• The Designated Victim (Mondo Macabro) Standard Edition Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: November 9th, 2021.
    Director: Maurizio Lucidi
    Cast: Tomas Milian, Pierre Clémenti, Katia Christina, Aldo Tonti
    Year: 1971
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    The Designated Victim – Movie Review:

    Essentially a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train, director Maurizio Lucidi’s 1971 oddity, The Designated Victim, had languished in obscurity for years until Shameless Films in the UK saw fit to release this twisted little thriller onto DVD back in 2008. Genre archivists Mondo Macabro now give the picture a very welcome Blu-ray upgrade, marking the film’s US home video premiere.

    The movie tells the story of a man named Stefano (Tomas Milian), who wants to get rid of his meddling, albeit very foxy, wife, Luisa (Marisa Bartoli), so that he can get on with his life and continue nailing his mistress. Seemingly by chance, Stefano meets a man named Count Matteo (Pierre Clémenti), a well to do aristocratic type who is in a similar predicament. The pair hit it off and decides to take care of their respective problems for each other – Matteo will kill Luisa for Stefano and Stefano will in turn off the Count’s troublesome brother.

    Stefano agrees to the deal but doesn’t really take things too seriously. Matteo, on the other hand, is completely sincere in his pledge and soon seems to be forging a rather unorthodox bond with Stefano…

    Remarkably tense and beautifully photographed in and around the instantly recognizable city of Venice, The Designated Victim is a treat for Milian fans as the picture finds him delivering an atypically subtle performance and doing it very effectively at that. Milian is completely convincing as playboy Stefano and his increasingly strange interplay with Clémenti’s bizarre Count Matteo is the real backbone of the picture. As their relationship becomes more and more unusual, their performances reflect their respective individual tensions and it makes for fairly riveting viewing, even if it isn’t all too difficult to figure out exactly where the movie is ultimately heading.

    Lucidi, best known for a directing a handful of Spaghetti Western and crime films in the seventies, keeps the film moving along at a strong pace and tosses in just enough salacious nudity and inferred perversion to make the film more than just a simple remake of a Hitchcock classic. While the picture is short on bloodshed it’s got more than enough atmosphere to make up for it and the two strong leads and excellent camerawork, coupled with a very nice score from Luis Bacalov, all add up to a very worthwhile effort indeed.

    Note that Mondo Macabro gives us the choice of original 1:40:41 theatrical cut or the new exclusive extended cut with alternate scenes integrated back into the film that clocks in at 1:44:52. To create this extended cut, they’ve had to use a VHS source in the wrong aspect ratio and edit clips from that source into the restored version of the movie that is presented as the feature attraction on this disc. The VHS quality is pretty rough, but given that no other materials seem to exist for these scenes, including it was obviously the right thing to do even if it doesn’t always look so pretty.

    The Designated Victim – Blu-ray Review:

    The Designated Victim debuts on Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro on a region free 50Gb disc with the theatrical version of the feature taking up just a hair under 23.7GBs of space and the extended version getting 21GBs. Presented in AVC encoded 1080p and taken from a new 4K scan and restoration completed in 2021 of the original 35mm negative, the transfer looks very good and shows very little noticeable print damage. Detail is strong, especially in close up shots, and color reproduction looks really good here as well. The image is nice and film-like, showing very little print damage at all but keeping the expected amount of natural film grain. Texture and depth are impressive here as well and black levels and skin tones also look great.

    Audio options are provided in English and Italian language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks for the theatrical version, with optional subtitles provided that translate the Italian track. Both tracks appear to be dubbed. They sound fine. The audio is balanced well and the dialogue clean and clear. The audio for the extended cut is presented in 16-bit Italian language LPCM 2.0 Mono and again includes optional English subtitles.

    Extras kick off with a new audio commentary by giallo experts Rachael Nisbet and Peter Jilmstad from the Fragments of Fear podcast. They start by talking about how the film is often left out of discussions of giallo films and how this picture doesn't always play like a true giallo because it doesn't conform to certain narrative tropes. From there, they go over details of the cast and crew involved with the picture, discuss some possible influences that work their way into the movie, the specific way in which Milian is framed in some key compositions, the costume work featured in the picture, the different screenwriters that were involved in the film, the quality of the camerawork in the film, the score, the androgynous traits of the two male leads, the use of red in the film and quite a bit more.

    Death And Beauty In Venice is a new interview with co-writer and assistant director Aldo Lado that runs for forty-eight minutes. He talks about starting to direct in 1971 and goes over some of his early films like Short Night Of The Glass Dolls, and he also discusses how he got into doing some screenwriting as well. Clad in a floppy straw hat and dark sunglasses, he then goes over some career highlights and offers up thoughts and recollections on the time he spent in Paris, the influence of Patricia Highsmith's book and Alfred Hitchcock's film of Strangers On A Train, working with Maurizio Lucidi, working on Who Saw Her Die?, his appreciation for Venice, Pierre Clémenti's cocaine use, what he shot and didn't shoot for the movie, getting along with the cast and crew members, the aesthetics of the film, his partnership with Ennio Morricone, working in television in his later years and plenty more.

    The disc also contains a new interview with Pierre Clémenti's son Balthazar Clémenti, who talks about his father's acting style, noting that when he acted, he was himself. Enttiled Piere Clémenti: The Pope Of Counterculture, this twenty-seven minute piece sees Balthazar going over what his father was like as a person, highlights of his filmography, how he was always working right up until he died, the importance of some of the key entries in his filmography like The Leopard, his relationship with Alain Delon, his popularity in Italy in particular, his work with Pasolini, what it was like growing up with a celebrity for a father, his father's penchant for producing films independently and in his own style and the timeless quality of some of his father's films.

    The disc also includes the English trailer, the 'Slam-Out' trailer, the Italian trailer and the alternate English titles as well as menus and chapter selection options.

    This standard edition release omits the red case, reversible cover art, insert booklet and lobby card reproductions that were included with the limited edition release from earlier this year.

    The Designated Victim - The Final Word:

    The Designated Victim is a great thriller made even better by Milian and Clémenti's excellent performances. It’s slick, stylish, quite tense and always entertaining. Mondo Macabro has done an great job bringing this underappreciated gem to Blu-ray with a beautiful presentation for the feature and a strong selection of extra features as well. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Designated Victim Blu-ray screen caps!