Vintage Cable Box: “10”, 1979

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“Whenever Mrs. Kissel breaks wind, we beat the dog.”

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“10”, 1979 (Dudley Moore), Orion Pictures

“I feel betrayed”, cries Dudley Moore’s character at his surprise birthday party. He may be frightened. He might be terrified at the prospect of being 42. While reconciling his lost youth with chipper, upbeat girlfriend Julie Andrews, he secretly covets the easy sexual power of his neighbors, whom leave the curtains open for him and his telescope to spy on their encounters. On his way from a brainstorming session with oversexed but adorable, velour-wearing homosexual collaborator Robert Webber, he locks eyes with lovely bride-to-be Bo Derek. Distracted, he slams his custom Rolls (with 8-track!) right into the front of a cop car, basically setting up a series of embarrassments, from banal to severe, for Moore’s fragile male ego.

Originally a writer (with partner Peter Cook, with whom he also appeared in “The Wrong Box” and “Bedazzled”) for Beyond The Fringe, Dudley Moore was a mainstay of 80’s screwball comedies, and “10” was his first collaboration with Blake Edwards. Moore and Edwards would later make the bigamist comedy, “Micki & Maude”. While specializing in portraying lovable drunks, Moore was also able to find sadness and desperation in his characters.

In talks with his analyst (a refreshing John Hancock), he reveals an inexplicable infatuation with Bo Derek. His insecurity is the result of frustration with middle age. Hancock indirectly encourages Moore’s pursuit of the girl. He cases the newlywed’s minister (Casey Adams) in an effort to gather information about her (while barely suppressing the urge to laugh his ass off at the minister’s inept songwriting skills). He arranges an appointment with Derek’s dentist father (Benson’s James Noble), who performs major oral surgery on him, hilariously causing Moore to go completely numb and unintelligible. He wanders into one of his neighbor’s naked orgy parties, to the ire of Andrews.

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Moore follows Derek and her new husband (Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones!) to Mexico. He fantasizes about making love to Derek on the beach. He hooks up with a very lovely and neurotic Dee Wallace, but can’t quite bring himself to consummate his relationship with her, and in her vulnerable state, she blames herself. One day while sailing, he spots Derek’s husband, asleep in the ocean, and rescues him from certain death. With Derek’s husband in the hospital, she seeks out Moore to thank him. While initially charming and chaste, she reveals a casual attitude regarding sex. When she finally seduces Moore, he is turned off by her advances and seeks to correct his own obsessive behavior, by repairing his relationship with Andrews.

“10” is a clever, intelligent, sexy comedy that is also surprisingly sweet, honest, and affectionate. It speaks to the objectification of women (and men) while digging deeper, past the notions of libido and ageism, into the psychological motivations and emotional yearnings of men and women. An enormously influential sex comedy for the next decade, very few movies would be able to repeat the movie’s formula and box office success.

This week marks the official start of Dudley Moore Month here at Vintage Cable Box. I had not realized, until now, how many of his movies I had seen (and loved). A gifted linguist, comedian, and musician, Dudley Moore passed away in 2002, and the world became a little less interesting.

“Englishmen who go to California never recover.”
Wilfred Sheed

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

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