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10

****
1979

‘It’s probably the writer/director’s best film outside of the Pink Panther movies, and the portrait of the artist as a dirty aging  man is one that still resonates today.’

So there I was, pulling the wings of the career of Blake Edwards, when it occurred to me to take another look at arguably his biggest solo success; 1979’s massive hit 10. Or rather, my second look was my first, because this is not the film I saw on tv in 1982; two version of the film were shot, one for tv, one for cinemas, and the full cinema version is the one I preferred to see on this occasion. For starters; this helps; even for the most dedicated voyeur, a sex-comedy with the sex edited out isn’t a great look, and 10 really does need to be enjoyed, oh er missus titter ye not, at the full, uncut length.

In a role written for Peter Sellers, cast as the late George Segal, and then abruptly recast as Dudley Moore when Segal walked, 10 is the story of composer George Webber (Moore) and his middle-age crisis. Unmarried, and in a mutually dependant, negative relationship with his girlfriend (Julie Andrews) Webber has an epiphany when he sees a beautiful girl Jenny (Bo Derek) on her way to her wedding; her husband is Sam Jones, on his way to Flash Gordon fame. Webber follows the couple to Mexico, and finds a way to inveigle himself into her affections before having a change of heart.

I find Edwards’ self-regarding tales of Hollywood melancholy resistible and tiresome; not here, where the screenplay is on point and packed with funny scenes; perhaps Sellers would have done it better, but Moore is no slouch. There’s an extended scene involving a telescope used to spy on a neighbour with a predilection for orgies; Webber tries to try surreptitiously, but knocks himself on the head with it, causing him to fall off the balcony of his house. Webber then unwisely allows Jenny’s dentist father to give him six fillings, is mistaken for an obscene caller by his wife, then thinks that the cops the appear at his house are arresting him for voyeurism; you cannot fault Edwards for developing and expanding his gags in ingenious ways, but he also sets up the idea of a world which send George Webber in a specific direction. From the traffic cops who know him well to the bee that causes him to interrupt Jenny’s wedding, it’s clear that nature is trying to teach the anti-hero a lesson, and the film’s bitter-sweet ending follows through on that.

10 was a trendsetter at the time, but fell out of fashion with its stars. It’s probably the writer/director’s best film outside of the Pink Panther movies, and the portrait of the artist as a dirty aging man is one that still resonates today. I saw Bo Derek at a NYC party years later, and should have said hello, or at least got the zip of my trousers caught in the doors of a lift or something in tune with the pratfall antics featured here.

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  1. Can’t believe you couldn’t do a pratfall not even just for coming face to face with a star like Bo. Maybe not a good idea to use the zip idea, however. This was a very enjoyable hit in the day and it would have been interesting to see what Sellers would do with it. Was this before or after Baywatch and that craze for women running along beaches? As I remember, like in Dr No, women previously emerged sedately from the sea.

    • I think there may be an illustrated book in writing about the evolution of women running along beaches, and I think it may well have started with 10. I guess seeing her wasn’t a game-changer for me in the way that it was for the protagonist here, since I’ve managed to avoid chasing her around the world.

  2. There’s some groaners, but also a willingness to double down on Panther-style slapstick. In an decade of sex and comedy hybrids, I’m not sure there’s a better example of the formula working. As noted, the tv version is quite mystifyingly murky, so hats off to your cinema trip at 14! You win!

  3. I was 14 when it came out, there was a ton of hubbub about it being TOO SEXY a film for the kids to go see. We managed to get in. At the time I thought Bo Derek’s name was Bo Decker. At the end we thought we saw a porn film, despite that most of the film really didn’t have that much going on. Loads of bad slapstick and clowning from Dudley. Your review brings back memories.

  4. Great review and I don’t think I’ve watched this film before! Or maybe I have and it was a lifetime ago. I really admired and loved Dudley Moore, one of a kind and always makes me laugh. Have you ever watched Crazy People 1990. It wouldn’t fly in today’s climate but it is superb. Great read.

    • Now Crazy People has been on my wishlist for a good while, and I’m aware of the reasons it’s so hard to find. But I’ll redouble my efforts. 10 is surprisingly good, many films date badly, but this one kind of endures….

  5. I think the uncut version is better too.

    Did I tell you about the time Bo and I got together and dipped each other in honey?

    Also: This isn’t Kong vs. Godzilla.

    • I don’t believe that you and Bo were ever on the same continent. She’s not big on Canadian public library remainder sections.

      Did you see the last Godzilla film? Utter waste of time. Will address this one if and when I feel ready, but can’t say I’m rushing.

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