You have to respect a movie that gave Austin Powers the gun-bra, gave Stephen King ‘The Running Man’ and that predicted the bloody extreme of reality TV thirty or so years before it even started to pick up steam. The 10th Victim is that rare futuristic film from the past that does all this and more.
The Big Hunt is a popular game being played all over the globe in which a computer chooses participants to be either a hunter or a victim. To win, the hunter must kill the victim or vice versa. Each player goes ten rounds, alternately playing as an hunter or a victim each time. By providing this release valve for ultraviolence, the thinking goes, the world is avoiding major wars.
The film opens with Caroline (Ursula Andress) being chased all over New York City by an Asian man with a gun. She’s the victim in this round, obviously, and she’s one of the best players. In fact, she has only one more round to go before she wins it all. She does away with her hunter in a great sexy bit and gets ready for the last round. Meanwhile, Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) is just finishing up his own round as a hunter, doing away with his quarry in an equally ingenious way. No wonder these two are considered masters of the game.
Television producers come knocking on Caroline’s door – they want to tie in the murder of Marcello with a popular drink. She agrees and they go off location scouting, looking for a suitably visual place to end the life of the 10th victim.
But of course you can’t match up two crazy attractive murderers without something like love getting in the way. As the game progresses, the two begin to fall for each other, though neither one is ever truly comfortable enough to believe that the other isn’t out to get them, still. It’s a smart philosophy because neither of them ever truly lets their guard down. This infatuation is as much a loaded gun as the loaded guns that are constantly being shot at players all over the world.
There isn’t much heat between Marcello and Caroline, unfortunately, though that seems to be a function of the movie. In a world where violence has been turned exclusively into a product to be enjoyed, love has to mutate a bit to survive. Every emotion is shot through the aggression filter. Everyone is living on the edge, ready to fight or die at any moment. Everyone has a gun and a reason to use it. Love becomes a fatal proposition, so you’re either all the way in or all the way out, something Marcello learns far too late in a conclusion that skates on the edge of sappy, then blows straight through it like a bullet.
The 10th Victim manages a sly tone throughout, a jaundiced view of our future, which even then didn’t seem too far away. And while it poses and dresses its characters up in way too hip clothes and puts them in way too hip places, it always keeps one eye on the satirical ball.
Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, the film itself is plenty grainy, but that grittiness works well against the slick art direction. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono in Italian or English, and both crystal clear.
Theatrical Trailer – Nice slice of 1960s design and music. (1:44)
Talent Bios – Spare write ups on Mastroianni and Andress.
The 10th Victim is the rare ’60s freak out that doesn’t lose its head in the midst of all its style.
Blue Underground presents The 10th Victim. Directed by: Elio Petri. Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Ursula Andress, Elsa Martinelli, Salvo Randone. Written by: Tonino Guerra, Giorgio Salvioni, Ennio Flaiano, Elio Petri. Running time: 92min. Rating: NR. Released on DVD: July 28, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Blue Underground