10th Victim, The (1965)

“A study of history confirms the validity of the Big Hunt theory: it is mankind’s safety valve.”

Synopsis:
In a futuristic society which allows individuals to join a human hunting game, a woman (Ursula Andress) stalks her tenth victim (Marcello Mastroianni) with the intention of killing him live on television.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that the “novel sci-fi premise” of this futuristic “sex farce” — based on a short story by Robert Sheckley — ultimately “gives way at the end to a conventional and tired Italian sex-comedy storyline”, and should be “a bit more fun” than it is. He cites Sheckley himself as noting that while his original story was “a commentary on love, the need for excitement and the inevitability of self-deception”, the film instead “points out how difficult it can be to earn a living, how tiresome family problems can get, and how romance is always threatened by the long shadow of marriage, especially in Rome”. Far be it from me to disagree with the story’s author (or Peary), but I actually believe that this cleverly conceived, visually stylish, smartly scored (by Piero Piccioni) sci-fi flick (directed by Elio Petri in a style occasionally “reminiscent of Fellini”) manages to effectively cover all these narrative elements. I wasn’t particularly disappointed by the direction Andress and Mastroianni’s “cat and mouse” maneuvers eventually took, and — unlike DVD Savant — I didn’t find it “hard to accept Marcello and Caroline’s romantic sincerity” after the establishment of “such a cynical world” (their “romance”, after all, is actually more of a sexual attraction grounded in the thrill of the hunt). And while the first half of the film — starting with its energetically filmed opening chase sequence — is indeed its most innovative and gripping, I was surprisingly riveted the entire time, curious to see how this deathly game of romantic deception would ultimately turn out.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Ursula Andress as Caroline
  • Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello
  • The exciting opening chase sequences
  • A clever, drolly envisioned dystopian future

Must See?
Yes, as a cult favorite.

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3 Responses to “10th Victim, The (1965)”

  1. An enthusiastic must – as just plain fun; and isn’t ‘fun’ our middle name [f(f)f]?

    This one is just such a hoot I can’t recommend it enough. I knew I had seen it years ago – but things get so archived in a film fanatic’s memory sometimes that it takes a re-visit to remember certain bliss.

    I don’t have a problem with this one at all; I am with it all the way. Perhaps it’s true that the 1st half is more potent – I can’t really notice anything other than a full-fledged romp.

    It works well and satisfies on multiple levels. For one thing, it has aged really well. So many ’60s films that set out to be ‘wacky’ – in that ’60s way – are really now just stuck in the ’60s. But, with its near-future sci-fi angle, this film seems to have its finger on the pulse, i.e. now. What’s particularly noticeable is how well this film can travel beyond borders. Yes, it’s an Italian film, but it feels somehow universal. (It’s particularly interesting in this regard that the first major ‘kill’ takes place on Wall Street.)

    One might wonder if there’s a camp element here. I’d say no; it’s too self-aware, and it doesn’t take itself at all seriously.

    All involved seem to know that. Mastroianni seems to be having a ball. (He isn’t phoning in his ‘Marcello’ persona.) And Andress is – no kidding – a revelation. This was released the same year as ‘She’ – in which Andress lived up to her rep as ‘ornament’. But here…why no one figured out how to use her more effectively after this is a mystery. At any rate, the two are perfectly paired.

    Director/Writer Elio Petri would go on to make the Oscar-winning ‘Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion’ – but he’s in fine form and in full control. Repeat viewings are bound to please. Count me in!

    Fave scene (out of many): Mastroianni happens to meet up with a hunter in a restaurant. The hunter is told hunters are no longer allowed in restaurants and the hunter then complains about all the places in which hunters are no longer allowed.

  2. Glad to read another unreservedly enthusiastic response to this one! As you’ll note, I simply didn’t agree with either of my two current favorite “review gurus” (Peary or DVD Savant), which was puzzling — but so it goes!

    And yes — Andress and Mastroianni are both wonderful. As you point out, Andress is the true “revelation” here — she delivers a nuanced, smart, humorous, even heartfelt performance, all while looking as incredibly gorgeous as always.

    Now I want to check out “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion”, and consider it as a possible Missing Title from Peary…

  3. Always have to leave that little space where you are your own guru. 😉 Sometimes people just don’t see the same thing that you do.

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