“The 21st Century will be the one that has legalized violence.” Voice-over from 10th Victim trailer
In terms of pop culture, the science fiction film The Tenth Victim (1965) has provided a cornucopia of cinematic memes: from Austin Powers to The Hungers Games, from Logan’s Run to The Running Man, it’s the gift that’s keeps on giving.
This film is among the originators of the televised-live-for-the-public hunt stories – where both the hunted and the hunters are human.
What’s most interesting, aside from the succulent 60s fashion/design eye-candy, is the actual tone of the film. Part farce, part suspense, part social commentary, part romance…that’s a lot of cards to keep in play. It works due to four factors:
The leads: By this time, Marcello Mastroianni was a seasoned pro at projecting a benign, perhaps bemused, indifference to people, their schemes and dreams, the very absurdity of the human condition.
And Ursula Andress’ beauty works for her, helps her to rise beyond her face into an interesting characterization. The unreality of a future landscape accommodates the Andress mystique in a way that somewhat diminishes its impact. That gives her room to act.
The director: Elio Petri uses dark comedy to disguise a more serious intent. This vision of the future is not especially dystopian; it’s more banal than dehumanized. The scenes are brief, empowering an underlying suspense – though we can anticipate what lays around the corner.
The cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo. One of the best. He gives the film a cool, futuristic look through oddly subtle suggestions.
The 10th Victim is a curious mix of genres, with an enduring originality which exceeds necessity.