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The Fourth Man

Movie Information

In Brief: Paul Verhoeven's art house classic The Fourth Man (1983) — an erotic thriller about a gay alcoholic Catholic writer who becomes besotted with the boyfriend of the woman he's staying with — holds up nicely today as a splendid — and heady — mix of mystery thriller, quasi-horror, eroticism and religious iconography (sometimes all once). Dense, never entirely penetrable, and cleverly entertaining.
Genre: Thriller
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Starring: Jeroen Krabbé, Renée Soutendijk, Thom Hoffman, Dolf de Vries, Geert de Jong
Rated: NR

Although Paul Verhoeven made up for much of his Hollywood career by returning to Holland to make Black Book (2006), he has yet to make a film equal to his 1983 thriller, The Fourth Man — the film that was responsible for attracting the attention of Hollywood in the first place. Oh, he’d made good movies before this, but nothing so compelling, complex and purely entertaining. It’s a mystery that wisely never gives up all its mysteries. The film follows the actions of an alcoholic writer (Jeroen Krabbe) who is also both intensely gay and Catholic (a volatile mixture any way you look at it). He’s having trouble with his current boyfriend (in fact, he fantasizes murdering the younger man), so he’s actually rather relieved to have to go out of town for a speaking engagement. At the railway station, he spots a young man (Thom Hoffman) and becomes immediately fixated, but loses him when the fellow boards a train for Cologne. On his own train, our writer starts seeing portents of things to come as mystical visions (watch carefully, because everything has importance). This becomes even more pronounced when he recognizes the hotel where a room has been booked for him as the same one he envisioned on the train. So he’s quite agreeable to the idea of going home with his hostess (Renée Soutendijk) — an enigmatic, slightly androgynous woman who is obsessed with filming things. He even ends up in her bed, but the thing that sets everything in motion happens the following morning when he discovers that the young man in the train station is his hostess’s boyfriend — and they’re having romantic problems. Naturally, he volunteers to stay on and help — with notions of his own. That’s the bare outline of the setup and it doesn’t begin to do justice to the film. For more on the film, go to:

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

2 thoughts on “The Fourth Man

  1. Ken Hanke

    There are probably people out there who think that film is a prequel, you know.

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