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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surreal, atmospheric, coolly erotic thriller with shades of hidden depth
Well known for being something of a run-through for the infamous Basic Instinct (1992), The Fourth Man (1983) remains one of maverick director Paul Verhoeven's greatest works. Like Basic Instinct, The Fourth Man blends sex and death in a delicious cocktail of mystery, suspense and exaggerated imagery; telling a story of seduction and paranoia through the eyes and mind of...
Published on 18 Mar. 2008 by Jonathan James Romley

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Verhoeven's exercise in suspense thriller and excess
Paul Verhoeven remains an interesting director who treads between art and commercialism with a European style of excess without alienating the audiences (unlike Godard!) His early Dutch films remain a fascinating watch.
The Fourth Man is a straigh forward suspense thriller that somehow acts as a prelude to his later femme fatale genre piece, Basic Instinct. Full of...
Published on 8 Aug. 2004 by cybergel78


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surreal, atmospheric, coolly erotic thriller with shades of hidden depth, 18 Mar. 2008
This review is from: The Fourth Man [DVD] (DVD)
Well known for being something of a run-through for the infamous Basic Instinct (1992), The Fourth Man (1983) remains one of maverick director Paul Verhoeven's greatest works. Like Basic Instinct, The Fourth Man blends sex and death in a delicious cocktail of mystery, suspense and exaggerated imagery; telling a story of seduction and paranoia through the eyes and mind of an unreliable narrator. In this instance, Gerard Reve; an alcoholic writer of lurid pulp fiction, who in the film's subtle and darkly sardonic opening sequence, staggers out of bed, naked and hung-over, and - in a scene of quiet confusion and matter of fact precision - garrottes his homosexual lover to the point of asphyxiation. Right from the start, Verhoeven is skilfully introducing those aforementioned themes of sex and death, as well as establishing the air of incredibly dark humour, symbolism and that sense of blurring the lines between fact and fiction to near incomprehensible levels of uncertainty, all of which will permeate the film's very core.

Verhoeven has often claimed that the somewhat skewed, surreal and heavily atmospheric look and feel of the film was purposely stylised to an almost obvious degree in order to placate the high-brow Dutch film critics who had, at that particular time in his career, dismissed previous films such as Keetje Tippel (1975) and Spetters (1980) as lurid sensationalism. Whether or not this is the case is open to debate, but what most impresses here is Verhoeven's energy and skill in presenting such a taut and labyrinthine thriller that seems to draw as much on the surreal and coolly evocative psychodrama of a filmmaker like Ingmar Bergman as it does on the twisted world of Alfred Hitchcock. From beginning to end, The Fourth Man offers old fashioned suspense and bold strokes of drama, all contrasted and juxtaposed against the director's moody, European style and liberal bursts of violence and eroticism. The design of the film - rich with over-saturated light and colour, shades of autumn and lingering camera movements - suggest a world hinged somewhere between the noir-like stylisation of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist (1970) and the vibrant, lurid surrealism of Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977), to add further depths to the already densely layered mystery, and to create a world that seems real, but at the same time, entirely dreamlike.

The film works on a number of levels; on the one-hand, as a piece of pure entertainment, with Verhoeven's always memorable use of imagery - both grotesque and beautiful - and his scenes of upfront and often confrontational violence and sexuality. The film is as much about sexuality and desire as it is about sex; with Gerard introduced initially as gay, though he later has an affair with the central femme-fatale, but only after he has flattened her small breasts with his hands and confessed that she "looks like a boy". Later in the film he will seduce the fiancé of this character and again raise questions pertaining to the film's central enigma. In the most telling scene, Gerard attends a Q&A session for his new book. When someone in the audience asks him about his secret for writing, Gerard replies "I lie the truth". Perhaps a poor subtitle translation, but the implication that Gerard sees the world through a somewhat false perspective is certainly there; with the further elements of alcoholism, sexual confusion, lust and paranoia creating a fascinating central character, quite possibly creating the story in his mind as it moves along.

