The Tenth Victim (1965) – Elio Petri

The 101 Sci-Fi movies brought me yet another film I had never heard of, which as we get closer to the 70s and 80s will happen less and less, and it was an interesting little film, that starts out as kind of a sci-fi action thriller, and then almost ends up being an absurdist comedy.

The Tenth Victim directed by Elio Petri, based on the book the 7th Victim by Robert Sheckley, stars the sexy Ursula Andress and Marcello Mastroianni. War no longer exists, humanity’s aggressive tendencies are vented through The Big Hunt. You register, and once entered you are put into the game. You have to survive 10 Big Hunts, and you alternate between hunter and victim. The difference is, the hunter has all the information about the victim, and the victim doesn’t know who the hunter is. If you kill someone who isn’t your hunter you get 30 years in prison.

Ursula plays Caroline, a hunter this time around, who has just gotten her new target, Marcello Poletti (Mastroianni), and she begins a long cat and mouse game with him, leading him towards a death that will be publicized and get her a huge product endorsment bonus.

The film deals, even peripherally, with the idea of commercialized violence, reality tv, product placement, and celebrity.

As the film progresses we can see that both characters are starting to fall in love with one another, but are also divided on what they are actually going to do. This is Caroline’s last hunt, if she kills him she will attain an unprecedented level of celebrity and fame, free travel, car, entertainment and no financial worries, and yet there is something about Marcello that she is undeniably attracted to, and he to her.

Marcello however has emotional problems of his own, his first marriage is finally annulled, and his mistress is finally ready to take their relationship to the next level, and both the wife and mistress learn about the potential romantic and lethal threat that Caroline represents, especially as Caroline introduces the idea of matrimony instead of execution.

The cat and mouse parts of the film are quite fun, and honestly, you could see that this film, or at least some of the ideas in it, could be prime material for an update, not unlike The Running Man. You could update it nicely to incorporate the idea of reality television, go to town on the product placement idea, licencing people for The Big Hunt, consequences for violence outside of the hunt…

Ursula is, of course, lovely to look at, and I the open back costumes they have her in.

Some of the stylistic choices, as well as the pacing and cinematography would be questionable today, in my opinion. It deifinitely looks and feels like the 1960s and as a consequence seems stuck that way. Still it made for an interesting view, and like I said, it’s thanks to this list that I am seeing some films I had never seen nor heard of.

Have you seen it?


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