The 10th Victim

Elio Petri's The 10th Victim (1965) is an Italian science-fiction farce set in the 21st century, which is conceived here as a swinging utopia whose populace still seems to prefer the mod fashions of the mid-1960s. War is nonexistent, now that the human race has learned to let off steam through legal and organized "hunts" between its instinctually violent members. The champion huntress Caroline (a skimpily attired Ursula Andress) is set to annihilate the equally experienced Marcello (the suave Marcello Mastroianni, sporting hilarious bleach-blond hair). The two groovy killers battle across beautiful minimalist sets as a macabre form of love inevitably blossoms between them. The plot's many murderous gimmicks propel the "camp" factor through the roof: boots secretly rigged with explosives, a miniature machine gun concealed in a brassiere, a crocodile hidden in a posh swimming pool, etc. The film strives for satire with its ample stabs at commercialism, violence, and fame (at times it even seems to anticipate the absurdity of reality TV) but it is primarily a screwball comedy about the commitment issues that eternally pester the ladies' man. Petri punctuates this theme in a shootout between Marcello and the frustrated women in his life, a literal battle of the sexes. The main attraction is Mastroianni's deadpan performance, and here the great Italian actor is just as brooding as he was in and Divorce, Italian Style, constantly ruminating upon both his impending demise and his tangled relationships. The confusion of genres, the hip costumes, the cartoonish violence, the pop-art visuals, and the fascinating futuristic lounge score earn this amusing film well-deserved cult status. This new DVD edition has been remastered from original archival negative materials.

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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