The Fourth Victim

The Fourth Victim

"Sometimes you have to go to terrible places to find out the truth."
Arthur Anderson (Michael Craig) is a serial monogamist... but is he also a serial killer? His first two wives died under mysterious circumstances and now his third wife is the victim of a suspicious drowning. But, thanks the perjurous testimony of his housekeeper Mrs. Downing (Miranda Campa), he is found not guilty. Despite the jury's decision, Inspector Dumphy (José Luis López Vásquez) is determined to keep an eye on Arthur. The night of his acquittal, Arthur meets a pretty trespasser named Julie (Carroll Baker) and the two are soon married after a whirlwind romance. But is Julie who she claims to be or did she have an ulterior motive for marrying a man under suspicion of three murders? Did Arthur kill his wives? And what secrets lie in the dark house down the street from the Anderson estate?  Can Inspector Dumphy find out the answers before more people are killed?

The Fourth Victim is an interesting and twisty giallo that keeps bobbing and weaving, regularly changing directions just enough to stay ahead of an audience's expectations. Not everything makes perfect sense and not all the questions are answered by the end of the movie, but it makes "giallo sense." Which is to say, it's best to enjoy the ride and not to think too hard about weather or not the sequence of events is realistic or even probable.
  • Michael Craig may look familiar if you're a fan of classic Doctor Who. He played Commodore Travers in the 1986 series "Trial of a Time Lord" opposite sixth Doctor Colin Baker.
  • The score was written by composer Piero Umiliano, who worked with Mario Bava and Umberto Lenzi, but is best known for composing the song "Mahna Mahna," made famous by The Muppets.
  • The Fourth Victim was based on a short story by J. B. Gilford, though elements bear resemblance to movies like Rebecca, Vertigo, and the Italian crime movie Amuck!, starring Barbara Bouchet.
  • Note that three of the deaths listed in the body count above occur before the action of the movie starts.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

The first thing that throws suspicion on Arthur and Mrs. Downing is that, upon finding the 3rd Mrs. Anderson's body floating in the pool, they calmly fish her out, take her upstairs, brush her hair, and change her clothes before calling a doctor or even trying to resuscitate her. And they go about it without a word, like they've done all this before. Hella-suspicious.

The first thing that throws suspicion on Julie is that she goes home to a dark, dusty mansion and is living out of a tent in the living room, with newspaper clippings about Arthur lining the walls. Super-creepy.

The Psychiatrist tracks Julie (or, at least, a Julie) to the dark house. He knows better than anyone that she is dangerous and yet he not only comes alone and unarmed, but the first thing he does is turn his back on her. Not smart, Doc.

Fashion Moment

As usual, Carroll Baker is smartly dressed throughout in crisp, modern active wear.  I especially like this fitted floral blouse...

...and her sensible wedding ensemble.

But this flowing, romantic evening gown is a real departure from her normally structured wardrobe.


The Man With Icy Eyes

The Man With Icy Eyes

"'Icy' doesn't have a color. That's the beauty of it. Understand?"

After a former New Mexico state senator is shot one night outside his home and his briefcase is stolen, the police pick up Carlos Valdes (uncredited), a Mexican laborer who happened to be nearby. Newspaper reporter Eddie Mills (Antonio Sabato) is covering the case and believes that the facts, as presented by the prosecution, don't add up. But Carlos is convicted and sentenced to death, largely based on the testimony of Anne Saxe (Barbara Bouchet), a nude model who claims to have seen Carlos dump the briefcase into a car driven by a mysterious accomplice with cold, gray eyes.  As Eddie digs deeper into the case, he is repeatedly thwarted and harassed by a gang of hooligans, his own editor, and by Isaac Thetman (Corrado Gaipa), a local politico and believer in astrology, who repeatedly predicts that Eddie will die before Carlos is sent to the gas chamber. When witnesses start getting killed off, it seems that Isaac's predictions are coming true. Now, Eddie must race to find the truth before Carlos is executed.

The Man with Icy Eyes (not to be confused with Eyes of Crystal) is a cool little noir-inspired thriller where a lone detective pursues a seemingly simple case that spins into a larger conspiracy. He even falls for a beautiful but dangerous woman with mysterious motives. Setting and filming an Italian movie in New Mexico is a novel twist, but it results in some amusing culture shock. For example, Americans usually don't hang out at outdoor cafés the way Italians do. Especially in the winter.
  • Faith Domergue, who plays Carlos's wife, became famous in 1950's sci-fi B movies like This Island Earth, It Came From Beneath the Sea, and The Atomic Man.
  • Victor Buono (who plays Eddie's racist boss, John Hammond) is one of those "that guy" actors who showed up in small roles in everything in the 60's and 70's from TV's Batman and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to Beneath the Planet of the Apes and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
What the Hell Am I Watching?

