It’s the distant future of 2079 (seen through the prism of the groovy European 1960s). One of the most popular pastimes for folks to participate in is “The Big Hunt”. Once you sign up you are randomly selected to be either a ‘hunter’ or ‘victim’. You must battle your adversary and try to be the last one standing. After successfully surviving ten rounds you get to retire with wealth and fame.
Now that she has made it to her tenth round, wealth and glory is already being heaped upon Catherine Meredith (Ursuala Andress) as she has landed a sponsorship deal with the Ming Tea Company for her tenth kill. She’ll eliminate her tenth victim right on camera, say their catchphrase and she’ll earn an extra big payday.
Catherine will be the hunter in her tenth round and her victim will be Marcello Poletti (Marcello Mastroianni), who has survived six rounds of the Hunt and seems like a smart unflappable, calm and cool player. He’s proven he’s quite adept playing the Hunt and prevailing.
Now working with Ming Tea, it adds an extra obstacle for Catherine in this round of the Hunt. She must lure Marcello to a scenic spot where all the cameras and promotional material for Ming Tea is set up for her planned execution of him. While trying to innocently coherce the unknowing Marcello to take a trip to the planned spot, they start to fall for one another. But how can this story possibly end happily when one of the two needs to be dead in the end?
The 10th Victim is a far out, fanciful time capsule of 1960s European style. It’s got popular stars Andress and Mastroianni as the two leads and a story and tone that was ahead of its time and would be used as inspiration for other films.
You’ll find familiar traces of future films, like The Running Man, A Clockwork Orange, Death Race 2000, Battle Royale, The Hunger Games and even Austin Powers. Its a variation of The Most Dangerous Game with some sci-fi twists and a humorous tone. You could easily see this story being used to make a new film today! Netflix needs a spinoff to The Squid Game? Why not update The 10th Victim!
We immediately get the rules of the game – there’s a ‘hunter’ and a ‘victim’. The ‘hunter’ receives detailed information about the ‘victim’, whereas the ‘victim’ knows nothing about who their attacker might be. They’ll have to figure out who it is on their own.
Mastroianni has been on a winning streak having just survived his sixth round. He’s getting some positive press and has already won a ton of prize money. Unfortunately, all his winnings have been spent by his ex-wife and mistress. Needless to say, he’s not too keen on relationships with women at the moment.
Meanwhile, Catherine is on the verge of her record-breaking ’10th victim’. As she learns details about Marcello, she inks a deal with her sponsor to make it even more profitable when she ices him. They need a very special place for this televised kill, so they settling on having the Roman Coliseum as the backdrop and prepare the Temple of Venus for this sponsored violent kill. But first Catherine has to get Marcello to the location.
She innocently invites him for ‘an interview’ she wants to conduct, he refuses, but she persists by following him. Before long sparks start to fly. Marcello eventually comes to the realization maybe this beautiful woman is his hunter. But even if she is, he’s not sure he wants to kill her. The same goes for her.
It all starts very promising. There’s a satiric tone, some sci-fi elements, some action, suspense, romance, light comedy, tongue in cheek violence. It’s a kitschy cocktail of fun. Which makes it even more disappointing how the pace starts to stall. The subplots of Marcello’s women get extremely silly and the game of cat and mouse between hunter and victim never delivers on the suspense, jeopardy the characters are in or any surprising twists I had hoped for.
This is not to say there isn’t any entertainment to be found in The 10th Victim!
There are terrific eye-catching sets, stylish costumes, impressive locations and fun details that create this surreal swinging world. It’s a place that I was enjoying spending time in and checking out all the trippy vision. Fans of Austin Powers will take note of the inspiration that was mined from the film for it’s shagadelic 60’s look. Including, Austin Power’s band Ming Tea, which takes its name specifically from Andress’ fictional sponsor in The 10th Victim.
The opening titles run over Andress’ ninth round as she plays victim to her would-be ‘hunter’. They run through long empty streets in New York City and past notable landmarks. It culminates in a sexy dance by Andress and killing her hunter with a hi-tech ‘bra gun’. I imagine this was another inspiration for Austin Powers and those Fem-Bots.
Andress looks terrific throughout the film. This is when she was at her peak of beauty and she is good as the sexy no nonsense hunter. Mastroianni is super cool and relaxed with his funky large sunglasses. You add in all the great visual surroundings and there’s a lot to feast your eyes on.
It’s the story that’s the weak point. Starting out with a bang, setting up the premise and this world, things start to slow down and the fun starts to wither away. It’s like, the more time Andress and Mastroianni spend with one another and the goal of surviving the game gets pushed to the side, the more the film begins to lose steam.
Andress’ sole goal is to convince Mastroianni to goto the Temple of Venus where the whole Ming Tea crew is waiting for them so she can kill him there. He simply refuses again and again. After awhile it gets to be a tedious exercise as they go back and forth with this request and I was hoping she would think, ‘Ok, screw the sponsorship deal, I’ll just kill him now’. The whole idea of having to get him to this location isn’t set up to be as crucial or has the urgency as it needs to be, so it just starts to feel like stalling tactic to drag things out.
There’s very little suspense or fun story-wise that occurs and the twists that take place are not enough to enliven things. Them gradually falling in love with each other, isn’t done in any memorable ways. The settings and decor around them are more captivating than the actual pairs interactions.
There are some fun touches as the film goes along. Encounters with other hunters and victims playing their own game in the background. A nightclub type place where gladiators are fighting to the death next to relaxed party-goers. A training facility where hunters get to practice their killing talents. It’s the overall style and atmosphere The 10th Victim that is the highlight to the film. It’s the visuals that will stay with you and keep you watching until the end.
It’s a shame, since The 10th Victim could have been a really terrific cult film from beginning to end. For me the story starts to run down towards the middle.
The 10th Victim still offers enough to make it worthwhile to check out. If you have the hankering to spend some time in a bizarre faraway 60’s land with European style you’ll be in for a real treat. The art direction and design could very well be enough for some. Plus, Andress looks amazing in her collection of 60’s garments.
It’s just a shame that such a fun promising far out fantastical film putters out long before it should have. It’s an amazing looking package, but the contents of the box is lacking.