The Tenth Victim: originality that exceeds necessity

                                                                                            Ursula Andress: for once, the hunter
“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.

         Andress & Mastronianni: Blonde on Blonde

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.

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