on 31 July 2013
Stefano Argenti is an unhappily married businessman, he's having an affair with a model and desperately wants to sell the business and return to Venezuela with her. There's a big problem with his plan, he needs his wife to agree to sell and she's having absolutely none of it. When he takes his mistress, Fabienne, on a short trip to Venice, he meets the rich aristocrat Count Matteo Tiepolo and they quickly strike up a strange bond. Matteo comes up with the idea that he could kill Stefano's wife, and in return, Stefano will kill Matteo's cruel brother. Stefano never actually agrees to the plan, but when Stefano's wife is killed, Matteo starts to put pressure on Stefano to return the favour.
Stefano is played brilliantly by Tomas Milian, he makes a character that isn't all that pleasant, really quite likeable. This is very different to most of the roles I'm used to seeing him in, he's mostly confused, indecisive and didn't really want his wife dead, and he certainly doesn't want to kill. Milian became a big star in Italy in the '60s and '70s appearing in some great films such as Django Kill!, Face To Face, Run, Man, Run, Tepepa, Perversion Story, Companeros, Don't Torture A Duckling and Almost Human. He moved to the US in the late '80s where he remains today regularly appearing in US films and TV shows. Pierre Clémenti is just as good as Count Tiepolo, he's a very strange character who despite appearing to want to befriend Stefano, he often comes across as more of a stalker and is quite creepy. He swans around in outrageous clothes, regularly talks of philosophy, romanticism, and controlling one's own destiny. He's extremely decadent, and at times the relationship between himself and Stefano almost comes off as homoerotic. I'm not very familiar with most of Clémenti's work, but he appears to have carved out a very good career in supporting roles until his death in 1997. The supporting actors give good performances, but this film is all about Milian and Clémenti.
The Designated Victim AKA La Vittima Designata is masterfully directed by Maurizio Lucidi, it's a real slow-burner that revels in introducing us to the characters before allowing the situation to escalate. The first 45 minutes or so may bore some viewers, but I thought it was interesting and enjoyed watching Matteo essentially catch his prey. It's the second half of the film where it really picks up and becomes a gripping thriller that was clearly inspired by Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train. The music is great by Luis Bacalov, it really sets the tone and there's a great music cue that kicks in every time Matteo and Stefano bump into each other in the first half of the film. There's a brilliant song by The New Trolls who are an Italian progressive rock band, it's called My Shadow In The Dark and is played a few times throughout the film. The cinematography is of a very high standard, I especially enjoyed the shots of a foggy Venice. There's a little nudity, but there's no blood or gore as this is a very different type of film from the usual stuff Shameless release.
Shameless Screen Entertainment have done another great job with this release, and the picture quality is really nice for the most part. It does get pretty poor now and then, but they do explain just before the film starts that until now the film had been hacked up and unloved for years, and it has been especially hard to reconstruct due to the wide variety of source materials used. There's the option to watch the film in English or Italian with English subtitles available, this is one of the very few films where I actually prefer the dubbed version over the Italian with subtitles. I love the voice that they gave to Matteo, I found his character much blander when I watched it in Italian with subtitles. There's a commentary track which plays as subtitles full of information across the bottom of the screen as the film plays, theatrical trailer, picture gallery, deleted scenes and trailers for other films released by Shameless.
The Designated Victim is a really good thriller, fans of Milian or Clémenti should find a lot to enjoy as they both produced good performances. I love Hitchcock and I really liked Strangers On A Train, but I do slightly prefer this film and wouldn't hesitate in recommending the film to anyone looking for a slow-burner with a great ending.
on 30 September 2011
Milian plays Stefano Argenti, a successful advertising designer who wants to sell his share of the company and move back to his native Venezuela. Unfortunately for him, his cold-hearted wife is the share signatory, and refuses to sell, trapping Stefano in an awkward position. When he takes Fabienne, his mistress, to Venice for a few days he encounters a bizarre, debonair aristocrat Count Matteo Tiepolo (Pierre Clémenti) on three separate occasions. They form a strange bond, as Matteo explains his unconventional moral attitudes "Murder is an experience I've never had...isn't there anyone you'd like to kill?", and before you know it, he proposes the perfect crime: Matteo kills Stefano's wife and in return, Stefano kills Matteo's cruel brother. This is far from your typical Shameless release. The Designated Victim is not a giallo, nor does it contain gratuitous amounts of violent deaths. It's basically just a tight little thriller - an Italian re-imagining of a Hitchcock movie, but it's apparent that director Lucidi is no Hitchcock (although I never regarded Strangers on a Train as one of his best).
His style does flirt with inspiration and he avoids prolonging the procedural aspects of the police investigation, which nevertheless plays an important part of the plot. The plot itself is rather slowly paced and it has to be said there's not a great deal of excitement; I was never on the edge of my seat waiting to see what's going to happen, and that's unfortunate since the film is supposed to be a thriller. It's all very well orchestrated however, and the film has themes that go deeper than merely what we're seeing on screen. Director Maurizio Lucidi obviously wanted to keep the film clean, and therefore we don't see any murders actually happen, which is a bit of a disappointment. The locations are all very beautiful and well shot, and this brilliantly offsets the dark themes of the film.
Shameless have produced the ultimate "fan edition" of this title, even providing the disc with a number of extras and both the Italian soundtrack, with newly translated English subtitles, and the English dub track. The film, which is presented in its 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamophic enhancement looks great for the most part, with only the occasional nick or blemish of the image. Extras include a photo gallery, deleted scenes, the original theatrical trailer and a Shameless "original" trailer. There is also an on screen text commentary track which provides a wealth of facts and trivia on the cast and crew. Although not a spectacular thriller the film is still quite rare and fans of Italian cinema might want to check it out.
