Only two years separate The Fourth Man, the final Dutch language movie by director Paul Verhoeven, and the explosive commencement of his Hollywood career. Controversy raged about violence in Flesh & Blood, RoboCop and ever... more »ything else he made thereafter. Yet controversy has always been a part of the filmmaker's work. This savage comedy shocker could well be seen as a trial run for Basic Instinct, since it features an ice-cold seductress (Renée Soutendijk) with mysterious motivations and sexual preferences. The hallucinatory tale follows a novelist (Jeroen Krabbé) first falling for her, and then feverishly investigating whether she's a serial husband killer. The film is full of what would soon be recognized as Verhoeven trademarks: a little blasphemy, a lot of nudity, dispassionate characters, and hidden agendas. One of the aspects that caught the eye of international audiences was the film's colorful lighting and camerawork. This was from Jan de Bont, who, thanks in large part to Verhoeven, would go on to direct Speed and others. Full of symbolic flourishes and allegorical plot points The Fourth Man is a dizzying display of the type of black comedy that not even Verhoeven can get away with in today's politically aware industry. --Paul Tonks« less
Simply Sublime; Worth Owning & Savoring Again & Again
carol irvin | United States | 05/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this film at a wonderful old art house theater which no longer exists. It was run by a film professor and its loyal audience saw just about everything that played the art house circuit. At the end of this film, the audience burst into applause, which I'd never seen it do before and never saw it do again. Hubby and I were madly clapping along with them because we all knew we'd just seen bravura, breath taking film making. Renée Soutendijk plays a blonde hairdresser (DVD cover) who meets gay writer Jeroen Krabbé and lures him into her black widow like web. Krabbé becomes haunted by visions of his own death and Soutendijk has perhaps already had that terminal effect on three prior husbands. If you are thinking that maybe this is like the American "Black Widow," it is not except in the essence of idea. This film takes that basic idea and makes it high art, exploring the dream, surreal world adjacent to the real world. Jan DeBont's cinematography is a surreal painter's delight come to life. Director Paul Verhoeven showed the wit, style, and right-brained art making that he gave up when he came to the USA to make American films, such as "Basic Instinct." The two films are similar in that both have a female messing with the mind of a male in murderous connotations but "Basic Instinct" has all of the flash and style of "Fourth Man" but none of its art. This film also is more sexually daring than "Basic Instinct" with its exploring both gay and straight sexuality. Krabbé lusts after Soutendijk's boyfriend, who is much younger than he. It also contains full-frontal nudity of both men plus the woman. I really wish Verhoeven had remained a Dutch filmmaker, doing more of this kind of work, rather than "going Hollywood" with his films upon coming here to the USA."
"IN THE REALM OF BASIC RECOLLECTIONS ......"
Martin A Hogan | 07/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Miss SHARON STONE - look no further - THIS the definitive sequel to "Basic Instinct"!Of course, Dutch film-maker Paul Verhoven made this movie long before "Basic Instinct", but this is the genesis of that [rather sterile by comparison] movie - who knows - you might even get the fabulous, risk taking, and sadly neglected JEROEN KRABBE to repeat his role! Made in 1983, this movie has is not dated.SYNPOSIS: Bi-sexual writer Gerard/Krabbe fantasizes about "offing" his current, boring lover. He had been invited to speak at a literary gathering - somewhere "up the coast". At the train station while "crusing" the newsstand he sees an appealing young lout - who gives him the brush-off. The rail journey is mundane, interspersed with strange nightmarish visions - Bunuelish eyeballs, etc. feature prominently. Queer, odd......Dali-esque images ......At the gathering, he meets an intriguing young blonde [cool ala Hitchcock Renee Soutendijk], "chemistry happens" and he is in bed with her, enjoying much deserved release, when, on her night stand, he notices a photograph of the young punk who gave him the brush-off at the station! This young hunk is Soutendijk's clumsy lover: She invites Krabbe to stay with them for a while - to teach the young man a few "pointers" about love-making! Hmmmmmm! Kinky? Uhuh![Co-incidentally, she's a hairdresser; spiders, webs and glistening, very pointy scissors feature prominently, especially during a graphic castration sequence - fortunately just a fantasy.] Our young man is also quite a contradiction - when alone with Krabbe ...... AND then there is also the question : Who will be her next husband/victim? She's disposed [?] of three already......A bold movie for that period, confusion between male and female images [the voyuer sequences], full frontal nudity, masturbation, it's all here, tasteful, but for the sophisticated viewer. Highly recommended for your collection! The title sequence is superb [won't spoil that for you]; art direction by Roland De Groot very effective [one expects the "DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS" hotel to be in the immediate vicinity - an excellent companion piece!] Music by Loek Dikker is aptly bleak, and the cinematography by JAN DE BONT is perfect!Pity that Mr. Verhoven has veered away from this most creative period of his career, he showed such great promise!Companion pieces: "Matador" [Almodovar]; prime! Second choice? "Sea of Love" Barkin/Pacino.Now, call Sharon Stone, and get her to be in this remake - please!"
