Elio Petri’s 1965 film predates similarly themed movies like Battle Royale but has far more in common with the over the top pop aesthetic of Fellini than with anything Fukasaku made. Based on a popular short story by Robert Sheckley, the film begins with an amazing sequence in which a Chinese hitman (George Wang) arrives in a New York City club to take out his target, Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress), who is busy go-go dancing around the club and slapping male patrons who ogle her too leeringly. Just as he pulls his gun out, she shoots him down dead, bullets flying at him out of her shiny bra.
With that insane set up out of the way, we learn how the world has changed in this unsettlingly possible future. In order to control the population, the government has set up The Big Hunt, a competition in which hunters and victims compete against one another for big money prizes – but as a hunter you don’t get that big pay out until you’ve taken out ten victims. Enter Marcello Polletti (Marcello Mastroianni), a popular hunter based on the reception he gets on TV when he takes out his most recent kill and his sixth victim on the road to his tenth. Recently divorced, he needs the money so he’s fine when the super computer at Big Hunt headquarters picks him to go up against Meredith, well aware that he’ll be her tenth and that as such she’ll be doing everything she can to kill him quickly and efficiently. As she tries to work her way closer to him using an alias he too takes on a secret identity and as this game of cat and mouse plays out, the two find that they may have feelings for one another beyond what’s involved in The Big Hunt.
The film quite literally starts off with a bang and somehow Petri manages to sustain that momentum throughout the movie as the action shifts from Manhattan to Rome and various other locations. Complimenting all of this is a jazz soundtrack as quirky as the film itself, courtesy of composer Pierre Picconi – it’s the icing on an already delirious cake and it takes the carefully calculated insanity of the film up to the next level. Camera work is smooth and fluid while the details evident in the production design has that amazing ‘futuristic’ quality to it that was so popular in the science fiction of the era that sadly never really came to pass. Almost a Jim Steranko Nick Fury comic come to life, the film plays with colors and patterns in increasingly quirky ways and puts pop sensibility over depth but the story doesn’t suffer for it.
Performance wise, Marcello Mastroianni is about as cool as they come. Pulling from Sean Connery’s Bond he’s a cold, calculating man but no more so than his timelessly sexy opponent. Mastoianni and Andress play off of one another perfectly here, making you wonder which one is the cat and which the mouse. On top of that the film manages to work in some interesting subtext, making jabs at western society’s desensitization to violence and obsession with murder. In an era of 24 hour news and endless reality TV programs, we’re just now seeing how prophetic this movie really was.
Blue Underground’s AVC encoded 1080p high definition widescreen transfer is frequently gorgeous, showing picture perfect color reproduction from start to finish and offering up some very impressive detail and texture throughout the movie – but occasionally falls prey to some odd noise and a few instances where grain looks like it’s clustering around objects. Compression artifacts are never an issue and black levels are strong throughout. The movie does generally look good on Blu-ray and there isn’t much in the way of legitimate print damage to note.
Also strong are the DTS-HD Mono tracks, provided in English or Italian, with optional subtitles English, French and Spanish. The score sounds great, the dialogue is clear and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. Fidelity is obviously going to be limited but you’ll be hard pressed to find any flaws here, The 10th Victim sounds just fine.
The biggest and by far the best of the extras on this disc is a pretty awesome feature length ninety-eight minute documentary entitled Marcello: A Sweet Life. This extensive retrospective look at the work of actor Marcello Mastroianni covers not only his work on The 10th Victim but is a true career overview. Featuring interviews with people who knew him as well as a wealth of archival photos and clips it paints an interesting portrait of one of the best known leading men from sixties era Italian cinema. Aside from that, there are two trailers for the film, a pair of still galleries, animated menus and chapter stops.
The Final Word:
Pure pop art perfection, The 10th Victim is a blast from start to finish. Not only are the performances awesome but the score is amazing, the camera work consistently impressive and the story both funny and actually fairly tense. Blue Underground’s Blu-ray treats the film well in terms of presentation and the inclusion of the lengthy bonus documentary makes it invaluable.
Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!