Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The 10th Victim (1965)

The 10th VictimEver since catching about a half hour of The 10th Victim in bleary black-and-white on television as a teenager I had been dying to see the whole film. So when Anchor Bay released it on DVD in 2001 I jumped on it and have watched it at least four times since. It's become one of my all-time favorite movies, a superbly written, directed, and designed combination of futuristic thriller, sex farce, and dark, dryly witty satire--all wrapped up in a colorful, surreal pop/op-art package--that pokes fun at a dystopian future where war has been replaced by the "sport" of legalized murder ("the Big Hunt"), comic books are regarded as "Classics," elderly parents must be turned in to the state for extermination, and advertisers sign up "hunters" to promote their products during live commercials featuring cold-blooded killings.

Ursula Andress (at the peak of her beauty and animal sensuality) and Marcello Mastroianni (the epitome of jaded cool) play hunter and victim, respectively, both vying for a million-dollar prize if one can murder the other, and each also lining up a corporate sponsor who will pay out if the killing can be timed to happen during a live commercial for their product. But love, of all things, intervenes (not to mention his ex-wife and mistress), seriously complicating their cat-and-mouse game of death. Along the way we are treated to some great futuristic pop-art set designs and decor, terrific, catchy Eurojazz soundtrack, and breezy satire of the media, society's fetishization of violence, religion, marriage and divorce, Bondian intrigue, television, and shameless, opportunistic corporate advertising. Several future fads are accurately predicted, including robotic pets and tawdry reality TV shows, and a number of elements from the film are recognizable as being "borrowed" by Mike Myers for the Austin Powers movies, most notably Andress's ballistic bikini top.

I have found that The 10th Victim actually improves with each viewing, as each time I pick up on more details or bits of dialogue that had previously escaped me. *Spoiler Alert* The only disappointing aspect of the film, in my opinion, is the "comic," slapstick ending tacked on at the insistence of American distributor Joseph E. Levine. I'm about 99% sure that the movie is really supposed to end just after Mastroianni shoots Andress, but Levine apparently considered that ending too downbeat. It's pretty obvious that the final scenes amid some ruins and on an airplane were added after the fact as they are completely at odds with the tone of the rest of the movie and attempt to provide the film with a wacky, screwball "happy ending." But other than the denouement ringing false, the film is nearly perfectly realized.

When I heard that Blue Underground was releasing this on Blu-ray I wondered if it would really be worth the price of an upgrade. Thankfully, the answer is a resounding "yes!" The brightness, color saturation and balance, sharpness, and detail are vastly improved over the Anchor Bay DVD. While the word "revelation" gets thrown around perhaps a bit too freely when describing Blu-rays in comparison with their previous DVD incarnations, in this case it is apropos. The BU transfer makes the Anchor Bay disc look positively sick in comparison--dark and muddy, with faded, poorly balanced color and mushy detail. The difference here is literally like night and day; it's astounding how much better the Blu-ray looks when compared side-by-side with the DVD. The 1080p transfer does bring out the grain a bit, but never to the point of distraction. Fleshtones are natural, detail is crisp, and the muted hues of the Anchor DVD give way to sizzling, neon-vivid greens, yellows, and fuchsias. If you are a big fan of this movie, you really need to upgrade to the Blu-ray; it's almost like seeing the film again for the first time, and easily the biggest improvement in a Blu-ray over a previous DVD release I have yet seen. (Note that Blue Underground's 2009 DVD release is merely a repackage of the Anchor Bay edition, so the Blu-ray is the only way to see the much-improved remaster.)

Blue Underground also up the ante with some enticing supplements, including a somewhat washed-out U.K. release trailer (1:47), which is the same one as on the Anchor DVD, and a superior, gorgeous-looking Italian trailer (2:31), with English subtitles, that actually gives you a much better idea of what the movie's about than the rather inscrutable U.K. trailer (both are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen). A gallery of stills, posters, and pressbook art and a Mastroianni still gallery are also present, as well as an hour-and-a-half documentary on Mastroianni (which I haven't watched yet). But even without these extras, the far superior transfer makes this a more than worthy upgrade. If you love this film as much as I do, I guarantee you will be delighted.

Synopsis: In the future a game called "The Big Hunt" where it is legal to commit murder has been created to help facilitate mankind's growing obsession with murder.