Eddie is in a downtown hotel at 11pm when he realizes that he must stop the execution scheduled at midnight. Within that one hour, he manages to schedule meetings with two witnesses, find and lose Anne, meet with his editor, get in a fight with the hooligans, drive out to the penitentiary for a meeting with Carlos, drive back to the city, threaten a witness, find Anne again, and take her back out to the penitentiary to give her testimony.

Fashion Moment

Eddie's leather jacket is really cool, especially paired with a mock turtleneck. John's vest is also really nice.

But check out the boss's secretary at the Albuquerque Sentinel.

Voom! A spiraling column of black and gray! That hairdo must take hours of maintenance.


The Killer is On the Phone

The Killer is On the Phone

"I just think that sometimes, losing one's memory can be extremely useful."

Seeing a familiar stranger (Telly Savalas) at the airport triggers a panic attack for stage actress Eleanor Loraine (Anne Heywood), leading to a case of amnesia. She is distressed to discover that not only is her boyfriend Peter dead, but there is a new man in her life named George (Georgio Piazza), who claims to be her husband. While she pieces her life back together and tries to remember the past five years, the man from the airport follows her every move, murdering the people around her. Who is this man and why does this man want Eleanor dead? Are Eleanor's memories real or is she confusing reality with a play she was in? And how did Peter die? The answers lead to devastating and surprising revelations.

The Killer is On the Phone is a well-acted, beautifully shot movie that suffers from pacing and logic problems. It puts us in Eleanor's shoes, so it's intended to be disorienting, but it's a little too confusing for its own good. Maybe it's that the twists aren't sufficiently twisty and the story is too predictable. The identity of the killer is never in question, but the real mystery is finding out who hired him and why. Overall, I'd say that the amnesia storyline is poorly realized here. If you're interested in similar story better told, I recommend seeking out Puzzle.
  • The city of Bruges, Belgium looks a lot nicer in that 2008 Colin Ferrell movie.
  • The title is a complete non-sequiter.  It implies that the killer makes repeated threatening phone calls to the victim, but nothing like that ever happens in the movie. The alternate title, Scenes From a Murder, is a little more accurate, as Eleanor pieces together fragments of memories.
What the Hell Am I Watching? 

Telly Savalas's hitman (who is named Ranko, by the way) is completely inscrutable. He is being pressured by a client to pull off the assassination of an oil baron, but instead insists on staying in Belgium to clean up an old job. He has every opportunity to take out his target and for some reason, never manages to do it.

Instead of doing the job he was hired for, Ranko buys a collection of tin soldiers, for some reason. This is never addressed or explained.

Under sedation, Eleanor has a gauzy, slow-motion dream sequence that looks like a K-Tel "Light Rock Hits of the 70's" infomercial. And then it takes a weird S&M turn.

Later, Eleanor is walking down the street and sees a group of children running away from a little person dressed as a Medieval court jester. There's a red flag right there. The jester waves his puppets at her (not a euphemism) and she hallucinates that the jester is Peter... and then Ranko... and then the jester again. She gets freaked out and runs away.

Fashion Moment

Off-white suits: Who wore it better?


or Margaret (Rosella Falk):

I think Ranko is the clear winner here. Telly Savalas can wear the hell out of a suit.

Deadly Inheritance

Deadly Inheritance
"Do you think everything has a logical answer? The reality we live isn't arranged like a story."

When Oscar Marot (Arnaldo De Angelis) dies in a train accident, his three daughters, Simone (Femi Benussi), Rosalie (Giovanna Lenzi, credited as Jeanette Len), and Colette (Valeria Ciangottini) are surprised to learn that he left them a small fortune. But, according to the will, no money will be distributed for three years, when slow-witted farmhand Janot (Ernesto Colli) turns 21. When Janot is found dead it appears to be a suicide, but Inspector Greville (Tom Drake) believes that it was murder. Could the killer be Rosalie's husband, Leon (Ivo Garrani), who has sizable debts around town? Or perhaps it's Simone's married boyfriend Jules (Iscaro Ravaioli), who needs money to get a divorce. The police investigation ramps up as more and more potential inheritors turn up dead. Which of the heirs would kill for Oscar's money?

