February 18, 2009


The 10th Victim (1965). Production Designer/Piero Poletto (Eclipse, The Passenger), Set Decorator/Dario Micheli (The Last Emperor). Great care was taken to give The 10th Victim an ultra-futurist look. The main characters, victim and hunter in an institutionalized game of murder, have a stylized, fashion-world presence that reminds me of Besson's approach to The Fifth Element (1997). The style of the film owes much to Danish designer, Verner Panton, who introduced the world's first inflatable, transparent plastic furniture in 1960, and included Pop and Op-Art elements in his work.

A geometric, minimalist scheme defines most of the rooms in the film, often using an Op-Art-like contrast of black and white stripes or forms. Furniture that is not inflatable tends to be simple cubes- sometimes lit from within. The warmth and color present in many scenes are provided by Ursula Andress, who balances the high-graphic style of the architecture and of Mastroianni's monochromatic suits (more on the film's fashion in an upcoming article).

The 10th Victim also plays with Pop Art visuals. In Mastroianni's apartment, a gigantic eye in black glasses is framed on the wall. A display-style bookcase is filled with golden-age comic books. Cabinets in his country home,
with walls of exposed concrete, sport high-fashion stills of underwear and models. The set also includes surreal elements with paper mache sculpture of figures (and creatures) inside and out, as well as a herd of sheep grazing in the yard! The visual world of The 10th Victim is very much a main character and highlight of watching the film. Its Spy Vibe aesthetic helps to establish and express the movie's themes of a high fashion, high-gloss society that views violence as entertainment (predating reality television by 30 years). Director Elio Petri managed to create both a satirical romp that captures a number of design and societal concepts that were colliding in 1965, and an ultra-cool action/adventure/comedy with unforgettable style. (Special thanks to Tony Sison at Design Within Reach)

*Years after I published this, I was able to contribute to the Blu-ray edition of The 10th Victim. See Amazon & Blue Underground for more details. More 10th Victim on Spy Vibe from the search window and Labels menu.

Check out Spy Vibe's production set series, an event that gathered together many writers to celebrate the best spy sets from cold war-era film & TV. Guest Set Lists: Lee Pfeiffer, Jeremy Duns, Armstrong Sabian, Steve Bissette, Roger Langley, Matthew Bradford, Wesley Britton, David Foster, Matt Kindt. Spy Vibe's Set For Adventure here, Set Countdown #10, #9, #8 ,#7, #6, #5, #4, #3, #2, #1.


  1. This is a new one to me...! Looks fantastic.

  2. Ah! You have something special to explore. My own love affair with The 10th Victim actually predates my introduction to Bond. I don't know HOW that happened, but I found this in a late-night movie slot on TV as a kid and immediately fell in love with the style of the film's sets, costumes, and soundtrack. I spent my early teens looking for "Marcello" sunglasses... then came my first 007 and it was all dinner jackets after that :)

  3. For trivia-sake: I should add that Ursula Andress assassinates her first victim in the film with a gun-bra, and she tries to lure Mastroianni to a TV commercial for "Ming Tea" so she can kill him on-screen- both were referenced by Mike Meyers in Austin Powers.

  4. This is one of my favorite movies!!! I love that amazing Panton room! Thanks so much for writing about it.

  5. Thank you! Yes, isn't that room amazing? I'm excited to finally see William Klein's Qui ĂȘtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?/1966). From the stills, it looks like there is at least one, cool Op-Art set. It's available on Netflix :)

  6. I must Netflix it and check that one out - thanks for the tip! Awesome blog!! :D

  7. Polly Magoo is fantastic. I'm guessing the Op Art still you've seen is the one with all the models made up like Peggy Moffit with her Sassoon bob?

    Have you seen this Japanese commercial from 1967? Super Mod.

  8. I'm in the middle of Polly Magoo- it is fantastic! Thank you for suggesting that Japanese commercial. So Cool!

    Look for related articles soon :) -Jason