KLAATU YOU (23)
June 2, 2020
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.
THE TENTH VICTIM | d. ELIO PETRI | 1965
The Tenth Victim transports the viewer to the kind of future you could live with: high-fashion Italy circa 1964. All the costumes were designed by André Courrèges, one of the inventors of both the miniskirt and the go-go boot. There is much white leather here, with an abundance of straps, plus riding helmets, op-art jumpsuits, sleeveless sweaters, slit-eye girlwatcher sunglasses, clear-visored caps. Marcello Mastroianni stars as a bottle blond and Ursula Andress, a force of nature with massive hair and a sleek prow of a nose, plays his opposite number. The two are victim and hunter, respectively, in a global murder lottery that awards a million dollars to any hunter who racks up ten kills — while themselves being hunted.
Based on a story by Robert Sheckley (descended from The Most Dangerous Game), the picture was directed by Elio Petri, one of Italy’s most politically provocative directors of the ’60s and ’70s, known for his police-baiting Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) and the ferociously autonomist The Working Class Goes to Heaven (1971). He organizes his picture as a succession of highly photogenic set pieces that would not look out of place in a fashion magazine — one from maybe ten years later. The movie anticipates the then-embryonic art of Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, with their stark compositions, flamboyant sexuality, and playfully ironic touches of death and destruction. It regales the viewer with a wide selection of themes: weaponry, war between sexes, television culture, moral decay, and of course advertising — Andress schemes to make her rubout of Mastroianni the centerpiece of a frantically choreographed commercial for Ming Tea.
Petri never made another movie like it, sticking principally to neorealist noir (although Working Class demonstrates he was not chained to realism). Here he feasts on the extravagance of it all: fast cars, many helicopter shots, frequent costume changes, crowds of supernumeraries, an array of avant-garde villas. It is instructive to compare The Tenth Victim to Godard’s vision of the future, Alphaville, which came out the same year. That picture is glum, cement-colored, repressed, desperately grabbing at some kind of furtive poetry against the computer-assisted cleansing of all emotion, but Petri will have none of that. Instead he presents a world in which people shoot at each other in the streets as stylish, sexy, and fundamentally comical, with an ineffably perky Italo-pop soundtrack. As he ridicules the vapid beach-and-casino lifestyle of the fashion magazines he is also effectively thumbing his nose at himself and his role as an artist of the social struggle. His tongue is firmly lodged in his cheek throughout. At the beachside temple where Marcello is employed as leader of a sunset-worshiping cult, a screened-off crowd of angry scoffers throws tomatoes. “Pay no attention to those vulgar neorealists,” he says.
KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Brian Berger on THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
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