Blue Underground // 1965 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // July 17th, 2009
Live dangerously...but within the law.
The rules of the Big Hunt:
1. Participants agree to 10 hunts.
2. Each participant alternates between being hunter and victim. If you survive a Hunt as a hunter, you will be a victim in the next Hunt, and vice versa.
3. A computer in Geneva makes all the pairings, and hunter and victim could be anywhere in the world.
4. The hunter is given all information about the victim. The victim knows nothing of the hunter, including the hunter's identity.
5. Killing outside the Hunt is illegal and carries a penalty of 30 years in jail. This makes things especially risky for the victim, who often misguesses who is the hunter.
6. Each successful Hunt carries a cash prize, with $1 million going to the winner of 10 Hunts -- a decathelete.
The Big Hunt is an ongoing global sporting event, like a never-ending Olympic game in which people hunt and kill each other. Despite condemnation in some corners -- the Vatican is not too keen on it -- it is the most popular thing on Earth, generating revenues, creating celebrities, and bringing peace and stabilization to the planet.
Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress, She) has just survived her ninth Hunt, spectacularly and very publicly dispatching a man who was hunting her. Cold, calculating, and ruthless, Caroline is a star of the Big Hunt, and nearing her all-important tenth kill. She is approached by the Ming Tea Company with a proposition: They will sponsor her tenth Hunt, engineer it, and televise it globally in exchange for her endorsement of their product.
Marcello Poletti (Marcello Mastroianni, La Dolce Vita) has just cleverly killed off his sixth victim. While Caroline takes part in the Big Hunt for thrills as well as money, Marcello is only interested in the cash. His marriage has just been annulled, and his avaricious mistress (Elsa Martinelli, Woman Times Seven) is eager to become his wife and get her share of his winnings. But his ex-wife is still in the picture, and much to his chagrin, she and his mistress are the best of friends.
When the computer matches Caroline as hunter to Marcello's victim, she flies from New York to Rome and meets him under the pretense of being a reporter looking to interview him. Since the actual killing is being planned as a very-special television event, she needs to entice him to go with her to the Temple of Venus near the Coliseum, where the cameras are rolling.
But when they meet, there's something about Marcello that touches her, and when he actually does touch her, Caroline feels something she's never felt before.
An ancestor to killing-as-sport films like Death Race 2000 and The Running Man, The 10th Victim takes place in a future that, while never stated, is probably our present. It's really fairly prescient. Like us, the characters travel by plane (Pan Am!) rather than, say, jet pack, as you might expect in a futuristic, sci-fi flick. They are not living in a climate-controlled dome. This future is presented as a global community linked by computers, and of course, reality television is the great entertainment and equalizer. No, our current reality television does not consist of actual bloodsports, though you know it's only a matter of time before one of those "Real Housewives" puts a bullet in someone on air.
The 10th Victim is a very funny and sophisticated social satire, a sex comedy-slash-futuristic adventure tale that cashes in on the charisma of its stars.
Three years after making one of the most memorable entrances in history in Dr. No, Andress was an international star and one of the world's top sex symbols. Her introduction here, while less iconic, is no less impressive, featuring an athletic Andress romping through a deserted New York City and then turning up in a lethally seductive bikini.
Andress always projected a kind of icy, blank-faced allure, but here, she's less inscrutable. We're never really sure if she's falling for Marcello or just seducing him in preparation for the kill, and there's a sense that she isn't, either. Andress goes from steely to soft, stony to vulnerable, and back again. She is still every man's fantasy and looks great in her couture-of-the-future outfits, but this time we can see the real woman underneath.
Mastroianni had already made a name for himself as star of Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita and 8½ and as the perfect match for Sophia Loren in Marriage Italian-Style and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. As in those films, he brings a slightly aging, world-weary sexiness to the part. One of Mastroianni's strengths as an actor was his willingness to play to his characters' weaknesses, and here is no exception. This Marcello is no dashing figure; he's a deeply cynical man who enjoys the hunt as means of channeling his aggressions and making a living. He is wary of Andress, but falls, however uneasily, for her charms. There is a terrific chemistry between the two that makes their on-the-surface-unlikely pairing work very well.
Elio Petri, who would score a huge success a couple of years later with Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion directs with a nice, light touch, deftly blending the social-political satire elements with the comic and off-beat love story. There's a Fellini-like quality to the film, with its "futuristic" fashions and gallery of background characters, as well as its parade of beautiful, predatory women. Poor Marcello doesn't stand a chance, especially near the end, when he finds himself facing off a trio of disgruntled and highly dangerous ladies. The Euro-jazzy score by Piero Piccioni, who did the music for a number of Lina Wertmüller films, is just great.
Blue Underground has released some of the best obscure and cult titles out there; unfortunately, they also re-release older titles, including the old Anchor Bay catalogue, without adding anything to the disc. When Blue Underground does turn out its own special editions, the work is often phenomenal -- witness The Stendhal Syndrome: Special Edition, a terrific upgrade from its previous Troma release.
Unfortunately, The 10th Victim is merely a repackage of a disc Anchor Bay put out eight years ago. The tech is the same -- decent, though far from top-of-the-line -- and the extras are limited to a trailer and on-screen text talent bios. Nothing dates a disc more than on-screen text talent bios. Maybe they made sense years ago, but as we reach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I think it's safe to say that anyone who's really interested in learning about Ursula Andress can just hit Wikipedia, IMDb, or a number of other sites that will give the same information that the on-screen text bio provides.
I know, we're headed for a dystopian future, and we're probably in the midst of a dystopian present. But if dystopia is as fun and sexy as The 10th Victim makes it out to be, bring it on.
The film is not guilty, but Blue Underground is guilty of a misdemeanor for not updating this disc.
Review content copyright © 2009 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Italian)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1965
MPAA Rating: Not Rated