There are Hitchcockian allusions as noted, with the cold, blonde femme-fatale person represented by Christine, who has an air of subtle menace and great sexuality. Is Gerard seducing her or is she seducing Gerard, and just why have three of her past husbands turned up dead in recent years? Is Gerard imagining all of this? Is he genuinely interested in Christine, or is he more interested in getting closer to the man in her life? Are his reasons purely sexual or are they a further fuelled by his lurid obsessions with death? Questions like this crop up constantly with The Fourth Man, with Verhoeven denying the audience easy answers and instead plunging headlong into surreal visions of rotting eyeballs, strung-up meat carcasses, puddles of blood and the juxtaposition of homoerotic yearning with Christ-like metaphors. There's also a continual use of black-widow symbolism apparent right from the start, as well as all the elements coming together at the end in a sort of tragic foreshadowing of events. Even then, do we believe Gerard and his wild accusations, or is this just another example of the alcoholic, over-sexed writer "lying the truth" for the purposes of fiction.

The Fourth Man is a film that I haven't seen in a long time, but its images and story have always stayed with me. On my initial viewing in 2001, my familiarity with Verhoeven was based purely on his satirical Hollywood pictures, principally Robocop (1986), Total Recall (1991) and Starship Troopers (1997). I was also fairly unfamiliar with European cinema in general, meaning that the film's bold scenes of both straight and gay sex, nudity and imagined (or are they?) scenes of surreal, sexualised violence were a real revelation. A few years later I returned to the film and found it just as fascinating; with the labyrinthine plot, moody visuals, bold performances and totally entrancing story and character drawing me in; offering a great central mystery that is visually captivating and rife with a myriad of potential interpretations. It's easy to say that The Fourth Man is one of my favourite films; filled with cool irony, controversial images and ideas, and a completely fascinating, dreamlike evocation of the story at hand.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Verhoeven's Groundbreaking Film, 8 Mar. 2003
By 
Martin A Hogan "Marty From SF" (San Francisco, CA. (Hercules)) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fourth Man [DVD] (DVD)
Previously dismissed as a soft porn filmmaker in Europe, Verhoeven decided to make a film so overloaded with symbolism and foreshadowing that the gullible critics would call it "high art". And they did.
The plot is simple but fun, including all Verhoeven's specialties - sex, frontal nudity, explicit gore (castration-ouch!), etc. When the main character (a drunken poor writer) is determined to meet a young man he cruised at a magazine shop, he also discovers the woman who helped organize his book readings is dating the youngster. He's off and manages to get both in the sack. One example of symbolic overkill: The writer discovers three black film canisters in her house revealing the "accidental" deaths of her three previous husbands. Later, after he gets the young man to have sex in a mausoleum, he spots three black urn canisters containing the woman's three prior husband's ashes! Now come on! I won't even get into the 'Virgin Mary' sightings!
However, despite the overload on ALL levels, it makes for a great art-house film and one you'll watch over and over. (If your eyeball doesn't get poked out - movie hint - more symbolism).
This film enabled Verhoeven to proceed to make such classics as "Basic Instinct" and "Showgirls". Trivia: Main actor Jeroen Kraabe was the evil doctor who framed Harrison Ford in "The Fugitive". Best extra is the inclusion of Verhoeven's director's commentary. He is one clever personality!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dutch Delerium Tremens......, 2 May 2003
This review is from: The Fourth Man [DVD] (DVD)
Jeron Krabbe is without one of the most underatted actors ever. Want proof? 'The Fourth Man'. I would also say that Paul Verhoeven is also underated to, sadly because most people will only have seen his Hollywood films. But twenty years ago he made his last Dutch language film and (in my opinion) his best film. The Fourth Man could be seen as a blueprint for Basic Instinct in some ways but this is far, far better in all ways.
Jeron Krabbe plays an alchoholic, homosexual writer giving a talk for a book society when he becomes entagled in the web of Christine (the societies treasurer) which brings about some bizarre violent a sexual religious visions, the mystery of Christine's three dead husbands and his lusting for her good-looking but sexually inadequate boyfriend. Shocking, hilarious. and not a dull moment in entire 99mins. Black comedy as it's best, and a brilliant performances abound. A must see!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars plenty of thrills, 11 Dec. 2012
