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4.0 out of 5 stars "I adore melodrama, but I detest comic opera.", 31 July 2013
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This review is from: The Designated Victim [1971] [DVD] (DVD)
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.
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