“He has nothing to say!” shrieks a triumphant critic at Marcello Mastroianni’s cowering filmmaker in Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2. The poor guy flees the press conference, desperately climbing the tower of a science-fiction movie that will never be made. Beneath him scamper an estranged wife, a jealous lover and, at least to him, a murderous public.
Consider Elio Petri’s 1965 cult film (a futuristic romance made only two years later) the project fully realized. The 10th Victim is a molto italiano fashion thriller, based on a short story by novelist Robert Sheckley about licensed human hunting. Fans of the more recent Series 7 or The Running Man should pay attention to how well the concept can work, if leavened with a little humor.
In the movie, Mastroianni is the latest computer-picked victim of the Big Hunt, wildly popular on TV and a global solution to overcrowding. Ursula Andress (at her voluptuous peak) is his hunter, looking down the scope at her tenth kill and total tax exemption. She shoots bullets out of her .33-caliber bra and lures her prey to a faux interview about “the Italian male.” He, of course, thinks himself smarter, and sets up a trap of his own, also to be televised.
Blessed by a game cast, gorgeous visuals (by 8 1/2’s cinematographer, Gianni di Venanzo) and a director who would eventually make it to the Oscars for Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, The 10th Victim seems to prophesy faux-celebrity death culture by a good 30 years. The loungey score, by Piero Piccioni, is a hot collector’s item on vinyl. It feels modern now.—Joshua Rothkopf