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Tuesday Morning Foreign Region DVD Report: "The Designated Victim" (Maurizio Lucidi, 1971)

Glenn Kenny

My Lovely Wife is turning into a bit of a wiseass. On hearing the rather dreadful theme song of this Italian-made uncredited remake of Strangers on a Train—a tune by a group called "The New Trolls," the lyrics of which mangle the "to sleep, perchance to dream" bit in that Hamlet soliloquy—she asked me, "So why is it you're doing this film for the Foreign Region DVD Report?"

I shrugged. "I thought it would be easy."

"Easy in the way that allowing yourself to be tortured is easy?"

Hardy har har.

A little later, she said, "Hey! Russell Brand!"

Well, no, it's not Russell Brand, and she knew that, but god damn, doesn't the great Pierre Clementi rock an intense avant le lettre Brand vibe with his hair grown out like that? It's Clementi's fey/sinister, slightly risible turn in this film, in the Robert-Walker-equivalent role of the decadent psycho who comes up with the switching-murders gambit, that's the most engaging feature of the picture, really. Clementi could be genuinely, creepily menacing with very little effort, as anybody who's seen either Belle de jour or The Conformist knows, so his ridiculousness in this film seems the result of entirely deliberate effort, and it's nice to see this great artist looking as if he's enjoying a lark.

The other really engaging feature of the film is its fabulous production design (by Enrico Sabbatini, who also did Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve, and later—and more respectably!—Joffe's The Mission), replete with "groovy" furniture, unusual foyers, and ashtrays everywhere.

Tomas Milian, on the other hand, while usually better than reliable, here seems to phone in his charm and "concern" as the film's Farley-Granger-equivalent. For those keeping count, the wife in this scenario is not a trollop but an uptight heiress; the relative of the psycho needing to be gotten rid of is a brother, not a father; and the conspiring is done, or not done depending on whose conscience you believe, not in a train compartment but by street vendors in Montmartre, casinos, and Venice gondolas. The whole thing is nothing if not picturesque.

But also rather bland, and leisurely, and rather irritatingly boosted with gratuitous "shock" effects when the going gets on the dull side—the aftermath of the film's first murder has a quite uncharacteristically faux-Bava-esque feel to it, after which the film lurches back to its customary torpor. Attention should be paid, however, to the attention paid by this DVD's producer, Shameless Screen Entertainment, to this title. The DVD, a Region 2 PAL presentation from the UK, presents a "rebuild" edit of the film, incorporating footage from different sources to cobble together the most complete cut possible, and while there aren't many supplements, it's clear that a good amount of care was taken with this, which makes this genre fan curious about looking into some of the other titles the label offers. Which can be checked out here.

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ColumnsMaurizio LucidiTuesday Morning Foreign Region DVD Report
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