By 
schumann_bg - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Fourth Man [DVD] (DVD)
The Fourth Man is one of the best thrillers I've ever seen - a delirious, over-the-top cocktail of lust, suspense, bizarre visuals and a deft humour that turns to menace like the sudden glint on a sharp pair of scissors. It has a compelling quality that is unlike any other film, and it is hard to imagine it being made today. For one thing, it is quite explicit, both with regard to gay and straight sex, in a way that possibly falls between two stools with audiences. The sensibility is not likely to appeal to gay film-lovers for its not very politically correct presentation, while there is too much homoeroticism to make it a mainstream hit. In addition, the actors are not really known outside Holland. It strikes me as being a much more interesting film than Basic Instinct, but the lesbian theme is, one imagines, more acceptable to mainstream audiences in a more typically male genre. The American film also has no subtitles, which is another mark against this Dutch one. If I seem to labour the point it is because this film strikes me as so obviously a fantastic achievement, the question of why it remains relatively unknown is quite perplexing. One of the most striking things is the lighting, which is absolutely brilliant, creating a dreamlike atmosphere that it never leaves. The camera angles are constantly dazzling and evocative, while individual sequences have something of Hitchcock in their precision of effect. Certain scenes etch themselves deeply on the mind - a blasphemous sequence in a church, for instance, where Gerard (Jeroen Krabbe) fantasizes about Herman (Thom Hoffman) in place of a marble Christ on the Cross, and coincidental reappearances of characters - or even moments like Christine squirting a huge amount of shampoo into her hand before washing Gerard's hair - enough to wash twenty heads, you might think, and you get a marvellous sense of this gluey substance. It also uses amazing tricks of perception, where you feel something is real only to then see it is imagined after all, as when Gerard strangles his lover at the beginning. Krabbe is a superb actor and pitches the character perfectly - not likeable, but intriguing. Renee Soutendijk is beguiling and unnerving in equal measure - it's a totally one-off performance, again with a nod at Hitchcock's blondes with her impeccable styling. Both she and Thom Hoffman lend sterling and sexy support, and the story plays out in a magnificently teasing manner. I can't recommend this too highly - personally I would take The Fourth Man rather than the Third, but I know to many this is tantamount to blasphemy in itself!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Verhoeven's answer to his critics, 13 April 2005
This review is from: The Fourth Man [DVD] (DVD)
Verhoeven's Fourth Man was apparently his answer to those carping Dutch critics who had been so offended by the casual working class realism and frankness he familiarised in Turkish Delight, Business is Business & etc. Gone is the simple story line, the concern with contemporary issues, 'offensive' humour and the prominence of working girls as characters. Instead Verhoeven and his scriptwriter have substituted a hot house of religious imagery, 'literary' associations, obscure motivations and a deliberately overwrought atmosphere, guaranteed to please those who value an 'art house' ideal over the rougher (and ultimately more sincere) product the director had been making. Perhaps surprisingly, it is a largely successful concoction, and pleased both audiences and the critics. The joke is still a joke, but it is all so well done, and carried off with such dark glee and verve, that Verhoeven's private fun in his task becomes public. The result is a favourite amongst his films.
Having dished out his creative rebuke to the conservative arbiters of Dutch film taste, it wasn't long before the frustrated director was lured off to Hollywood. Here he achieved a more perfect - and sincere - synthesis of vision, style, and message in the more familiar films that have confirmed his reputation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not so delightful as the Delight, but still a masterpiece, 1 Jun. 2004
By 
Petrides Antonis (Nicosia, Cyprus) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fourth Man [DVD] (DVD)
