The World Ten Times Over Review
Billa (Sylvia Syms) and Ginnie (June Ritchie) share an apartment in London and work as “nightclub hostesses”. Ginnie is having an affair with Bob (Edward Judd), the married son of a property tycoon. Meanwhile, Billa has grown to dislike her job, and this comes to a head when her father (William Hartnell) comes to visit.
Sexual intercourse began in 1963, as per Philip Larkin. Well maybe or maybe not, but clearly change in sexual mores was definitely in the air, and it naturally became reflected in popular culture. That included the films…or at least as far as the BBFC’s then secretary John Trevelyan allowed. This is one film from the time where you can sense British filmmakers intending to push the envelope: June Ritchie follows her almost-nude scene in the previous year’s A Kind of Loving with another one here. At one point we see the outside of a cinema showing the then-BBFC-banned West End Jungle.
On the other hand, the film seems a little coy in other areas: while the source of Billa and Jackie’s income is not hard to guess, the word “prostitute is never uttered. What had to be cut before it could be shown to audiences over the age of sixteen on its original release is now suitable in its complete form for twelve-year-olds. The title is certainly less sensationalist than the one the US distributor changed it to: Pussycat Alley.
The solidity of the performances saves the film. Sylvia Syms seems to relish playing a girl gone bad, and her scenes with a moustached William Hartnell (just before he became the first Doctor Who) her self-deluding father work very well. June Ritchie doesn’t top her performance in A Kind of Loving but does well enough, though her character is at the mercy of a melodramatic storyline. She and Syms do convince as friends and housemates however. Edward Judd gives a capable performance, though the film isn’t about him. Burly character actor Francis De Wolfe looks awkward in a suit and tie, and he’s miscast anyway as Judd’s father: he’s some four inches taller than him for a start. Although he has no lines and is uncredited, Donald Sutherland makes his screen debut in a nightclub scene and has a joke made at the expense of his height. Some symbolism is less than subtle: in particular the pneumatic drill used by some workers outside Billa and Ginnie's flat.
The director was Wolf Rilla, who had emerged from B movies the previous decade and to some extent stayed there, with occasional TV work, until retiring in the mid-seventies. (He died in 2005.) Rilla is clearly a capable craftsman, though nowadays he’s largely forgotten with the exception of the original Village of the Damned. Much of this may be due to unavailability, especially as black-and-white films are shown less often on television nowadays. His debut feature Marilyn (1953) turned up in a season of British Bs on BBC Four in 2008, but the present film has not had a British television showing since 1974. The World Ten Times Over stands up as a decently crafted melodrama, with sharp black-and-white camerawork from Larry Pizer. If it's inevitably dated, it has also gained interest as a time capsule.
The World Ten Times Over is released by Optimum on a single-layered DVD encoded for Region 2 only.
The DVD transfer is in the original ratio of 1.66:1 and anamorphically enhanced. It's an excellent transfer from an original that is in very good condition: blacks are solid and greyscale is accurate. Contrast, which is vital in a black and white film, is spot-on.
The soundtrack is the original mono, and is clear and well-balanced. Needless to say, this being an Optimum catalogue disc of an English-language film, there are no subtitles available.
The only extra is the theatrical trailer (2:33), which begins for the nostalgic with “U trailer for X film” and tends to emphasise the – then – adults-only content of the film.