Old 08-27-2012, 05:18 PM
The designated Victim (1972)

The italian thriller genre of the seventies has spawned a lot more "distinct" films than the slasher-prototypes nowadays loosely labeled as "giallos". Not every genre film from that period is automatically exploitation in the sense of blood and nudity. As a big fan of this type of films I may speculate that the percentage of works that fullfill the exploitation label from what Iīve seen is only about 60%. The other 40% are movies like Footprints on the Moon, Death laid an Egg or todayīs subject, The designated Victim.

A loose remake of Hitchcockīs "Strangers on a Train", the film tells the story of Stefano, whose plans of a bright future with his mistress are seriously screwed by his non-understanding wife. On a stroll with his mistress he runs into Count Mattheo, a decadent aristrocrat (when asked about his female company by Stefano he mentions that he sold her once, just for the experience) who offers him a deal, along with his friendship. Stefano is to kill Mattheoīs abusive brother in turns for Mattheo doing the same to his wife. Thatīs all you need to know about the plot and thatīs also where any similarity to Hitchcockīs movie ends.

This is a very character-focused film, and in turn one thatīs very dependent on itīs actors. Thomas Milan is a talented man and graced many great films but the real show is Pierre Clémenti - although I loathed his character on sight he won me over bigtime as the movie moves on, you really do BELIEVE this guy which made him creepy and unable to look away from. Milan sacrefices his scene-stealing presence a bit here but the story absolutely benefits from that. Stefano is not a hero-type, in fact heīs not a very respectable person at all, and I donīt even mean the cheating. When his wife disses him as a loser itīs kind of hard to argue. Milan also gets to sing the theme song by the way, which should have been on that Ulver 70s cover album.

As I said before, The designated Victim is not a trend-riding exploitation movie - the focus is characters and storytelling. Thereīs no graphic violence at all here and only the opening scene has a brief nude segment. Thereīs lots of homosexual undertones in the relationship between Stefano and Mattheo and the script handles it with class and credibility. The direction and camerawork is splendid taking full advantage of the venice locations and eye-imploding 70s interior decorations (how much psychedelic wallpaper can you take?). The only real issue is that it takes a real long time to unfold - this is not a movie to watch when youīre tired. If you take your time Iīm sure the filmīs tension will grap you by the throat at some point but it sure takes itīs time to do so. Thatīs not a big deal for me though.

The designated Victim is an emo-take on Hitchcock and I mean that in the nicest possible way. While Strangers on a Train and Hitchcockīs work in general is cold and calculating in the way it presents stuff this movie is the opposite. Itīs a warmer, more emotional approach to the material and comes off as a movie completely itīs own. Recommended for fans of slow-burning thrillers big time. Check out the Shameless-DVD.
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