The 10th Victim was directed by Elio Petri, whose other notable films include The Lady killer of Rome, A Quiet Place in the Country and Investigation of a Citizen... Above Suspicion. The screenplay for The 10th Victim was adapted from the Robert Sheckley story titled "The Seventh Victim". The Cinematographer on The 10th Victim was Gianni Di Venanzo whose impressive filmography includes Il grido, Big Deal on Madonna Street, La note, L'eclisse, Federico Fellini's 8½ and Juliet of the Spirits. After The 10th Victim Gianni Di Venanzo would only work on one more film before his untimely death at the age of forty five. The score for The 10th Victim was composed by Piero Piccioni, whose other notable scores include Duel of the Titans, The Lady killer of Rome, La commare secca (The Grim Reaper), Contempt (The Italian and Spanish versions), The Nuns of Saint Archangel and Story of a Cloistered Nun.

The plot focuses primarily on two characters Marcello Polletti and Caroline Meredith who are both participating in "The Big Hunt". Marcello is the hunted as Caroline in the hunter in seek of her 10th victim. She soon discovers that he is not as an easy target as her previous victims as he leads her around on a series of misadventures as he tries to figure out who she is and what she wants. This cat and mouse game that evolves between these two characters is the most enjoyable part of the film.

This film takes full advantage of the Rome locations in the film. All of the sets used are all beautifully designed and realized. The film features a solid performance from Marcello Mastroianni in the role of Marcello Polletti charismatic character that in many ways resembles his own persona. Cast opposite of Marcello Mastroianni in the role of Caroline Meredith is Swedish sex icon Ursula Andress. While she is more than serviceable in the role one has to wonder if the original choice for the role Ann-Margret would have been the better suited for this role. Early on in the film there is a scene with Ursula Andress that obviously inspired the machine gun breast assassins from the Austin Powers International Man of Mystery films. Ultimately The 10th Victim is an exceptional satire that hasn't lost any of its charm or relevance.

The BluRay:

The 10th Victim comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Colors look vibrant, flesh tones look accurate, black levels look very good and details look sharp throughout. There is a healthy layer of grain and there are no problems with compression. When compared to previous North American home video releases of The 10th Victim, this brand new transfer from Blue Underground looks amazing.

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD Mono mix in English and a DTS-HD Mono mix in Italian. Both audio are in good shape as dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced. The score benefits most from these audio mixes and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented. This release comes with four subtitle options, English, English SDH, French and Spanish. Also the English subtitles appear to be a direct translation of the Italian audio track, while the English SDH subtitle is a direct translation of the English audio track.

Extras for this release include the U.S. theatrical release trailer (1 minute 47 seconds anamorphic widescreen), the Italian theatrical release trailer (2 minutes 31 seconds anamorphic widescreen, with English subtitles), a poster & still gallery for the film, a Marcello Mastroianni still gallery and a feature length documentary about Marcello Mastroianni titled `Marcello: A Sweet Life' (98 minutes 15 seconds 4:3 Full Frame / Letterboxed Widescreen, with English subtitles). This is a superb documentary that not only covers all the major films that Marcello Mastroianni, it also features an abundance of comments about who he was outside of cinema. All of his main collaborators make appearances in this documentary, whether it be newly recorded interviews or from archive footage, all of Marcello Mastroianni's comments come from archive footage. This documentary also features comments from his two daughters and his brother Ruggero Mastroianni, a noted film editor. Overall The 10th Victim gets an exceptional release from Blue Underground.

Written by: Michael Den Boer with thanks to Michael

Buy The 10th Victim (1965) Now

This a poignant film--touching and sad--and full of fun at the same time; a classic film, for sure; and a film only Italians could have made. The director, Elio Petri, is often quoted: "Making a movie needs a lot of madness and a lot of love for cinema. And most probably this is the most positive side of the whole matter."

The director, Petri was a lawyer turned filmmaker, a leftist, vocal member of the Communist Party, a rascal, and a man totally aware of the mission of filmmaking: it's a vehicle for entertainment first and along the way you spice it up with politics. Candy with medicine hidden inside.

The 10th Victim is a visual delight, the costumes and art design, the attractive stars--a young, blonde Marcello Mastrioinani and sex goddess Ursula Andress. Everything is done up deliciously 60s : pop-art, futuristic furniture, Sassoon haircuts, fake eyelashes, clothes with cut out backs and zippers everywhere, fantastic hats and visors. Most of the action happens in Rome and there's no tourists, in fact, the streets and sites are empty, no Vespas, no graffiti. On a stretch, the telephones and video screens in the film could still seem contemporary today. The director made a wise choice not to include close-ups of electronic gadgetry and that decision allowed the the film to age beautifully.

Quick synopsis: It's the future. War and violent impulses have been replaced by a game where one aggressive person hunts and murders another. It's a safety valve After succeeding in ten computer-generated match-ups, the last killer-survivor becomes a celebrity. In the film Marcello is the hunted and Andress is the hunter. Of course they fall in love--in a twisted futuristic way that asks, why tell the truth? Relationships are all filled with deception.

