10th Victim, The (US - BD)
Gabe swings into a groovy utopian dystopia with Marcello Mastroianni...
It's survival of the fittest in the 21st century, and population control is performed perfunctorily, through legalized murder in a game called ‘The Big Hunt’. This ‘game’ involves a series of murderous competitors, each allowed to kill a specific other competitor by any means. Each competitor must survive ten total rounds, five as the hunter and five as the victim. If a competitor survives all ten rounds they stand to win colossal wealth, and a chance to retire. This round the voluptuous and crafty Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress) is the hunter, and debonair lady-killer Marcello Poletti (Marcello Mastroianni) is the victim. To maximize financial gain, Caroline wants to get a perfect kill in front of the cameras as she has negotiated a major sponsor from the Ming Tea Company. The hunt becomes complicated as Caroline and Marcello play games, and find themselves reluctantly falling in love.
More often that not the Blu-rays I’m sent by the good folks at Blue Underground are things I’ve already seen not once, but several times. The few items I’ve reviewed without having seen the film first were either newer films ( Bad Boy Bubby) or films I already knew quite a bit about ( The Nesting). Because I tend to go through subgenre phases in my non-work related viewing, I haven’t gotten around to really delving into Italian neorealism over the years. Director Elio Petri’s The 10th Victim isn’t an exact fit for the movement (it comes a little late to match the cycle), but a little research into Petri’s past shows a predisposition to similar political proclivities (he was apparently a militant member of the Italian Communist Party in his youth), and the film’s severe style suggests a heavy influence, as does the use of Marcello Mastroianni ( La Dolche Vita, La Notte, 8 1/2). I’m slightly more comfortable speaking about the similar, and parallel French New Wave movement, which Petri also draws obvious influence from. The 10th Victim is a hyper-strange journey into the ‘60s mod comedy arthouse. The quickest way to describe it is The Most Dangerous Game meets Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik, with dashes of Jean-Pierre Melville, Michelangelo Antonioni (producer Carlo Ponti would release Blow-Up only a year after The 10th Victim), and a healthy sprinkling of James Bond and all similar properties. Comic books also hold obvious influence throughout, including backdrop images, and a brief sequence where Marcello reads what appears to be a Phantom (or Phantom rip-off) comic when he first officially meets Caroline. In this respect it appears that Petri (who also directed the 1970 best foreign language film Oscar with Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) was ahead of his time, as the film predates the Batman TV series, and Danger: Diabolik.
It’s difficult to place the film into a genre box. It’s certainly European, and it embraces ‘60s futurism (which has made a comeback recently thanks to stuff like Mad Men and X-Men: First Class) with a smirk, but also has something pseudo important to say about politics and social issues. It’s not a sketch film, but doesn’t quite follow a standard narrative. It’s comparable to other super stylized satire films in some ways, but it isn’t joke a minute spoof like Airplane or Naked Gun. I do assume there are some gags that specifically spoof something, and that my limited knowledge of the region during the era has left me unable to pick up on the joke, though I got plenty at the expense of the James Bond series. There’s also a lot of absurdist and politically slanted material, which more versed critics would compare to Fellini or maybe Ken Russell, but I just kept coming back to Paul Bartel’s futurist satire masterpiece Death Race 2000. Though separated by a decade, and made under very different circumstances, but both cover the blood sport as an opiate for the masses angle with similar gusto, if not entirely difference levels of sex and violence (the back of the Blu-ray box draws comparisons to the more popular Running Man). More obvious comparisons can be made to the more avant-garde Japanese films of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, like Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter, Yasuzo Masumura’s Giants and Toys, and even Teruo Ishii’s bizarre horror fantasies.
