This Spanish 'giallo' sadly eschews some of the more entertaining excesses often found in its Italian cousins, but despite its overall languid pace this tale of murder, deceit and swimming pools does manage a pleasingly bonkers last 20 minutes (if you manage to stick around for long enough).
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “To loose one wife is unfortunate, but to loose two looks like carelessness”. So when suave playboy Arthur Anderson (Michael Craig) discovers his third wife floating face down in the swimming pool on his English estate the police can't help but take an interest. The authorities are especially suspicious as wife number one was killed in a car crash and wife number two fell off a tall building while she was with Anderson. Plus, he was the sole beneficiary of all his wives' substantial life insurance. What looks like a cut-and-dried case of murder is undermined when Anderson's loyal middle-aged maid swears in court that she saw the third late Mrs Anderson attempt suicide earlier that day (although it later turns out that she perjured herself to save her boss). Eventually, Anderson is found not guilty by the jury and is a free man (signaled by his happy-go-lucky walk through a London park accompanied by some particularly jaunty stock music).
However, not everyone is convinced of his innocence. Inspector Dunphy (José Luis López Vázquez), who investigated the case, promises to eventually finger Anderson (and cuts a curious figure as a clearly Spanish actor dubbed with an alarmingly Eurotrash accent that veers from Welsh to Scottish with wild abandon).
Anderson seems unaffected by his wife's death and just carries on moping about his huge pile, until one night he sees a blonde woman swimming in the same pool his wife drowned. When confronted, the woman (Carroll Baker) claims to be Julie Spencer, a new neighbour. Her protests that she just fancied a swim on a hot Summer night understandingly don't pass muster with Anderson, and he remains convinced that she is from the police or from the press. Indeed, when she goes back to the house it's clear that she has some ulterior motive when she phones someone to tell them that she has finally met Anderson (bizarrely, she's also living inside a tent in the rented house). Another other odd thing about the residence is another blonde (Marina Malfatti – who starred in a number of subsequent gialli such as Umberto Lenzi's SEVEN BLOOD STAINED ORCHIDS and THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES (both 1972)), is skulking around in the shadows in a black cape and with eyelashes like tarantula's legs.
Despite his misgivings, Anderson becomes intrigued by Julie and the pair eventually marry. However, within 24 hours Anderson finds his new wife's car parked at the top of the white cliffs of Dover. Has the curse of Anderson's spouses struck again?
Carroll Baker instantly became (in)famous in 1955 for her controversial role in BABY DOLL. By 1971 the American blonde actress was already a veteran of the pre-Argento giallo, having appeared in THE SWEET BODY OF DEBORAH (1968), SO SWEET, SO PERVERSE (1969) amongst others. As the fourth Mrs Anderson (and the potential fourth victim) she does fine, but it's not her most memorable performance. Malfatti, however, has more fun when she shows her true colours.
THE FOURTH VICTIM is an impossibly rare giallo (so rare, in fact, that the only known video release was on Greek tape years ago). Its obscurity is not deserved, but it's no lost classic. A little dog-eared, despite Argento's BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970) having stylishly slashed up the screen the previous year, THE FOURTH VICTIM harks back to Baker's previous Euro thrillers.
Ultimately, what could have been a pleasingly twisty tale of madness and deceit is mostly defused by a plodding narrative that doesn't break a sweat until a denouement which is admittedly pleasingly off the wall.
female:2 / male:1
1) Female found drowned
2) Male stabbed repeatedly with a knife
3) Female drowns