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Anchor Bay presents

The Fourth Man (1983)

"I lie the truth. Until I no longer know whether something did or did not happen. That's when it gets exciting. What you make of reality is infinitely more exciting than reality itself."- Gerard Reve (Jeroen Krabbé)

Stars: Jeroen Krabbé, Renee Soutendijk
Other Stars: Thom Hoffman, Dolf de Vries
Director: Paul Verhoeven

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, violence, frontal nudity, graphic sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:42m:21s
Release Date: 2001-04-24
Genre: offbeat

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A B+AA- A-


DVD Review

Paul Verhoeven's The Fourth Man was the director's last Dutch-language film before he came to Hollywood to make such films as Robocop, Total Recall and Showgirls. Based on a short autobiographical novel by Gerard Reve, The Fourth Man stars Jeroen Krabbé as Reve, a writer who travels to the town of Visslinger to address a literary club. Following the evening's engagement, he spends the night with the club's beautiful treasurer, Christine Halslag (Renee Soutendijk). After finding a beefcake photograph of her handsome boyfriend Herman (Thom Hoffman), Reve urges her to invite him down for the week, in hopes of seducing Herman himself. Along the way, a series of strange hallucinations, dreams and discoveries lead Reve to believe that Christine has murdered three husbands, and has her sights set on either Herman or himself as number four.

The story bears some resemblance to Verhoeven's own Basic Instinct, but the visual and stylistic presentation is a pure, over-the-top foreign-film phantasmagoria. Cinematographer (now director in his own right) Jan de Bont fills the screen with spiders, Christ images, full frontal nudity and bloody injuries, all beautifully photographed. Verhoeven apparently pumped up the symbolism to such outrageous levels for humorous effect, intending to deceive the critics into thinking more of the film than he himself did. But the fact remains that the images work very, very well, providing a colorful, intimate, disturbing look at a world (or a narrator) going mad. The special effects are visibly low-budget but often quite impressive, particularly in a shot that moves seamlessly from a photograph into one of Reve's hallucinations.

A talented cast makes the bizarre goings-on seem credible, or at least plausible from Reve's questionable perspective. Jeroen Krabbé seems perfectly rational, if a little on edge; Renee Soutendijk is sexy and mysterious, carefully cloaking her feelings and possible motives; and Thom Hoffman's Herman is convincingly selfish and hedonistic. The film's elastic reality could easily have made for shaky footing, but Verhoeven successfully keeps his cast emotionally anchored amid the visual turmoil.

The Fourth Man will not appeal to everyone—it's grotesquely shocking, darkly funny, almost frightening in its eroticism and a tad blasphemous to boot. Having seen this film with a large audience, I should note that one scene is virtually guaranteed to make men double over in sympathetic pain. It's not a pretty sight—but once you look, you'll have a hard time looking away.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay presents The Fourth Man in its original 1.85:1 theatrical widescreen aspect ratio, with a solid anamorphic transfer drawn from a clean, subtitle-free source print (player-generated English subs are provided and can be turned off to better appreciate the imagery). The film has an intentionally soft, surreal look, with some grain in a few shots, but the digital transfer generally looks great, with saturated color and fine shadow detail in the darker scenes. The impact of Verhoeven's production is highly dependent on its visuals, and the DVD delivers the goods.

Image Transfer Grade: A

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The Fourth Man features a Dutch-language Dolby 2.0 monophonic audio track, preserving the original theatrical soundtrack. The mono audio is surprisingly strong and dynamic, with good frequency range (especially on the low end during a storm scene) and a nice presence thanks to creative sound design. A few dialogue scenes pick up faint atmospheric noise, but Loek Dikker's foreboding orchestral score comes through cleanly and the film sounds very modern despite its single-channel nature. A 5.1 remix would have been an interesting addition, given the nature of the film, but the original soundtrack is welcome and well-rendered here.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Paul Verhoeven
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Storyboard Art by Paul Verhoeven
Extras Review: Anchor Bay supports The Fourth Man with 25 text-menu chapters, optional English subtitles, and a number of substantial supplements:

Theatrical Trailer:

The original theatrical trailer is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic format, drawn from a clean source print with player-generated subtitles. The trailer, like the feature, is for adults only.

Director's Commentary:

Paul Verhoeven delivers another entertaining commentary, making up in enthusiasm what the expatriate director occasionally lacks in command of the English language. His remarks are generous to his collaborators and generally interesting, and he points out most of the movie's connections and symbols. Verhoeven gleefully notes that the film's overt symbolism (intended as a joke) helped earn The Fourth Man strong critical notices, a personal revenge of sorts after his earlier Spetters was roundly reviled.

Storyboard Art:

Verhoeven's commentary mentions that he still has his storyboard sketches, "if anyone wants to see them," and Anchor Bay apparently took him up on the offer. This five-minute feature presents a number of Verhoeven's rough, hand-drawn storyboards, juxtaposed with the images as they appeared in the final film, backed by music from the score. It's an interesting look at this strongly visual director's approach to the project.

Talent Bios:

Lengthy, well-written biographies and filmographies provide background on director Paul Verhoeven and stars Jeroen Krabbé, and Renee Soutendijk. There are a few typos here and there, but these are definitely superior to the usual DVD "talent file" content.

Liner Notes:

A novel packaging idea puts Mark Wickum's extensive liner notes on the reverse side of the cover sleeve, requiring removal from the keepcase to read the additional material (a risk some collectors will be loath to take). These well-researched notes place Verhoeven's film and Reve's novella in historical and cultural context, with many details not mentioned in the commentary, and are a valuable addition to the package.

Extras Grade: A-

Final Comments

The Fourth Man is a fascinating film by the pre-Hollywood Paul Verhoeven, filled with graphic detail and disturbing symbolism. Anchor Bay's DVD presents the film in style, with a fine transfer and substantial supplements. It's a bizarre film, certainly not to everyone's taste, but it comes highly recommended by yours truly.

Dale Dobson 2001-05-03