Wednesday, February 2, 2011

10 (Orion Pictures 1979) Warner Home Video

Some films are timeless. Others are a product of their time. Blake Edwards '10' (1979) is of this latter ilk; an irreverently sexist, playfully comedic and oddly seductive screwball treat that deals with the insecurities of a middle aged man, in this case played to foppish perfection by the irrepressibly witty Dudley Moore. Considered to be a breakout film at the time of its release, and certainly one that shot both Moore and the film's resident sex symbol, Bo Derek to immediate super stardom, '10' has not aged well and, by today's standards, seems much more the quaint relic from some forgotten past than the once contemporary sex farce it was originally intended to be.

The slick screenplay by Blake Edwards begins in earnest on the eve of composer George Webber's (Dudley Moore) forty-second birthday. Although initially delighted that his girlfriend, Samantha Taylor (Julie Andrews) would concoct such a night's festivities in his honour, George quickly falls into a middle-aged funk, compounded by the fact that his neighbour (Don Calfa) across the way - whom George spies on through a telescope - is a porn producer who frequently indulges in wild orgies with dozens of naked women. Samantha senses George's angst. She even sympathizes with it, though she cannot abide George's use of the term 'broad' to define all women.

George's gay lyricist, Hugh (Robert Webber) encourages prudence on George's part or risk losing Samantha. But George has succumbed to a sexual frustration that will not abate. On his way home from a scoring session, George catches a fleeting glimpse of young bride, Jenny Hanley (Bo Derek) on her way to church. Mesmerized by her beauty, George accidentally rams head on into a police car, only to discover that his license has expired and that he is missing the registration papers from his car. These concerns, however, take a backseat to George's immediate obsession with Jenny.

George crashes the wedding where he is promptly bitten on the nose by a bee and forced to flee in pain after making quite a scene. Back at his home, Samantha attempts to ease George's folly with compassion and tenderness. Instead, George treats her with a certain contempt that causes mutual friction. Samantha leaves - more angry than hurt.

George's next port of call is the Reverend (Max Showalter) where, under the pretext of discussing his own inadequacies, George learns Jenny's name as well as that of her father, dentist, Dr. Miles (James Noble). George makes an appointment with Dr. Miles, presumably for a last minute check up before leaving on vacation. However, Dr. Noble discovers six major cavities and, while pumping George full of novocaine, also manages to reveal that his daughter and her new husband, David (Sam J. Jones) are vacationing in Mexico.

Swollen from his surgeries, George returns home to his old habits, spying on his neighbour and consuming large quantities of alcohol in self pity. Unfortunately, this latter decision renders him utterly incoherent when Samantha calls. Believing that a burglar has broken into George's home, Samantha calls the police before driving over. In the meantime, George has decided to give the other half a try and arrives at his porn producing neighbour's house in the middle of a wild afternoon party.

Through the telescope Samantha sees George naked with several porn actresses clinging to him. She is infuriated and decides to break off her relationship with George immediately. But George still cannot resign himself to a quiet life. Instead, he flies to Mexico in pursuit of Jenny and her husband. Confused, angry and...frankly, horny, George meets up with Mary Lewis (Dee Wallace), a beautiful, but insecure vacationer at a Mexican retreat whom George decides to take back to his rented bungalow for a night's recreation. Unfortunately, George cannot seem to get excited for Mary and the evening ends in disaster. George taps the resort's bartender, Donald (Brian Dennehy) to glean some sophomoric understanding about women and aging.

The next afternoon, George observes Jenny from a distance, idealizing her into a virginal figure. David decides to take a surfboard and go for a swim. Unfortunately, he falls asleep and drifts out to sea, forcing George to come to his rescue. As gratitude, Jenny offers to take George out to dinner while her husband is recuperating in hospital, and although this gesture cements George's image of Jenny as a goddess, that portrait of perfection is suddenly dismantled when Jenny also offers to take George to bed.

George attempts to satisfy his sexual urges with Jenny, but the seduction is interrupted by a phone call from David. Clearly in an open marriage, Jenny tells David that George is with her - though not in bed - and David thanks George by phone for saving his life. After the phone call, George questions both his own as well as Jenny's ethics and sexual morality; neither of which Jenny seems to be concerned about.

George suddenly realizes that he and Jenny come from two different and irreconcilable generations. He flies home to Samantha, professes his love for her with sober affection and asks her to be his wife. She politely refuses the latter offer, but willingly accepts him on those terms to be her one and only lover - at least, for now. The two share a passionate pas deux under George's piano while George's porn producer neighbour looks on via his own telescope.

Named after that proverbial scale by which human beings measure one another strictly on physical appeal, '10' is a charming time capsule. The film's laissez faire take on hetero and homosexuality, promiscuity and the foibles of mid-life crisis seem not merely from some other space or time, but from another planet all together. Dudley Moore is as obtuse as he remains loveable - providing a genuinely sympathetic portrait of a middle aged man in conflict with his own shortcomings.

The script contains more than a few nuggets of wisdom along the way for which Blake Edwards is justly famous, while also providing some truly outlandish comedic spectacle that is deftly executed mostly by Moore - the one oddball in a landscape populated by otherwise contented crazies. In the final analysis, '10' will appeal to a certain vintage of movie goers who grew up during the late 1970s. It speaks with less confidence to the world at large of today.

Warner Home Video's Blu-Ray is most welcomed. Colors are rich, bold and mostly vibrant. Flesh tones appear quite naturally rendered. Fine detail takes a quantum leap forward. Contrast levels are bang on with deep saturated blacks and pristine whites. There is one extremely brief instance where the film is suddenly and inexplicably marred but excessive age related artefacts including dirt and scratches. Otherwise, the print used in mastering this Blu-Ray is flawless and will surely not disappoint.

The audio is a new DTS 5.1 master. There's really nothing to get excited about here. '10' is a film that won't give your speakers a work out, but the fidelity of this audio is nevertheless solidly represented. The one extra is a vintage 'making of' featurette that is in rough shape with stock footage of Edwards and his crew working behind the scenes. Recommended.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)






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