AUTHOR’S NOTE: Seeing as how so much of Austin Powers was influenced by this film, it seemed natural to bring back this review, originally posted on September 1, 2018. This is one of my favorite of the Eurospy-influenced movies. Enjoy!
How do you avoid warfare in the future? The Big Hunt is the answer. It’s the most popular form of entertainment there is, bringing in all types of people who want to be rich and famous. Every competitor has to complete ten rounds of the game — five as a hunter, five as a victim. If you survive, you retire with more wealth than you can ever dream of. And if you don’t make it…
Caroline (Ursula Andress, Dr. No, The Mountain of the Cannibal God) is one of those competitors, using a powerful shotgun to hunt her final target. If she gets a perfect kill, right in front of the cameras, she’ll make even more money, thanks to her sponsorship from the Ming Tea Company. And that target? Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni, La Dolce Vita, 8½), a man whom she finds herself in love with. The big problem is neither is sure if they have the right target and if you accidentally kill the wrong person, you lose the game.
From the jazzy score by Piero Piccioni to a scene where Andress kills a victim with a bra that has gun barrels inside it, this film is pure 60’s pop spy retro-future perfection. Director Elio Petri (A Quiet Place in the Country) turned Robert Sheckley’s short story into a comic book-looking film with incredibly gorgeous lead actors. Anne Margaret and Sue Lyon (Lolita herself!) were both considered for the role, but no one but Andress would have been right in my opinion.
If you’re watching this and thinking, this movie looks like Austin Powers, that’s no accident. The character of Austin Powers started in a Mike Myers music side project known as…Ming Tea. Yes, the very same Ming Ting from this movie. Featuring The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs as Gillian Shagwell, Matthew Sweet as Sid Belvedere, Stuart Johnson as Manny Stixman and Christopher Ward as Trevor Aigburth, the band recorded several songs, including two that appeared in Austin Powers films.
The look of those films come directly from this movie and other 60’s pop art films, such as Barbarella, Danger: Diabolik! and Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (it’s not an accident that two of Bava’s films are on this list, he had this look down pat). It’s worth mentioning that the film’s costumes were designed by Andre Courreges, one of the most iconic clothing designers of the twentieth century, who is credited with innovating so much of the mod look and is credited with redefining the go-go boot and inventing the mini-skirt (along with Mary Quant).
If you’re looking for this yourself, Shameless Films put out one that works on UK region players that has a lenticular animated cover. For those of us in the US (and elsewhere), Blue Underground has also released this on DVD.