Sunday, January 9, 2022

#2,691. The 10th Victim (1965) - Spotlight on Italy


It’s the 21st century, and legalized manhunts are all the rage. Participants in these hunts must survive ten rounds – five as a hunter and five as the prey – before they’re declared champion and awarded a boatload of cash. The governments of the world fund these hunts, and major corporations chomp at the bit to sponsor the most successful contestants.

Having completed nine rounds, American Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress) is closing in on victory, and has signed a lucrative contract with beverage company Ming Tea to have her final kill televised.

Her intended victim is Marcello Polletti (Marcello Mastroianni) of Rome, who himself just polished off his sixth kill. Despite his success, Marcello has his share of financial troubles, as well as an ex-wife (Luce Bonifassey) and current lover (Elsa Martinelli) who are making his life a living hell.

Posing as a reporter doing an expose on Marcello, Meredith travels to Rome and - with the help of Ming Tea - sets the groundwork for what will surely be her most impressive hunt to date. But when she and Marcello develop feelings for one another, it’s anyone’s guess as to which of the two combatants will come out on top.

A movie that inspired The Running Man and even Austin Powers (Meredith sports a bra at one point with guns mounted in the front, a “weapon” that Mike Myers and company borrowed for the Fem-bots scene in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery), director Elio Petri’s The 10th Victim is a slick, stylish sci-fi / comedy that boasts impressive futuristic set pieces (I especially liked Marcello’s house), a clever premise (the script was based on Robert Sheckley’s book The Seventh Victim), and a handful of inspired moments (once he realizes what’s going on, Marcello signs a deal with a sponsor of his own, who will pay top dollar if he can lure Meredith into a crocodile-infested swimming pool).

As for the film’s two stars, their chemistry is palpable; an effective and often humorous spoof for much of its runtime, The 10th Victim veers off into more romantic territory in the final act, and thanks to Mastroianni and Andress, this storyline, which might have easily seemed out of place in a sci-fi spoof, works as intended, ending the film on a high note.
Rating: 8 out of 10

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