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.