I enter the realm of reviewing horrible cinema with perhaps the very peak of silver screen awfulness: Sextette. Based on a 1961 sex comedy stage play written by the raunchy legendary sexpot Mae West, Sextette is the tale of a 28 year-old blonde bombshell actress named Marlo Manners, known as the “Sexiest Woman on Earth”, and her constantly foiled attempts to consummate her wedding to her sixth husband, Sir Michael Barrington, during their honeymoon in a hotel that is also hosting a meeting of world leaders. Throw in a subplot about an audio tape containing Marlo's steamy memoirs – and a lot of secrets about those very same world leaders, all of whom she's bedded – and you have the makings of a potentially very funny show.
I say potentially because I've never seen the play performed, and the movie (I pray) is a significantly altered version. Oh sure, the plot's the same, but the dialogue must have been altered because the shitty lines in this movie are nowhere near as funny as the stuff Mae West was so famous for coming up with. Adding to the disaster is the casting of the film. Imagine: you are producing a movie about a super sexy 28 year-old bombshell actress. It's the year 1977. Who do you get to play the part? Perhaps one of Charlie's Angels? OR maybe Suzanne Somers?
NO. You get MAE FUCKING WEST. All 87 arthritic, immobile, partially blind, completely repulsive ghoulish years of her. WHAT THE FUCK WERE THEY EVEN THINKING? I'm supposed to buy that this is a 28 year-old sex bomb? No amount of heavy makeup, soft-focus photography and vaseline on the camera lens (and there's a lot of all three of those, believe me) is gonna make the magic trick work. She was something in her day. Her day was 1932. By now she was just...well, she looked dead. But her ego was too big to realize it (or her failing eyesight fooled her about how bad she really looked), and thus this movie is the most pathetic example of a star not accepting that their prime is long past.
Oh boy. Well, let's get it over with.
We open at the London cathedral where Marlo Manners and Barrington have just been wed. A mob of fans stands outside chanting “We want Marlo! We Want Marlo!”. Regis Philbin (as himself) does a news story about the wedding which is “the most historic event in this city since the last coronation”.
“For here today, at this beautiful church, a major event is being enacted.”
That is PROOF that Mae West didn't write this. That's the most ungainly sentence I've ever heard. Who even uses the word enacted? It's practically archaic. He couldn't say “a major event is happening”, or “a major event is going on”? He had to use “is being enacted”? Yeesh. Also, we waste no time getting into the creepy sexual comments about how sexy the zombified corpse of Hollywood stardom past is. “The wedding of a world famous figure, and surely this figure is famous the world over!” I don't want to think about old lady West's figure! AHH! Finally, the crowd does me a favor and tramples Philbin (hopefully to death) and shuts him the fuck up. One down, far too many to go.
Finally, Marlo and Michael come out of the church and get into the limo. We are not yet subjected to a close up of Granny West's face. Instead, we get the Marlo Manners theme song, which is so inexplicably bad. Here's some lyrics for ya:
The female answer to Apollo!
Well, OK, from there it gets all unintelligible. I'll assume that's a good thing.
We list the names of the damned, er, that is we watch the opening credits. All these poor, tragic souls.
“Special Guest Star: Tony Curtis”
You know it's bad when Tony freakin' Curtis doesn't want to be treated as an actual cast member.
After an endless driving sequence, the newlyweds arrive at their Hotel, where the lobby is of course packed with fans and reporters. A newsman speaks of how coincidental it is that two earth-shatteringly historic events should occur in the same place: a meeting of world leaders and, who cares about THAT?, Mae West's old lady poon is gonna get some play tonight! Another reporter gives us a tour of the chamber of tortu-um, I mean the honeymoon suite.
“Hello there sports fans, it's time to call 'em as we see 'em!” Well I don't know about you, but that's how I would begin such a segment. “We're here to cover one of the key events of the entire season!” Jesus, how big do we need to inflate Mae West's ego here? I mean, really. This is already getting silly. Anyway, this inappropriately assigned sports anchor introduces us to Mr. Turner (Dom De Luise!), Marlo's assistant or something.
