Thursday, August 15, 2002


This swingin' 60's satire is more relevant than ever, and not just because Mike Myers was influenced by it when he cobbled together his Austin Powers material. In the future, something called The Big Hunt has been legalized, allowing people to hunt and kill each other. You join the Hunt and are paired up by computer with another person--one is the hunter and one is the victim. The hunter gets all kinds of information about the victim, but the victim only knows that he or she is being hunted. The object is for one to kill the other. This has supposedly channeled mankind's aggressive tendencies and cut way down on crime, war, and birth control. Ursula Andress is about to go after Marcello Mastroianni; if she kills him, it will be her tenth kill and she'll win a million dollars. Of course, things get complicated and they fall in love, sort of.

The part of the satire that bites the most today isn't the conceit of the legalized hunt so much as it is Andress selling her killing to an advertiser; the Ming Tea company will film her killing Mastroianni and endorsing their tea as she fires the lethal shot. Everything is set up in the Roman Coliseum, including dancing teapots and singing children, waiting for her to lure him to his death. In this day and age of Survivor and The Mole and The Bachelor, this set-up suddenly doesn't seem all that far-fetched--as with NETWORK, real life has caught up, rather scarily, with what was once outrageous satire.

The movie has a problem that a lot of current movies have: one too many endings. They cop out a bit in the final scene, although the comment it makes on the desire to marry (or escape marriage) is amusing. In the first scene, Andress kills a man with a shiny silver bikini top that shoots bullets; Myers paid homage to this in AUSTIN POWERS 2, and he also uses the Ming Tea name for the band that records background music for each of the Powers movies. Andress is good, and Mastroianni is very good, looking quite nice as well with bleached hair and black mock-turtlenecks. The look of the movie is generally low-budget, but there are some striking visuals here and there, and lots of fun, almost throwaway references--comic books are called "classics" and are highly collectible items of academic study; a killing takes place in a (rather mild) S&M club where Andress dances teasingly in front of a man, then slaps him silly. Very fun.

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