Verhoeven's Crossover Film!
Martin A Hogan | San Francisco, CA. (Hercules) | 11/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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!"
An Early Masterpiece
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 03/26/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Fourth Man"
An Early Masterpiece
Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride
Paul Verhoeven is probably best known in America for having made "Basic Instinct" but "The Fourth Man" is his masterpiece. Its amazing script and ending that will leave you intrigued make this a movie that should not be missed. Here is the story of a man and how he allows himself to become trapped. He is an alcoholic bisexual who finds himself in a spider web where he and other characters must meet their fate. Gerard is on a train on his way to make a speech. As he arrives at his destination he meets Christine, a powerful looking blonde with seductive charms. Even though it is obvious that he prefers man, he gives into her seductive charms and stays with her in her house to be used sexually. While there he noses around and discovers that she has been married three times and all of her husbands have died. Christine has videos of them before their deaths and Gerard develops paranoia. What the movie attempts to show is the nature of women--that there are good ones and bad ones. It contains the penultimate male fantasy--having a really sexy and beautiful woman lusting after him and having another woman as his protector. While this is occurring in the film, we are treated to a kind of suspense that we ordinarily do not find in film. Verhoeven uses metaphors to create suspense and visually the movie is absolutely stunning. There is a great deal of full frontal nudity in the film and it adds to the overall effect of the sensuality of the plot and the characters themselves. What really happens in the plot is left up to the viewer to decide--was there murder? We never really know but that doesn't take away from the theme. There are also heavy religious undertones and the existence of G-d is also brought into play. We never know if the movie is about sin and redemption--Gerard is a lecherous character who has sunk to the depths of degradation is comes across as a total failure as a human being. The film is definitely misogynistic yet it is also atmospheric and beautiful in its ugliness. It is interesting and thought provoking and was a defining step on the path to opening the world to male nudity and homosexuality portrayed on the silver screen. "
Verhoeven's Original Blond With a Taste for Blood
Chris Roberts | Astoria, NY | 11/26/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"For me this film held the most interest in the respect that it was early Paul Verhoeven, something I had never seen before. This was a quality experience that gave insight into his later work and created more curiosity for me about his earlier work. It does have a little trouble taking flight at the beginning, but once it does it provides the viewers with a worthwhile script and an intriguing ending. The story follows Gerard as he travels by train to give a literary speech. Once in the new town he hits it off with a good looking blond named Christine who has femme fatale written all over her. If only our hero had had the opportunity to see "Basic Instinct" before this journey of his perhaps he would have used more common sense. This controversial author with a focus on death gives in to her sexual demands even though he is quite clearly a homosexual. He decides to stay in her house for a few more days as a sort of live in sex toy. This leads to something of a problem as his snooping ways get the best of him and he soon discovers that Christine has been married three previous times. Plus, all of her exes have died and she has some very suspicious videos of them immediately before their deaths. Paranoia grows on top of paranoia in his mind after he concludes (rightfully) that all of her previous beaus have passed. I should point out that this whole Sherlock Holmes thing he is doing is not just out of innocent curiosity. No, you see, it is all part of a master plan to get close to Christine's other lover who Gerard has a thing for. . .real bad.
The thing that pushed this film over the edge from an OK one to a good one is the ending. It is left up to you to decide the truth about the situation. This is a tricky device to use as nobody really wants to spend two hours just to be left in the dark. The title refers to Gerard's theory that Christine plans on killing four men, and by the end of the film a fourth man connected to her has died. But is he truly the 4th Man? Or is it all part of a terrible run of luck for her? What about the film reels he finds? And what about the final death which certainly looks orchestrated by nobody other than fate. There are other questions to be found here as well. The whole film has a nice surreal quality to it. The dream sequences are disturbing and morbid. Many of them foretell the future, but we of course don't know it at the time. I also liked the way it swam in its own delicious sleaze. For instance, near the end Gerard and his object of lust find themselves in a tomb on the verge of sex. But it's not just any tomb, it is the tomb of Christine's three dead husbands. Oh please. Like they would really be buried together and like these two guys would just accidentally stumble in there for some recreational activities. I also liked the way they played with out perceptions of reality. We all see what we want to see. But Gerard is a drunk, Catholic writer, so he really sees what he wants to see. So I ask you, what did he see? Was he a crazed madman with no feel for truth or a perceptive onlooker who spoke the truth when nobody else dared to? ***1/4 "