Taking it easy this morning I dug out an old Italian sci-fi / action / comedy film. Released in 1965 and originally titled “La Decima Dittima”, the movie was directed by Elio Petri (“Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion”, “The Assassin”) and re-titled “The 10th Victim”.
Set in a not-too-distant future, the film is loosely based upon a 1953 short story by American writer Robert Sheckley called “Seventh Victim”. Following the film adaptation the author used the movie as a basis for a revised and expanded version of is story for a film tie-in novelisation.
The film itself opens with a narrated explanation of “The Big Hunt”. This is an officially sanctioned game that has been developed in order to avoid large-scale warfare by giving people with the wish to kill the opportunity to do so by joining the game. Each participant signs up for ten rounds of the hunt. The must be the hunter in five rounds and the hunted in five. In the unlikely event that they get through the ten rounds a surviving competitor would gain $1 million and be able to retire from the game. To complicate matters the hunter is given complete information about the person that they are tasked with hunting, the victim is given no information on who is pursuing them and must try to survive by outwitting and then killing their hunter.
A man is seen pursuing a dark-haired woman through the streets of New York, shooting at her, eventually following her into a nightclub.
The woman seems to have disappeared and the man becomes entranced by a blonde dancer wearing an interesting silver outfit and mask. It becomes clear that this is the same woman, Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress – “Dr. No”, “She”), and she dispatches with bullets shot from her bra (no doubt inspiration for the fembots in the “Austin Powers” movie by Mike Myers. We learn that this was Caroline’s ninth hunt, and that she will be the hunter for her tenth hunt.
Meanwhile, at an equestrian event Marcello Poletti (Marcello Mastroianni – “La Dolce Vita”, “Marriage Italian Style”) is in the role of hunter, killing his victim by concealing explosives in their riding boots.
Naturally, Caroline’s victim on her tenth hunt is to be Marcello. She wastes no time in tracking him down and making herself known to him, posing as a TV reporter wanting to interview him for a live TV show. The hunt is big business in the media, providing entertainment for the masses, and so she has secured sponsorship from Ming Tea for the TV show, which is to be broadcast from the Temple of Venus in Rome. Incidentally Ming Tea was also used as a name for a rock group in “Austin Powers”!
Marcello is drawn to Caroline despite feeling that she could be his hunter, and Caroline herself is also attracted to Marcello. Nonetheless, the pair continue their cat and mouse manouvering, each trying to gain the upper hand, all leading to an unexpected climax in front of the TV cameras…
An ahead of its time comment on reality TV and the voyeuristic nature of the media, the film also looks at death being reduced to a commodity to promote various corporations’ products. Whether you take on board the social commentary or just view it as a very cool looking, fairly light-hearted (despite the underlying morality issues) sci-fi tale, I would certainly recommend this film for watching.