Film: The 10th Victim

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 science fiction 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 decide 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 anĀ  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.

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