Friday, August 6, 2010

La Decima Vittima (The Tenth Victim) (1965)
ITALY --- science fiction

Dir: Elio Petri

In the last couple of years, we have been inundated with a series of science fiction films that go behind-the-camera, if you will, of shocking futuristic televised game shows. We've had "The Condemned", "Death Race" (the remake of "Death Race 2000"), and "Gamer". This is a trend that most could aliken to social commentaries surrounding the phenomenon of the so-called "Reality T.V." boom in the last decade or so. It goes back a lot farther than that, say to ancient Rome, where the bread & circuses ruled with ruthless gladiatorial sports to appease the masses.

Such is the case with "The 10th Victim", an Italian sci-fi film based on a short story by author Robert Sheckley. The story takes us into a not-too-distant future where the world has replaced fighting massive costly wars by allowing individuals to participate in a new form of popular entertainment called The Big Hunt. The hunters must adhere to the following rules:

RULE # 1: All members must carry out ten hunts, five as hunters and five as prey or victims and will be chosen based on a computer generated lot.

RULE # 2: Hunters know everything about the victims.

RULE # 3: Victims know nothing of their hunters.

RULE # 4: The winner of each hunt will receive a prize. After the tenth hunt, they'll be declared a decathlete, and will receive (place pinky to side of mouth) one million dollars.

The film opens on a man in hot pursuit of a woman (played by Bond girl Ursulla Andress) on an open city street in New York. The casually dressed Asian man fires off shots at the woman, as they eventually converge in the Masoch Club, where she's poised on stage in a silver bikini for a strip tease. Miss Caroline Meredith, however, turns the table as she shoots her would-be assassin dead with a fully-loaded bra (Austin Powers style). T.V. cameras and paparazzi are there to celebrate Miss Meredith as the huntress is now ready for her tenth victim.

Her victim turns out to be Marcello Polletti (played by legendary Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni), who has enough problems with his ex-wife and his girlfriend Olga. Caroline then travels to Rome to take him out, by luring him with her feminine wiles. Soon though, in the midst of their deadly cat-and-mouse game, both Caroline and Marcello find themselves becoming more romantically involved than either one of them planned.

If the future looks this groovy, we'd all want a time machine, and right now. With a clear influence of the zeitgeist of its era, Mod fashion, kitschy art aestethic, and tongue-in-cheek spy movie tropes, the film sets you in this visionary future. The swinging 60's vision of the future was always full of high technology Jetsons-esque gadgetry and often coupled with a slightly sinister dystopian society (as opposed to the nuke-wary desolation nightmares of the 80's). So, besides the social political commentary that the film garners, it successfully predicts a future of societal disarray due to media influence and control and the lust and greed of everyone in search of their own celebrity.