Ten Days' Wonder (1972) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's notes


Ten Days' Wonder is a mystery film from "the French Hitchcock", Claude Chabrol.

It begins with Norman Bates, an aspiring sculptor, waking up in a Paris hotel room with blood on his hands and no memory of the previous four days. Desperate for help, he calls his old university philosophy professor and asks him to lend an analytical eye to his life, to help him determine if he is a killer, or insane, or both, or neither.

The professor accepts an invitation to the lavish country estate where Norman grew up. Norman's dad (Orson Welles) is approximately the richest man on the planet, and during his years in the French countryside, he chose to alleviate his loneliness by raising two orphan children whom he found. Orson raised the children together as brother and sister, then adopted the orphan boy as his son, and the orphan girl as  ... his wife. Thus was the little girl suddenly promoted from Norman's sibling to his stepmother.

Norman Bates has already confessed to the professor that he has had an ongoing affair with his stepsister/stepmother, and that he is being blackmailed by a mysterious stranger who will tell ol' Orson about the affair unless he gets some substantial sums in cash. Norman is afraid that if Orson finds out about the affair, he will take drastic action against the lovers, and this might even include serving wine before its time.

The professor doesn't really care if all these people kill and swindle each other but, as a Frenchman, he can't allow the wine desecration, so he agrees to attempt to piece together the mystery during his time at the estate, trying to determine the mystery of the bloody hands as well as the identity of the blackmailer.

Essentially, the film is a four character stage play based upon an Ellery Queen story. Ellery Queen is the pseudonym of two New York authors (Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee, for you trivia buffs) whose mysteries became the basis of many movies and TV series. Unfortunately, instead of playing out like a mystery, this story unravels as a Greek Tragedy with Orson as Zeus and his "children" taking up various mythological themes. (For example, there is the obvious Oedipus/Electra element, and the symbol of Orson's head on the statue of Jupiter which Norman Bates is carving and eventually destroys.)

Ol' Norman acts stranger in this film than in he did Psycho or Crimes of Passion, and he wears one of the strangest wardrobes ever conceived. According to one of Orson's pompous speeches, they all seek to remain permanently frozen in 1928, so Norman runs around in his best Gatsby clothing. More accurately, he dressed as Gatsby would have dressed if he had been a flaming queen. Welles himself wears those same plus-sized bow ties that he would later seem to wear on every talk show in America, as if he truly just stepped out of his Paul Masson commercials. For some inexplicable reason, Welles wore a false nose even though he was, in all other respects, simply just being Orson Welles. I can't fathom why he did that, since it was not very different from his own nose, but the truly uncomfortable part of it is that the nose was green (left)!

Director Claude Chabrol has a great reputation, but whatever talent he had was rarely on display in this film. The atmosphere is drab, the pacing glacial, and a sense of smooth narrative is completely missing. It's such a dull movie that my mind kept wandering, and I had to go back over scenes to pick up on missing details. There are three or four sudden plot twists during the denouement and explanation of the mystery, and that solution was actually fairly clever, but in order to get to that point in the film, you'd really have to want to. What little forward movement the film has is weighted down with the slow pace and gravitas of classical drama, incredibly slow and breathy line recitations by Orson, heavy-handed symbolism, Biblical allusions, and pretentious pseudo-psychology.


DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen letterboxed 1.66. Inconsistent transfer, not newly cleaned up.

  • audio commentary by three film critics

  • a small still gallery, and a poor quality trailer



Anthony Perkins shows his buns.

Marlene Jobert shows her buns clearly, and her breasts not so clearly.

Tuna's notes

In the feature length commentary, three film experts go into excruciating detail about shot selection, movie homages, and symbolism, obviously considering this an art film. Frankly, I just saw it as 101 minutes of exposition with no real mystery and a completely predictable outcome. It was filmed without live sound, as is usually the case with Italian films, so the final English dialogue was looped in after the fact, making it sound hollow, and I found the "arty" camera work to be both distracting and too dark.

The Critics Vote

  • no major reviews online

The People Vote ...


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a D. Chabrol is known as a great filmmaker, but this is a poor film, like a  1970s American drive-in movie from Roger Corman. The basic story is interesting, but it is lazily edited so that there is absolutely no suspense, and the revelation of the mystery provides none of the usual pleasure derived when a solution is posed. The atmosphere is ordinary, and the dramatic movement is slower than continental drift. In addition, there is no anamorphic enhancement on the DVD, and the film has not been cleaned up for this release.

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