C.C. Champion/Les Films Concordia/Interfilm
Directed by Elio Petri
Produced by Carlo Ponti
Screenplay by Tonino Guerra/Giorgio Salvioni/Ennio Flaiano/Elio Petri/Mickey Knox (English Dialog)
Based on “The Seventh Victim” by Robert Sheckley
I used to watch this movie a lot back in the 1970s when it was shown fairly often on Channel 9 here in Brooklyn, NY. Somebody in their Programming Department must have been a fan of this movie because I could depend on it showing up dependably on a Saturday afternoon every couple of months. And watching it back then I was kinda disappointed because it was said to take place in the 21st Century but the future looked pretty much just like the 20th to me. I liked the plot and the characters but back then if you gave me a science fiction movie and told me that it takes place in the future then dammit I expected everything to look…well, like the future.
Having discovered that the movie was on Amazon Prime a few days ago, I waited until a Saturday to watch it to sorta relive an old childhood pleasure and I found myself enjoying watching THE 10th VICTIM in a whole new way having the benefit of more than 30 years of movie watching experience. It tickles me to no end how now that I am living in the 21st Century and not walking around in a silver jumpsuit or taking my rocket jet to a Moon City for a weekend trip to realize that back in 1965 THE 10th VICTIM actually got a lot more right about life in the future than a lot of other Science Fiction movies made at around the same time.
In the 21st Century “The Big Hunt” is the most popular form of entertainment in the world. “The Big Hunt” not only attracts those with homicidal tendencies but those looking for fame and wealth. Each participant must engage in Ten Hunts: five as Hunter and five as Victim. The survivor of Ten Hunts receives a million dollars (hey, that was big money back in 1965) and international notoriety they can parlay into even greater wealth.
This is the reason Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress) is approached by The Ming Tea Company. She’s survived nine Hunts and Ming Tea wants her to execute her Tenth Hunt in a live TV commercial extravaganza with dancers and rock music. And her Tenth Victim would seem to be perfect. Marcello Poletti (Marcello Mastroianni) has had five Hunts in a row as Hunter so now he must be Victim. And since his gold-digger girlfriend Olga and greedy wife Lidia have squandered all his winnings, he has no way to organize a proper defense against Caroline. So he’s marked as an easy Victim Caroline should take down with no trouble.
Posing as a journalist, Caroline stalks Marcello, getting close to him to maneuver him into going to The Temple of Venus in Rome where the live commercial and Marcello will both be shot. However, nobody counted on Caroline and Marcello falling in love or Marcello finding out about Caroline’s deal with Ming Tea and making his own deal to kill her in a commercial for another company. Is Caroline going to kill Marcello? Is Marcello going to kill Caroline? Or is there a way that both can survive “The Big Hunt” and come out of this with a happy ending?
Most people only know this movie from the scene where Ursula Andress kills one of her Hunters using a metal silver bra that has guns hidden in it and that’s a shame because the movie has a lot more to offer. It’s got some wickedly sharp things to say about pop entertainment and how it influences commercialism, sexual relationships, casual drug use, fame and what we’ll do in the pursuit of money. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying that this is a deep movie with Big Important Things To Say. But it does have what I think are some interesting things to say about entertainment and how much it influences our lives. And let’s be honest…how far away are we from something like “The Big Hunt” now? We’re already getting our jollies seeing people murder each other emotionally on Reality TV shows so is it so much of a reach that in another ten or fifteen years we’ll be committing actual murder on some future incarnation of “The Real Housewives” or “Hip Hop in Atlanta”?
That’s enough of my half-assed social commentary. THE 10th VICTIM is simply a fun little movie to kick back with on a Saturday afternoon. There’s a great scene where Marcello’s possessions are being repossessed thanks to his ex-wife and his girlfriend protests at them taking his comic book collection, wailing; “if they take away the classics what will I have to read?” The many comic book references in the movie are most appropriate since there are tons of individual shots that look like panels in a graphic novel. Although not an adaptation of a comic book or graphic novel, that’s the look going on here. And seeing the movie now I do appreciate that it’s easy to assume that it takes place in an alternate 21st Century where 1960s fashions never went out of style.
I’m not at all familiar with the film career of Marcello Mastroianni as I am with Ursula Andress (for obvious reasons) but seeing him in this movie I easily understand why he was such an international sex symbol. And pairing him with Ursula Andress was simply genius as not only to they look fabulous together but they have a playful quality to their easy chemistry. A large part of the charm of the movie comes directly from seeing them on screen together as they work this game of cat and mouse, switching back and forth between the roles.
If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, then I heartily recommend THE 10th VICTIM. It’s no masterpiece of Science Fiction but it’s never boring to look at, the plot is lively and will keep your interest. There’s a whole lot of quirky characters thrown into the mix and those wonderful performances by Ursula Andress and Marcello Mastroianni at the center to anchor the whole thing. Highly Recommended.