The Designated Victim (1971)
By: CJ on April 23, 2009  | 
DVD
Shameless Screen Entertainment (UK). All Regions, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Italian 2.0 mono, English 2.0 mono. English Subtitles. 95 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Maurizio Lucidi
Starring: Tomas Milian, Pierre Clementi, Katia Christine
Screenplay: Fulvio Gicca, Fabio Carpi, Luigi Malerba
Country: Italy
External Links
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UK indie label Shameless Screen Entertainment have quickly established themselves as purveyors of fine Euro-cult goodness, providing UK genre fans with the opportunity to view some real gems. The Designated Victim, I must admit, is one film I'd never heard of, but I'm thrilled to have discovered this long-neglected diamond. I'm rather baffled, though, as to why the likes of Blue Underground et al never got round to picking this up, because it's a cracking Euro thriller and deserves as wide an audience as possible - so kudos to Shameless for including this in their first roster of titles.

Stefano Argenti (Tomas Milian) is trapped in a loveless marriage to his wealthy, but cold wife. Stefano desperately wants to get his hands on his wife's money and also to be free of her so that he can be with his mistress. A chance meeting with a stranger, the rich Count Matteo (Pierre Clementi), leads Stefano into unpredictable territory, however. Matteo proposes to Stefano that they do each other a murderous favour. Matteo understands Stefano's predicament and offers to kill his wife and in return Stefano is to kill Matteo's brother. Matteo claims that his brother is trying to kill him and needs to be free of him just as much as Stefano wants to be free of his wife. Stefano laughs this off and to his detriment doesn't take the proposition seriously. Soon, however, Matteo is stalking Stefano at every turn and pressing him to engage in the deal and Stefano quickly realises that his new acquaintance is deadly serious. When his wife is murdered, Stefano knows immediately what has happened – worse still, all the evidence points to himself. He finds himself in a race against time to prove his innocence – but Matteo has an ace up his sleeve: he has the evidence that will clear Stefano's name, but Stefano must fulfil his end of the bargain in order to obtain this evidence. Stefano starts running out of options – fulfill the bargain or face prison…

The film plays out like a perverse Giallo twist on the themes present in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, only here it's given a unique Euro flavour and alters the ending somewhat. Director Maurizio Lucidi makes full use of the wonderful Venice locations and moves things along at a good, even pace. The actors also put in sterling performances – Pierre Clementi is positively hypnotic as the enigmatic Count Matteo and yet also exudes an air of brooding menace. There's something deeply unsettling about his character which gets the hairs on the back of your neck bristling – and yet he is strangely charismatic. The ever-reliable Tomas Milian yet again gives a faultless performance; Milian's acting is so naturalistic that it never fails to engage me, whatever he's in. He never seems to be acting; he's always so comfortable in the roles he takes on.

This is an absolutely essential addition to any Eurocult fan's collection and Shameless have given this hidden gem a deservedly top-notch release. Although, it must be noted, that this is something of a reconstruction. 99% of the film looks absolutely stunning, only occasionally giving way to lesser quality inserted footage that was obviously missing from the master supplied. Saying that, I'd rather it be included than not at all, even if it is of lesser quality. This is undoubtedly the fullest version that will ever be available, so don't be put off, it's literally a few seconds here and there and doesn't distract at all.

This movie stands up well to its contemporaries and even surpasses them in many respects. Whilst containing many Giallo-esque elements, it's more of a psychological thriller. With that in mind, the violence is pretty minimal and nudity is brief. Where this film scores points is in its execution – it moves along steadily and never leaves you bored for a second. Milian and Clementi play off each other brilliantly and every scene they're in together is spellbinding. We, the viewer, know that Matteo is serious, so it's fun to see the full awful truth dawning slowly on Stefano. Director Lucidi also has the added benefit of working from a clever, intelligent script, some of which was contributed by Aldo Lado, who viewers will be familiar with as the director of Short Night of the Glass Who Saw Her Die? and the somewhat notorious Night Train Murders. Lado also worked as a second unit director on this film.

I cannot recommend this film highly enough – it's an absolute beauty.
Video
As already noted, the film has a few seconds of lesser quality inserted footage here and there, aside from that, the transfer is rich and colourful and shows off the fabulous Venetian locations to striking effect. There's the occasional blemish, but nothing jarring; just a little bit of light print damage here and there – and the film goes 'wobbly' or a moment towards the end. Like I say, nothing that's especially distracting, and overall it's a superb transfer and framed in its proper aspect ratio of 2.35:1.
Audio
Two audio tracks are provided; the original Italian with optional subtitles or the English dub. Both are presented in 2.0 mono but are surprisingly full and rich. Where some Euro titles on DVD have fallen down is in the audio department, providing serviceable but tinny audio tracks – it seems here that some trouble has been taken in making sure that the bottom end of the sound, as well as the top end, is present – and it shows. I found the sound very pleasing and not piercing, which can't be said of all Euro titles released onto DVD.
Extra Features
A handful of extras have been included, which are all welcome bonuses. First up is a 'fact track' by the extremely knowledgeable Stefan Novak. This track plays out in the form of subtitled information throughout the film and is very informative. It covers all aspects of the production including some very obscure information – Stefan really knows his stuff. Next we have a selection of deleted scenes and it quickly becomes apparent why they were deleted. Many of the scenes give too much away, too early on, so they were understandably removed – it's obvious nothing was deleted for censorship reasons and it would have been a mistake to try and re-insert them into the film. Sometimes deleted scenes were excised for good reason. Lastly there's a 'Collector's Art Gallery' which is exactly what it says it is. Oh, and there's also a handful of trailers for other Shameless releases – but, personally, I've never really considered trailer ads an extra. Still, it's handy if you want know what other titles are available in the Shameless product line.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
A terrific Euro thriller that truly deserves a wide and appreciative audience – they don't come much better than this. It should also be noted that this is the full, uncut version, so there's no need to worry about BBFC tampering. I truly hope that Shameless will unearth more hidden treasures in times to come, as I for one am only to happy to buy them and watch them. I cannot recommend this highly enough; I loved every second of it. Milian is always a joy to watch and Clementi has become a new favourite too, I'll certainly be investigating more of his work, if I get the chance. Shameless have done us UK fans proud and I can do nothing but sing their praises. More like this please!

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