The 10th Victim (Elio Petri / Italy-France, 1965):
(La Decima Vittima)

"La Dolce Caccia." The fashion-plate on the run from an Asian businessman is unmasked as Ursula Andress, whose striptease climaxes as her brassiere sprays bullets into her pursuer. "Put the prize on my account," she says amid applause, and is off to Rome for the 10th victim: strapped playboy Marcello Mastroianni, yellow-conked behind huge shades. Violence in the future has been funneled into human-hunt decathlons, "societal safety valves" with hunter and prey taking turns -- Robert Sheckley's tale is a droll, Sterlingian arabesque, Elio Petri gives it a bald reading for various Alphaville effects. Disguised as a sex researcher ("I represent millions of unsatisfied American wives"), Andress sets out to seduce Mastroianni into the trap but ends up puddle-eyed during his beachfront sermon, exalting the sunset to weeping masses (and invoking raspberries from "neo-realists"). Crocodile tears, natch -- touchy-feely cults and execrable pop music make for a void, quickly filled with soigné brutality ("Why control births when you can increase death," one slogan ponders). A typical home counts plaster statues, a giant winking eyeball, and Elsa Martinelli among its sleek amenities, yet Petri's future is transparently about '60s relationships, with its couple of golden megastars cavorting through a landscape as severely lit as any of Antonioni's. The new gladiators, the Temple of Venus, Mao's China, Diana the Huntress... Is love worth more than a TV contract? Modesty Blaise the following year is more purposely degraded, though Petri's conclusion acknowledges that marriage remains the most dangerous game, after all. With Salvo Randone, Massimo Serrato, and Milo Quesada.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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