A typically gaudy souvenir from Jules Dassin’s pretentious, post-HUAC Euro-wanderings, 10:30 P.M. Summer is ludicrous enough to merit inclusion in the recent Cult Camp Classics DVD collection. (Vol. 5: Faux Alienation, anyone?) The story, a misbegotten collaboration between Dassin and Marguerite Duras set in a small Spanish village, opens in the midst of a crime of passion as a local shoots his unfaithful wife and her lover, and the tone of overheated melodrama is readily carried over to the main romantic triangle. Maria (Melina Mercouri) and Paul (Peter Finch) are passing through town in an effort to save their crumbling marriage, though the therapeutic nature of their trip is not helped by the presence of Claire (Romy Schneider), Maria’s crypto-lesbian pal and Paul’s mistress; while Claire and Paul smooch under stormy skies (no thunderclap and tilted camera angle is missed to signal “passion”), Maria becomes obsessed with the young fugitive husband (Julián Mateos), who, hiding from the authorities, comes to symbolize her own spiritual restlessness and yearning for freedom. The material is keyed up to Antonioniesque abstraction, yet the picture’s limpness becomes more obvious when compared to the work of a different Italian master. As in Roberto Rossellini’s Voyage in Italy, 10:30 P.M. Summer follows the journey of a couple (similarly played by the director’s inamorata and a British actor) toward self-evaluation, but where Rossellini downplays the drama for profound contemplation, Dassin cranks it up for risible set pieces. It’s difficult to pick the choicest bit of camp here, but honors should go to Maria and Claire’s shared shower, which is capped with a close-up of Mercouri’s soaked yet impeccably unsmeared lips and plays like an ad for Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?‘s Stay-Put Lipstick. Part ennui-laden travelogue and part showcase for Mercouri’s Anthony-Quinn-with-boobs shtick, the film works best in the silent patches in which the heroine comes to the aid of the fugitive, mainly because the viewer is finally spared such lines as “I watched a couple making love once…are you shocked?” or “White, white, white is the color of my true love.”
The crisply framed visuals capture the alternately lush and harsh Spanish locations, though the thin soundtrack misses much of the dialogue and the stereotypically "exotic" castanet-clicking (which may not be entirely a bad thing).
The menu looks nice.
10:30 P.M. is still too early for Dassin's turgid melodrama.