Marcello Mastroianni dyed his hair blonde for this film

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 War and violent impulses have been replaced by a game where one aggressive person hunts and murders another.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.

  • The 10th Victim
  • 1965
  • Director: Elio Petri
  • Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Ursula Andress