Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Essays, Science Fiction

‘The 10th Victim’: Give the People What They Want

Before The Hunger Games, before Battle Royale, before The Running Man, there was Elio Petri’s The 10th Victim. Based on Robert Sheckley‘s short story “The Seventh Victim” (Petri upped the body count), this 1965 feature is set in a near future of unlikely fashions and pop-art stylings, where comic books are the literature of the day and murder games have become the dominant form of media entertainment. The government-sponsored “The Big Hunt” is the original Survivor as a series of one-on-one bouts: “a real chase, a real victim and a real killing,” promises the cheery TV host as he outlines the rules for the home viewing audience.

Ursula Andress in ‘The Tenth Victim’

It’s ostensibly “a safety valve for humanity” but Petri’s wry perspective reveals the activity as less primal scream than the logical evolution of today’s reality TV fad. The hunter is given a target and the victim has to be on guard to pick out a potential assassin from the crowd. These games don’t play out in a controlled arena but in the streets and sometime in the nightclubs of the real world, where the occasional civilian becomes collateral damage. And unlike the usual dystopian portraits of kill-or-be-killed games, which invariably play out as a form of punishment and social control by an oppressive regime, this game is completely voluntary. No surprise, there’s no shortage of competitors. The lure of celebrity, prize winnings and endorsement deals apparently trumps survival instinct. Or maybe it’s just a matter of a population so narcotized into numbness that they jump at anything that can offer them a sensation outside of their consumer bubble.

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Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews, Science Fiction

DVD/Blu-ray: ‘The 10th Victim’

Elio Petri’s mod twist on “The Most Dangerous Game” as social bloodsport is the original Survivor, where the bored, the ambitious, and the just plain violent can sign up for a deadly game of cat and mouse with fatal consequences. Based on Robert Sheckley’s short story “The Seventh Victim” (the script upped the body count), this 1965 feature is set in a sleek 21st century future where war has been replaced by “The Big Hunt,” a “necessary as a social safety valve,” explains one TV personality as he goes over the rules of the game for the audience. “Why control births when we can control deaths?”

Marcello Mastroianni is the womanizing playboy and rising game star Marcello Polletti, who apparently signed up for “The Big Hunt” out a mix of ennui and alienation. He hates his soon-to-be-ex-wife (Luce Bonifassy) and is bored with his exasperated, demanding mistress (Elsa Martinelli). The game is not just his escape, it’s his pleasure, as his smirking satisfaction attests in his opening kill. His target is a strutting German aristocrat whose arrogant airs and Prussian military precision carries the air of Nazi officer, which makes his ingenious booby trap all the more satisfying.

Ursula Andress is the reigning champion Caroline Meredith and his new nemesis, a New York Amazon with a wardrobe as deadly as it is chic (as her opening kill, which she unleashes in an art deco strip club, proves). If she can successfully make Mastroianni her tenth and last victim, she’ll win the $1 million prize and the title of “decaton,” which accords all sorts of privileges. On the side, she negotiates a deal to turn the deed into a live song-and-dance filled extravaganza at the Temple of Venus while he arranges a similar deal at a private villa with a swimming pool and an alligator: just one big killer commercial.

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