he isn’t, he tells outrageous stories and claim that within them, the listener can uncover truths. When he travels out of town to speak to some folks, he meets Christine Halssag (Renee Soutendijk), who happens to be beautiful and loves to listen to his stories. She ends up seducing him and after they spend a night together, he convinces her to bring her husband in to meet him, though he doesn’t explain the exact reason why. You see, Reve plans to seduce her husband and learn more about Christine, but little does he know what he’s gotten himself into. He soon begins to have visions of Christine as a black widow of sorts, killing her husbands one after another, but he cannot seem to prove his suspicions. Is her current husband Herman (Thom Hoffman) in danger of being her fourth victim, or is this all just within Reve’s head?
This movie blends together elements of black humor, intense sexual situations, psychological thriller bits, and even a couple shakes of horror, but it does so very well, which means it comes in one piece, as opposed to a jumbled mess. This is due to many factors of course, but I think the main reason The 4th Man succeeds is Paul Verhoeven, who supplies his usual stable, but never dull direction. This marked his final Dutch film and he soon left for Hollywood, but this was a grand exit, to be sure. The 4th Man is a sex laced thriller by definition, but it has so many other elements also, which makes it rather hard to nail down. You can see traits from this film pop up in Basic Instinct and some of Verhoeven’s other films also, but not in a redundant sense, by any means. On the acting side, we have great lead turns from Joreon Krabbe and Renee Soutendijk, with some more than solid supporting performances on deck. I recommend this great film to fans of thrillers and Verhoeven, as both crowds should be more than pleased here, especially with such a wonderful treatment from the folks over at Anchor Bay.
This was his final film before moving into the American film circuit, but what a grand finale to his Dutch career, eh? I’ve been a fan of Verhoeven’s work since he hit these shores, so of course, I’ve visited his previous films, including this one. I think Verhoeven has made some terrific movies and out of those, The 4th Man is one of his best, if you ask me. This film is layered with intense, complex visuals and features a dark storyline of course, as usual for Verhoeven. His direction remains very good throughout and with the help of cinematographer Jan de Bont, a perfect atmosphere is created, very dark and immersive indeed. Other films directed by Verhoeven include Basic Instinct, Soldier of Orange, Robocop, Hollow Man, Showgirls, Turkish Delight, and Total Recall. The cast includes Jeroen Krabbe (Immortal Beloved, The Fugitive), Renee Soutendijk (Eve of Destruction, House Call), and Thom Hoffman (White Madness, Traces of Smoke).
Video: How does it look?
The 4th Man is presented in a 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I was stunned with the image provided here, as it looks so clean and sharp, I could hardly believe my eyes. The print is very clean and shows minimal debris or grain, which means the other elements are never restrained, which is good news. The colors seem bolder than ever here, but never smear, while the flesh tones look natural also. No complaints with contrast either, as black levels come across is sharp, rich form and never falter much. Anchor Bay has done great work with these Verhoeven titles, but this is the real star of the bunch, a fantastic treatment in all respects.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono track isn’t much to shout about, but it is more than adequate, which is what matters in the end. The original Dutch language is preserved and dialogue sounds very good, always clean and never hard to understand. The music is well done and comes through well also, while sound effects are solid, if a tad limited. I think a few scenes could use some surround presence, but on the whole, this is a more than up to snuff track, so no real complaints. This disc also includes optional English subtitles, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes some talent files, a selection of storyboard artwork, and the film’s theatrical trailer. You can also listen to an audio commentary track with Paul Verhoeven, who seems well prepared and quite energetic. I guess he was happy to record this session, as he remains talkative and upbeat throughout, no real slow spots to speak of. All in all, another great track from Verhoeven, which makes me wonder when and if he’ll record one for Showgirls…