The image quality here follows the usual Blue Underground standard of too good to be true. The 1080p frame is swimming with the detail and sharpness of a much newer film, showing only minor age in terms of grain, and some uneven colours throughout. The bulk of the colour scheme is either mod-friendly black and white set against reasonably pale skin tones, or vast chunks of acrylic colour. The colour left to pop against the stark, futurist backgrounds looks the best for the most part. Andress’ bright fuccia pant suit (thing?) is a prime example of the transfer’s vibrant, eye-popping hues, though it also exemplifies the transfer’s occasional tendency to bloom. Earthy browns and blues don’t fare quite as well as the artificial hues, but still look reasonably natural without a lot of bleeding. Detail levels are quite even, as are contrast levels, which is important given the stark colour schemes, though like the Deep Red release white levels are cranked a little too high, and there is a general yellowing to the whole thing. On the other hand, there are many signs of digital noise reduction over the entire transfer, more so than I noticed on the same day release of Sergio Martino’s Torso. This isn’t the brand of DNR that makes everything appear as if it has been cast in wax, but the grain is flattened, the colours simplified (there isn’t a lot in the way of subtle gradation), and the harsher edges dance a bit. Grain structure isn’t consistent enough to verify with any certainty how much DNR was used in all, but generally speaking the scenes featuring the most obvious old fashion film grain look the best. Overall this is a hit and miss package, with the hits out weighing the misses, and the misses still looking quite good.
Both the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono Italian and English mixes sounds just fine, but don’t feature a lot in the way of fidelity. As per usual, it appears the film was shot without sound with an international cast, so both tracks are dubbed, and lip-sync is regularly off in both cases. I liked the English track more because Andress dubs herself, more of the major actors appear to be speaking English, and because the plot makes slightly more sense in English, likely the distributor’s way of covering up some cultural differences (I watched the bulk of the film in English the with subtitles up to compare the dialogue). The tracks are similar, but in most cases the Italian track sounds better. Dialogue, music and minor sound effects are all plenty clean, but there’s a pretty consistent case of underlying white noise over just about every scene (except for one scene towards the end of the film where the sound of waves in the background actually drop out entirely). This is more evident in the generally quieter English track. I’m assume this was at one time intended to be environmental ambience, but it sounds pretty fuzzy to me. The dialogue fairs the best, but does have minor distortion and hiss on some aspirated consonants, and there are a handful of bits that feature a likely unintended reverb effects. Once again this is more common on the English track. The music sounds noticeably better on the Italian track as well, featuring richer bass, and cleaner element separation.
The extras begin with Marcello: A Sweet Life (98:10, SD) a documentary on lead actor Marcello Mastroianni including interviews with his family and other cinematic professionals (Federico Fellini, Sophia Loren, other co-stars, and directors), along with vintage interview footage with Mastroianni himself, and scenes from his films, and red carpet footage. At feature length the film covers a lot of ground, and can be pretty overwhelming, not to mention aimed more towards Marcello’s fans than those keen to learn about him (some of the interviewees aren’t labeled at all), but as a relative noob I came away with a definite respect, and at least some understanding. It appears to have been made for Italian television or home video in 2006. Additional extras include the US trailer, the original Italian trailer, a poster and still gallery, and a Marcello Mastroianni still gallery.
Italian comedies from the ‘60s and ‘70s are an acquired taste, as are any films as heavily stylized as The 10th Victim. I have to admit that I found myself lost in the histrionics plenty of times, but was able to continue to enjoy myself for the sake of the cool and strange imagery, and came back around to understanding by the time the film hit its absurdist climax. Some viewers might require a little more understanding to enjoy the experience, while others may have the appropriate sense of humour and social education to enjoy the film on a higher level than I did. Even folks that don’t normally enjoy 45 year old, foreign arthouse movies might even enjoy discovering that this was the place Mike Myers got the idea for his shooting bra gag in Austin Powers. Some fans will notice some DNR enhancement on this transfer, but I’m assuming the otherwise sharp and colourful state of the film will even things out a bit. Extras include a feature length documentary on actor Marcello Mastroianni, along with a couple fun bits of advertising.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of Blu-ray image quality (for one thing, it's a 100% colour film).
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 13th September 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono English and Italian
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Marcello: A Sweet Life, US Trailer, Italian Trailer, Poster and Still Gallery, Marcello Mastroianni Still Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Elio Petri
Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Ursula Andress, Elsa Martinelli
Length: 92 minutes
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