Sometimes you’re just in the mood for campy Italian cinema. Wait, you aren’t? Then by all means avoid The 10th Victim (1965), a weird technicolor adaptation of a classic Robert Sheckley SF satire. In order to channel humanity’s violent nature, the world has developed The Big Hunt. By registering for the hunt, contestants enter into a worldwide tournament of legalized murder. If a contestant can survive ten rounds — five as a hunter, five as a victim — they are honored with the title of “decathlete” and win a million dollars. Losers, well…later, dudes.
The story follows American contestant Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress), whose takedown of her hunter in round nine — and wait’ll you see how she does it — draws the attention of a tea company (huh?) who want to use her tenth round as a publicity stunt, jazzing up the murder with dancing girls and mascots to sell their delicious beverage. But Caroline’s victim is a dashing Italian fellow named Marcello Polletti (Marcello Mastroianni), going into his seventh round. Because Caroline needs the murder to be filmed in a particular location, what follows is a sexually charged game of cat and mouse between the opponents, as they attempt to guess at the other’s schemes — and determine whether or not they’re falling in love.
I’m pretty sure this isn’t a terribly faithful adaptation of the Sheckley novel I remember reading and enjoying way back when. Both as SF and as comedy it’s flimsy stuff, although there is a certain goofy novelty value to the concoction. It’s worth watching as an amusing vehicle for two international sex symbols from the 1960s, but ultimately it’s one of those not-very-good films that isn’t quite bad enough to be great.