The story lampoons marriage, commitment, honesty, the media, people's hunger for fame and celebrity, and greed in an intellectual way that is as valid today as it might have been for farsighted for Petri back in 1965 when he made the film.

I was wowed not only by Rome's empty streets but also the sound of crickets in the Colosseum, the jazzy-pop soundtrack, the frequent futuristic predictions about homosexual liberation and, most surprised by the right-on appearance of the Chinese in this almost 50 year old sci-fi spoof) as being the nation who ends up with the most money. The Chinese give prize money to the winners and promote their product during broadcasts of the hunt. "Drink MIng Tea and Live Forever."

How did he figure that out about China? Petri was a genius!

Why could only an Italian make this film? Who else could make a film about the role of money, schizophrenia and the individual's destruction and make it sexy, adult and stylish?

Sad? Because there are so few people in the future, it must mean there was a terrible war and not many people survived and the ones who did stay home and watch TV shows about the hunters and hunted and drink Ming Tea.

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Read Best Reviews of The 10th Victim (1965) Here

I recommend this purchases for all its is worth every penny and is a timeless classic of all ages. It is a must have

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Sometime in the future (after the Fourth World War or perhaps the Sixth according to one of the trailers), humanity has decided that it must forever put an end to war. Understanding that violence is a part of human nature, society has decided to make that aggression legal with something called the Great Hunt, in which Hunter and Victim can legally do each other in. Each participant alternates being Hunter and Victim. Each can legally kill each other (though if one kills the wrong person, it's 30 years behind bars), and if one survives ten hunts, as only 15 have done well, the rewards are many.

I have an interest in comedies, futuristic films and Italian films from the `60s and `70s, so when I read about this film that fits into all three categories, I couldn't resist and the film definitely pays off! Ursula Andress and Marcello Mastroianni star respectively as Caroline Meredith, an American who has just survived her ninth hunt and is now pursuing the magic "tenth victim," and Marcello Poletti, a blond-haired Italian participant who seems to be just trying to survive his life, with a nagging mistress (the beautiful Elsa Martinelli) and an ex-wife who collects and spends his paychecks.

Director Elio Petri directs this 1965 film in tongue-in-cheek fashion, showing us a world that we would see again in movies like "Sleeper" (mechanical pets), "Logan's Run" (senior citizens must be handed over to the state), "Austin Powers" (bullet-spitting bras) and "The Running Man" (violence as entertainment).

Though mostly set in and around Rome, the film actually begins in New York City, where we see a man chasing after and shooting at a dark-haired young woman in lower Manhattan. At one point, she seems to be almost toying with him coyly, finally running into a club into which the man follows. Little does he know what fate awaits him as we see Ms. Andress do a sexy striptease, slapping all of the men in the face as they get close to her. In a later sequence, we see beautiful shots of Rome filmed from a helicopter and are reminded by the Colosseum that bloodsport is nothing new.

In this future, the survivors of the hunts are courted by the media as celebrities, with corporate sponsors setting up executions on live television to boost their products. All of this could have been handled in a serious manner, but this film is a lot of fun, with armed men brandishing guns being told by a waiter that they can't kill anybody in bars (legal in the US but illegal in Italy) and a successful hunter who just killed a victim getting a parking ticket for blocking the entrance to a building. The fashion is 1960's futuristic, but of course, the cars are not (nor is the airline, Pan American).

So, if you like your futuristic films with a comic twist, definitely give this film a try, and welcome to a world of exploding boots, ejector seats, roadside sex stops and armored skin. It will be worth it.

As for the presentation, I watched the blu-ray released by Blue Underground. The film is presented in a 1:1.78 widescreen ratio, with good colors and a sharp picture, though grain from the film is often noticeable. It includes Italian and English soundtracks, and I watched with the Italian track and English subtitles. Extras include the Italian and American trailers, with still photo galleries of the film's publicity material and of Marcello Mastroianni.

The biggest extra, however, is a feature length documentary, "A Sweet Life," about the life and career of Mr. Mastroianni. In Italian with English subtitles, it includes vintage interviews with the actor as well as people such as Sophia Loren, Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti, as well as more recent talks with the actor's two daughters and film world people like Claudia Cardinale and Anouk Aimee. It's informative and entertaining (a lot of people thought he was lazy, though he never retired from acting; he loved pasta fagioli and Claudia Cardinale; and when not actually doing filming, he was constantly on the phone), though at 98 minutes it feels a bit on the long side.

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