The 10th Victim

The 10th Victim (1965)
Blue Underground
Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Ursula Andress, Elsa Martinelli, Salvo Randone
Extras: Documentary, Photo Galleries, Trailers

"The 10th Victim" is a very odd hybrid sci-fi/comedy/60s Mod movie based on an original story by Robert Sheckley (sadly out-of-print). Despite it's quirks, however, this Italian film, directed by Elio Petri, offers a funny and entertaining look at the serious business of murder for sport.

In the not-too-distant future (actually the 21st century which is, of course, now), the most popular form of entertainment in the world is 'The Big Hunt,' a competition in which people seek out and kill other contestants to earn prizes and fame. Each player must survive five rounds as the hunter and five as the hunted. One of the twists in the game is, however, that the hunter has all the intel on his victim, but the hunted never knows who the hunter is. Talk about tipping the scales…

The lovely Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress) is a skilled contestant who has just completed her ninth game in a most unusual manner and is now tasked with taking out her tenth and final victim, Marcello Polletti (Marcello Mastroianni), a competent player who has somehow managed to survive through six games of his own whilst besieged by both his ex-wife and gold-digging girlfriend.

Before the hunt begins, Caroline is approached by a TV crew who are interested in filming and broadcasting the killing of her 10th victim, complete with heavily-paid sponsorship deals and all. She agrees and plans are made to kill Marcello at the Temple of Venus in the heart of Rome for a world-wide audience to witness. Marcello, however, is beginning to suspect that Caroline is his hunter, when she approaches him, and makes plans of his own.

While the two players jockey for position, the cold-hearted Caroline begins to fall for the romantic Marcello and she must eventually choose between her very foreign feelings of love and the certain fame and fortune that await her should she complete the game.

"The 10th Victim" is presented in 1080p high definition on this Blu-Ray release and I have to admit that I did not have high expectations for it, given the age and relative obscurity of the film. Imagine my jaw dropping to the floor when the film started to roll and a magnificently detailed high definition image played across my screen. Blue Underground did a remarkable job, turning this film into a glossy high definition presentation that is entirely free of blemishes and reveals details and colors that you never believed were there. Black levels are solid and help visually to root the image, while the colors make the most of the 60s somewhat psychedelic color schemes used occasionally in the film. A bit of grain is evident on selected shots, reminding you that what you are watching is actually a film and not some scrubbed digital product.

Audio is offered in the original Italian or an optional English dub – all presented in glorious DTS HD Master Audio format. Both tracks are fairly basic remixes of the original mono track but with the enhanced frequency response of the format, they are pleasing at all times. The dynamic range of the mix is decent enough although any hint of bass is slight at best. The crazed musical score – which is about the only thing truly dating the movie – comes across clear and strong and the dialogue is easily understandable as well. 

The release also includes the feature-length documentary "Marcello: A Sweet Life," outlining the career of the beloved Italian actor. Recounted through the eyes of his many collaborators, the film chronicles his career and spices it up with countless interviews, photos and behind-the-scenes footage.

Also included are photo galleries for the film's posters and lobby cards, as well as a Marcello Mastroianni gallery. In addition, look for the very entertaining American theatrical trailer as well as the original Italian trailer of the movie.

"The 10th Victim" is a funny satire on human nature and the levels to which society will sink for the sake of entertainment, money, and celebrity. In this day and age where reality shows dominate the television landscape, where people stoop to unbelievable lows for their fifteen minutes of fame, and where sluttiness has entirely replaced intellect, it is easy to see that the utopia of "The 10th Victim" is no longer as far-fetched as it was 50 years ago.

My biggest complaint is that the film leans so far to the side of comedy that the very cutting satire becomes overshadowed and soon loses its impact on the viewer. The zany soundtrack and bizarre set design and costumes only lend to this air of hilarity. It's a fun film but I would have liked to see it play up the darker elements a bit more.

Fans of the 60s Mod scene, the amazing Marcello Mastroianni, or Ursula Andress in a bikini will likely delight in "The 10th Victim." Blue Underground once again gets my kudos for offering up such an often-overlooked gem in high definition.