Deadly Inhertiance is a great early giallo that starts slow and builds to a wonderfully surprising twist ending. And then it throws another twist on top of that for good measure. Add some nice action, a gratuitous nude scene, beautiful cinematography, and a touch of humor and we have the makings of an under-appreciated giallo gem. 
  • Deadly Inheritance is also frequently known by two Italian titles: Omicidio Per Vocazione (which translates roughly to A Talent for Murder) and L'assassino Ha Le Mani Pulite (or The Killer Has Clean Hands).
  • You may recognise Tom Drake, who plays the Inspector, as Judy Garland's "boy next door" in Meet Me In St. Louis.
  • You may also recognize Ernesto Colli, who plays creepster Janot as the creepy scarf vendor in Torso or as the creepy morgue worker in Autopsy.  You can't say he didn't fill a niche.
  • The steps in the farmhouse turn a rounded corner, which I'm counting as a spiral staircase.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

Thanks to a lazy and completely inept police force, old and clearly out-of-shape Leon manages to evade a village-wide manhunt. He's on foot and they can't seem to catch him in police cars. He takes a rowboat and manages to evade their motorboat. And then – best of all – he sneaks back on to shore a few yards away from two policemen while their backs are turned.

We learn that Janot is a creepster when he spies on Simone taking a shower. She is shocked and disgusted when she catches him and whacks him with a towel. But then, for some reason, she apologizes to him. How crazy is that?

Who exactly is Etienne (Virgilio Gazzolo), the bearded guy who accompanies the Inspector? Early on, he appears to have a romantic relationship with Colette, but that doesn't stop her from flirting with other men. The police address him as "Commissioner," but then why does he appear adjunctive to Inspector Greville during the investigation?

The surf rock band that plays at the nightclub appears to be a quartet – two guitars, a bass, and a drummer – so where are those horn sounds coming from?

Fashion Moment

The French village of Epibaix seems to have an unusually young population for a small, agrarian community. There are enough teenagers to support two nightclubs and they all seem to be hip to beach music and the latest fashions from Southern California.

Among our main characters, youngest daughter Colette seems to be the most fashionable. She wears this mod little number for most of the film.

But near the end, she changes into this simple and chic fitted t-shirt.

Do You Like Hitchcock?

Do You Like Hitchcock?

"You know she can report it to the police. It's called 'stalking.' I read an article."

When Giulio (Elio Germano) isn't writing his thesis on German expressionist films, he's studying his sexy neighbor Sasha (Elisabetta Rochetti) through her window across the street. One day, he overhears Sasha talking with blonde-haired Federica (Chiara Conti) about Hitchcock at the local video store and shortly after, Sasha's mother is murdered during a break-in. Were the two women inspired by Strangers on a Train to kill for each other? Giulio becomes obsessed with finding the answer, but getting closer to the truth could land him in serious danger!

By the late 1980's Dario Argento had watched slasher movies surpass traditional-style gialli in popularity, and by 2005, those same slasher flicks were eclipsed by the ironic, meta, post-modern style of Wes Craven's Scream series.  Do You Like Hitchcock? (which was made as a TV movie) is clearly Argento's response to the new trend. Whereas Craven's characters were horror fans, ironically aware that they were participating in a slasher movie, Argento looked to the godfather of giallo and made his characters Hitchcock fans who find themselves acting out a suspenseful murder mystery. The obvious references are to Strangers On a Train, Rear Window, and Dial M For Murder, but there are also more subtle nods here to Psycho (an attempted bathroom murder and an embezzling office worker), Vertigo (a dark and light-haired pair of femme fatales), and a climactic ending right out of North By Northwest.

  • Pino Donaggio contributes another dishwater-dull musical score. But at least there's some ambition behind this one, as it tries to mimic Bernard Hermann's strings-only Psycho score in key moments.
  • Argento knows blood and he knows suspense. What he's never been very good at is sex scenes, and Do You Like Hitchcock? provides several clumsy, unresolved examples.
  • This is late-period Argento, so it's not as stylized or visually inventive as, say Deep Red. But now and then - just every now and then - we get a flash of the old Dario. Throughout the movie we see brief moments of steady cam POV shots, macro lens pans, saturated lighting, and certain editing moves that could only have been done by Argento.
  • There's some fantastic acting by Chiara Conti as we silently watch her get harassed by her boss, endure his abuse, and get forced into sleeping with him. She conveys a lot of emotion with barely any dialogue.
  • At the very end of the movie, Giulio spies on a new neighbor. Notice that she's reading a giallo book, ironically titled La Finestra Sulla Notte or The Window in the Night.
  • There's an attempted suicide, which I've listed above under "attempted murders"
What the Hell Am I Watching?

 I simply do not understand the point of the 8-minute prologue where young Giulio watches two women kill a rooster. Unless it establishes a history of Giulio spying on people, which is something that really didn't need to be established.

I have a hard time believing that in 2005 the video store still relies on a DOS-based computer system.

Argento can't help a bit of self-promotion. It's hard to miss the poster for his movie The Card Player (Il Cartaio) in the video shop.

Drinking game! Drink every time you see an architectural sculpture.

Fashion Moment

Mostly unremarkable but youthful street clothes. But this David Lynch fan at the store wears a parody T-shirt that made me smile.