I am quite a fan of Shameless. They present good quality (where available) prints of long unseen Giallo movies, with on the whole good notes. However not all their releases are above a bit of criticism. Basically, as someone else aptly notes, this film is a bit dull. In this case the sleeve notes are a bit misleading as maybe less than a third is filmed in Venice (what is appears very atmospheric and adds a heck of a lot to ones enjoyment), but the real problem lies in the fact that because there is so much talk it needs a really strong cast and tho Pierre Clementi as the very fey villain tries hard the dubbing renders him amusing (to me). The film also suffers from the lack of a really sexy strong actress (Fenech?Balkan?Muti?Suzy Kendall?Tina Aumont? etc), but then there isn't the part there to attract them, so it rests on the 2 males (the other is Thomas Milian) to hold it together and the dubbing fails them. The film is not a total failure-the ending is good, and the extras fun. The print and sound are good tho it's a bit of a mystery why Shameless went to the bother of proudly inserting previously missing sequences which frankly don't make a scrap of difference. Shameless fans-get it and enjoy. Others - well - think twice perhaps (Amazon price is good enough to take a chance)
on 10 October 2010
Stefano (Tomas Milian) is a weathly married buisness man who is having an affair with Fabienne Béranger (Katia Christine) a famous model and he wants to sell his company and run away with her but his wife has all the company signed in her name and she is reluctant to sell out her shares but after a chance meeting with the Count Matteo Tiepolo (Pierre Clementi) who comes up with the idea that he will kill Stefano's wife in return that he kills his brother, things all turn for the worst.
This is a fine and exciting thriller which is a remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic Strangers on a train. Tomas Milian gives a great performance as Stefano who is confused as to what he should do while constantly been staked by creapy Matteo in what I think was Pierre Clementi's career best performance.
Theres a fine music score by Luis Enriquez Bacalov and the direction by Maurizio Lucidi who keeps up the suspense from start to finnish. The only problem I had with the film was the way the film ended, the twist I thought was great but the sudden freeze frame finnish I felt was to premature and I wanted to know what was going to happen to Stefano.
Other than that slight downfall I was really impressed by this film and would reckomend it to anyone who is a fan of Giallo's or thrillers.
The Designated Victim is one of those once-rare films that's developed a small cult following that the film itself doesn't really justify now it's more widely available. It's a spin on Strangers on a Train (sans train) that sees Tomas Milian's architect befriended by Pierre Clementi's aristocrat, looking like a fey Eurotrash androgynous vampire with a touch of Russell Brand, who offers to swap murders with him. He'll kill Milian's wife who won't let him sell his share in the advertising business they started with her money, and Milian will kill Clementi's brother. Naturally, Milian doesn't take it seriously until his wife is murdered and a mounting trail of incriminating evidence paints him into a corner where the only way to prove he's not a murderer is to commit murder... which should all be much more interesting than it plays out. Milian's character is more interesting than his equivalent in the Hitchcock film: morally compromised, forging his wife's signature to seal the deal but the kind of half-hearted criminal who still deposits a fifth of his ill-gotten gains in her account to salve his conscience. Unfortunately, Clementi seems stuck playing someone who's more an affectation than a real person and their relationship simply isn't interesting enough to carry a film this sedate. It's not a giallo and barely even a thriller for most of its running time, more one of those stories of moral decay and inertia set partially in the grim out of season Venice so beloved of filmmakers who weren't in a hurry to tell a story in the 70s. And director Maurizio Lucidi certainly is in no hurry here as the film slowly ambles to its all too predictable twist ending. Indeed, it's all too easy to see why the film was cut, though at least one cut abbreviates a crucial scene regarding Clementi's motivation to kill (he rather likes the idea of taking God's job himself).
Shameless' reconstructed UK DVD isn't quite the uncut film - some snippets are relegated to the deleted scenes bin while the restored footage is pretty easy to spot by the changing aspect ratio - but it's certainly a good presentation of a not really good enough 'lost' movie. If only it weren't so... well, dull.
on 24 May 2010
This is a crime film from Italy from the early 1970's and it's a remake of a earlier film.
It's got a great print that isn't falling apart like other companies releases of older movies too. The lead actors put on solid performances and the movie holds up well. This isn't a standard giallo (gloved killer mystery movie) though which is my favorite type of italian movie but it's certainly a good crime movie that is perhaps giallo in it's violence and murder aspect. We know who the killer is here and unlike most giallos it's not a killing spree it's a set-up involving a hitman. I am glad they got this one out but there's so many true giallos out there to be released on dvd yet. films like : 'the etruscan kills again" , 'giallo de venezia" , 'eyeball" (out in germany as labrynth of the shrekens with english subtitles! , 'the killer reserved nine seats" films like those are pure giallo, a killer kills people , we don't know who they are until the end of the movie and they are pretty cool flicks. But I will take any good italian movie from any region! America is getting out lots of giallos lately but it's never enough in my opinion. The dvd has lots of special features and like no shame the defunct american dvd company most of shameless's releases look very good and at least aren't hacked up looking things. So lets get more true giallos out there like 'whatever happened to solange" and others!
on 6 September 2009
Had this on the shelf for awhile now..just got round to watching it..sunday afternoon,closed curtains..Well all I can say it's totally beautiful..the locations,inside and out are absolutly stunning,grand Italian interiors and the beautiful Venice..acting wise it's second to none..sometimes(well,alot of the time)the acting in these giallo films let them down,but not in this one...great story,but don't expect loads of killing/blood,it's all about the plot/storyline..alittle nudity in the begining for no apparent reason,and then none from then on,it doesn't need it,so well done to shameless for bringing this to my attention..now then,where's my copy of Venus in furs...