Coming to the Fourth Man, for some Verhoeven's masterpiece, after the experience of the Turkish Delight, one is equipped with a certain set of expectations: high erotic charge with a fetishist's delight in the body, both male and female, loose narrative, etc. All these ingredients are there in the Fourth Man, even if the mixture is not nearly as delicious as in the Delight. The biggest asset of the film is its brilliantly crafted menage a trois: the dark eroticism of the Spider Woman so intriguingly portrayed in the cover of the Tartan DVD is totally upstaged by an undercurrent of homosexual attraction between two of its intended victims, the tormented author and the young vagabond. The author's predatory pursuit of the young lad is so obsessive that the boundaries between the hunter and the hunted are blurred. The supernatural is never far from the surface in this film, although Verhoeven is not very comfortable dealing with it. The Marianic epiphanies at times ring alost parodic, but they do succeed in confusing reality and illusion thus ipmrinting upon the viewer the point that the narrative of the film is filtered through a troubled mind
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Verhoeven's exercise in suspense thriller and excess, 8 Aug. 2004
This review is from: The Fourth Man [DVD] (DVD)
Paul Verhoeven remains an interesting director who treads between art and commercialism with a European style of excess without alienating the audiences (unlike Godard!) His early Dutch films remain a fascinating watch.
The Fourth Man is a straigh forward suspense thriller that somehow acts as a prelude to his later femme fatale genre piece, Basic Instinct. Full of tongue in cheek metaphors ranging from black widow spiders and its preys, popped out eyeball and even the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ!
This DVD however is a disappointment. It lacked the audio commentary that its Region 1 counterpart provides. Verhoeven is always a pleasure to listen to. Unpretentious, full of anecdotes and information into the making of his films.
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4.0 out of 5 stars nightmare mix of alcoholic insanity and erotic horror, 27 Aug. 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Fourth Man [DVD] (DVD)
This film has great atmosphere, with an alcoholic writer who may be going insane. He is full of violent fantasies, his life spinning out of control, and he goes about his career in a fog. Called to give a reading in a small village, he sees a boorish young man that he would like to seduce. The village culture spot seems to be run by a hairdresser business woman with an interest in literature. She invites the writer to stay at her place, and by a strange connection, she invites the young man over that he wanted to seduce. In his paranoid manner, the writer begins to think that something strange is happening, that the woman is somehow other than human. He notices, for example, that she lacks sensation in parts of her back, like witches. Even more ominous, he begins to see that she is associated with the violent deaths of no less than 3 husbands. It remains uncertain if he is victim of an alcoholic psychosis, apparently a source for his imaginative powers, the basis of his extraordinary talent. Finally, as he is seducing the young man in a graveyard, he realizes they are in the mausoleum that contains the ashes of all 3 husbands. This drives him over the edge in spite of what happens next, and the village people banish him to a hospital for the insane.

While I tried to hide the many off-beat surprises in the film, the plot matters less than the nightmarish atmosphere of the film. This is highly successful and an interesting precursor to the director's later work. Recommended warmly. Very solid entertainment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Went down well., 2 Jan. 2011
This review is from: The Fourth Man [DVD] (DVD)
Having given a talk about surrealism at school to the sixth form and illustrated it with extracts from `Un Chien Andalou', 'Pan's Labyrinth' and this film, which I have admired for many years, I followed up by showing `The Fourth Man' to a select group. They were not used to films with subtitles, but to a man (and woman) they declared it the most entertaining film they'd seen in a long time.
It repays repeated viewing. As with all the best films there is plenty to be picked up on the second and subsequent visits. I heartily recommend it unless you're particularly squeamish. Why is it, by the way, that surrealists always seem to have an obsession with eyes?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Racy, but a gripping storyline., 16 Sept. 2014
This review is from: The Fourth Man [DVD] (DVD)
Racy, but a gripping storyline.
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