10 Review

Blake Edwards seems to have an inflated reputation based on his work with Peter Sellers on the "Pink Panther" movies. He's certainly not a bad filmmaker, as work such as Days Of Wine and Roses and Experiment In Terror demonstrates, but as a director of comedy he is woefully crass. Time and time again, good ideas are run into the wall through repetition and heavy handed emphasis and bad jokes are hopelessly pursued in the hope that we will give him marks for effort. In 1979, 10 seemed like the last word in sophisticated comedy but it has not dated well.

Dudley Moore, in the film which, much to Peter Cook's chagrin, made him a star, plays a composer, George Webber. Heavily in the throes of a mid-life crisis and neglecting his girlfriend, played by a surprisingly foul-mouthed Julie Andrews, he prefers to play the field. He spies on his neighbour, a swinger whose entire life seems to be one long orgy, and rates every woman he sees on a scale of one to ten. The more gorgeously unattainable, the higher the rating but he believes that a perfect 10 is something that he will never see. However, one day George sees a wedding party, and is instantly struck by the bride (played by the instantly famous Bo Derek)who seems to embody that impossible dream. He embarks on a campaign to discover who she is and ends up following her on vacation to Mexico.

Now, to be fair, you couldn't say that this is a comedy devoid of laughs. Indeed, there are some very well played comic set-pieces which are worth seeing. George's encounter with a tone-deaf Bishop, played by the deliciously befuddled Dick Crockett, is a small classic and I'm fond of the scene where impromptu dental work leads him into a whole series of farcical complications. But there is an awful lot of rather obvious, not to say childish slapstick which is typically over-extended. In one scene, George falls down a hill three times, something which isn't much funnier than seeing him fall down a hill once. You may remember that Edwards similarly killed the sequence in The Pink Panther Strikes Again when Clouseau kept falling into the river. The sexism of the concept hasn't dated well at all but is redeemed by the superb final half hour when impotence, so often avoided as a subject in this sort of comedy, is brought to bear with horribly believable consequences.

The performers work hard to make the film work. Dudley Moore is a very funny comic presence who makes the most of his material. He is still obviously a comedian pretending to be an actor rather than a comic actor but he does the physical stuff well and has a touchingly pathetic edge to his face which works well in the final reel. In places, this seems like a dry run for his best parts in later movies, namely his tour-de-force as Arthur and his underrated turn in Unfaithfully Yours. The supporting cast are well chosen with Bo Derek looking sensational and Brian Dennehy bringing a touch of realism to the small role of a bar tender. The best performance is given by Dee Wallace as one of George's somewhat abortive conquests while the worst is from Julie Andrews. She was never much of an actress but got by in her early films through a certain 'ingenue' charm. Here, the schoolma'amish quality which was appropriate in The Sound of Music is hideously out of place and when she swears, it's like hearing Margaret Thatcher recite the Kama Sutra. Her over-enunciation is unintentionally funny though - her vowels are a whole language of their own, shared only by minor members of the Royal Family and anyone who takes part in Show Jumping.

10 was a huge hit with audiences eager for a respectable sex comedy and the 'naughty bits' are emphasised with unbelievable clumsiness. "Oooh look at the tits on that," the camera says while carefully avoiding showing any male genitalia or close up pubic hair in case we get upset. The rude words are similarly placed to shock middle class sensibilities - but not too much. When it's funny then it's very funny but the real laughs are sporadic and the running time of nearly two hours is self-indulgent and unnecessary - sharper editing would have helped a lot here along with a producer who had the balls to tell Edwards when to stop with the slapstick. But as a time capsule of what was considered on-the-edge commercial comedy back in 1979, it's invaluable.

The Disc

This was one of the first discs I reviewed and I'm pleased to say that a few things have changed for the better. Commenting on Warner's back catalogue releases I said that "The DVD is, as usual with Warner back catalogue titles, devoid of extra features, making it considerably less value for money than, say, "Contact", which retails at the same price." Thankfully, this has improved as the excellent special editions of Singin' In The Rain and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest to name two examples, have demonstrated. Warners were also one of the first major labels to lower their prices and most of their back catalogue is now available for under ten pounds.

In my original review I said that The film has been given a beautifully clear new transfer in 2.35:1 and the anamorphic picture is a pleasure to watch. Sadly, time and experience have led me to a different conclusion. It doesn't look bad certainly, and the only major problem is some print damage, but it's flat and dull to look at with little made of the vivid colours in the Mexican locations.

No quibbles about my comments on the soundtrack. The sound is mono, as expected since the film was not recorded in stereo. It sounds alright, although it's hardly going to test anybody's system to the limits. I would also say that this is clear and crisp without annoying hiss and is thus more than acceptable.

There are no extras and the usual 32 chapter stops. A wide range of subtitles is offered.

10 is a mildly diverting nothing of a film and should be watched with an awareness of the time it was made and an indulgence of the heavy-handed direction. It's worth seeing for some good set-pieces and the last couple of reels which really do break new ground. The DVD is a solid and uninspired effort from Warners. Luckily, if you want to buy the film it's widely available for a lot less than the 1999 RRP of £15.99.

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