Review: Sextette (1978)

Sextette (1978)

Directed by: Ken Hughes | 91 minutes | comedy, musical | Actors: Mae West, Timothy Dalton, Dom DeLuise, Tony Curtis, Ringo Starr, George Hamilton, Alice Cooper, Keith Allison, Rona Barrett, Van McCoy, Keith Moon, Regis Philbin, Walter Pidgeon, George Raft, Gil Stratton

Although few people under the age of eighty will have seen her films, the name Mae West will gently ring a bell with many. In the 1930s and 1940s she was not only busy with her role as a sex symbol, she also wrote plays herself. Mae was known almost as much for her humor (one-liners like “A hard man is good to find” and “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere else”) as she was for her huge bosom. She showed both attributes for the last time in the film ‘Sextette’ (1978).

Since Mae was born in 1893, you can tell that it takes some imagination from the viewer to go along with the story: Marlo Manners (played by Mae) exerts a miraculous sexual attraction on all the men around her, which makes her honeymoon with sixth man Lord Barrington somewhat problematizes. In the same hotel where she is staying with her fresh husband, world leaders meet on peace and such important matters. Of course, like a kind of Mata Hari, Marlo easily wraps all world leaders around her wrinkled finger (“for Uncle Sam I’ll do it”). Admittedly, they don’t get much more wrong than ‘Sextette’. And that is the charm of the film.

From the opening scene it’s clear and as the film progresses it becomes more and more clear: ‘Sextette’ is camper than camp. Sprayed-on and decrepit Mae West herself looks like a transsexual. She poses in many shiny dresses, complete with boa, supplied by Keith Moon as a gay designer. And to top it off, musical numbers are thrown in every once in a while, from tap dancing photographers to duets, including Neil Sedaka’s “Love Will Keep Us Together.” It is a pity that the cast – apart from the ensemble and perhaps Alice Cooper – has little musical talent and Mae West herself also seems to have very little voice left.

Still, the musical interludes are a welcome change from the horribly bland dialogue (Mae answers only in suggestive one-liners: “How do you like it in London?” – “I like it anywhere”). Also the many big stars who have been snared, in addition to the aforementioned Keith Moon can be seen, among others: Ringo Starr as kleptomaniac director and ex-husband Laslo, Tony Curtis as Russian politician and ex-husband Alexei and Alice Cooper as ( unfortunately very neat looking) hotel clerk. In addition, George Hamilton does a nice job as mafioso Vance, especially in the scene where he holds the world leaders at gunpoint: “Stick ’em up, world!”.

With all the crazy madness and horniness, the film is reminiscent of a twisted version of the old ‘Pink Panther’. The result is both fascinating and obnoxious. On imdb, the film was compared to a ‘train wreck’: horrific, but you can’t take your eyes off it. For those who don’t take everything too seriously, ‘Sextette’ can still provide quite a bit of entertainment. With enough booze and rioters in the house, the film will undoubtedly double the number of stars.

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