He banishes some men wielding inappropriate shrubbery, making sure to make a quip about how they eat all the oxygen that Marlo will need that night (EW!!!).
I think I need not remark on the bedroom, eh? Picture says a million, billion words.
“Oh, if this bed could only talk!” the reporter says.
“Hey, bite your tongue!” Turner says. THANK YOU. Jesus.
“Marlo loves short marriages and very looong honeymoons! By the time she gets out of bed, there may be a new administration!” HEY TURNER, TAKE YOUR OWN ADVICE.
Oh no. NOOOOOOOOOOOO! SHE'S HERE.
And thus it begins: the endless barrage of Mae West, over 80 and still acting like MAE WEST. That's fucking gross because Mae West was famous for nothing but double entendres. If this review ends abruptly at any point, just know that it's because I bit down on the cyanide pill I hide under my tongue for just such an occasion as an 87 year-old biddy making remarks about having sex.
Reporter: “Do you get a lot of proposals from your fans?”
Marlo: “Yeah, and what they propose is nobody's business!”
That sound you heard faintly in the distance a few hours ago was me retching at that very line as I wrote this. Also, I have to wonder why, exactly, all the reporters cackle with glee at everything she says. I mean, I know this is meant to be funny, but it's really just revolting. Also, there's nothing about this little exchange that should have inspired laughter or, for that matter, any particular reaction:
Reporter: “Where are you spending your honeymoon?”
[Rich: Fired, this man. I promise you. On the grounds of dipshittery]
Marlo: “With my husband, of course.”
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. STOP MISS MANNERS, YOU'RE KILLING ME WITH LAUGHTER!
I...don't get it.
How about this, which produces the biggest laugh of all:
Reporter: “Does getting married mean you're giving up Hollywood?”
Marlo: “Me, give up Hollywood? Are you kidding?”
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HEEHEEHEEHEEHEE! HOHOHOHOHOHOHO! WOO HOOHOOHOO! Ugh.
Suddenly, an Alzheimer's patient leaps to his feet and screams “HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD!” while swinging a bowler hat and umbrella around.
And thus we break into our first song and dance routine of the night. A bunch of dancers who came literally from nowhere appear to serenade us with their rendition of “Hooray for Hollywood”. This also contains some more allegedly witty banter with Marlo and the reporters regarding Big Ben (thank God they avoided the obvious joke there. Thank sweet zombie Jesus God almighty) and other such topics. Ultimately we meet the poor man who was stuck playing husband to the cobwebby snatch (dear God, did I just say that?): Timothy Dalton. I pity him.
Oh Lord. Please, just start the Rapture now. Anything to pull me away from this. They actually said this:
Barrington: “I feel like the first man who landed on the moon!”
Marlo: “Pretty soon, you're gonna be the first man who landed on Venus! MMM!”
Barrington: “I wanted to carry you across the threshold!”
[Rich: Yeah, buddy. Good luck with that. Not like she's an old, swelled up bag of loose flesh that hangs so low you'd trip on it and drop her, shattering her into a million particles of dust.]
Marlo: “Save your strength honey!”
At this point, Barrington closes a door between them, thus sparing us from the innuendo punch line. Thanks, Timothy Dalton! Turner shows up to remind Barrington that Marlo has to be back in Hollywood in five days for a screen test and a fitting for some new clothes.
Barrington: I'm her new leading man, and-”
Don't. Don't do it, Dalton. NO!!!!
“-she won't be needing very many clothes the next few days!”
*At this point, I wept softly for a few minutes. If this were a print publication, it would be tear-soaked*
Anyway, Turner leaves and gets into an elevator, where a shady-looking man hiding behind a newspaper looks at him while a recockulus synth chord blares over the soundtrack. “Villain's dirge” I'll call it, I guess.
Once they're alone, the two men talk about “Her” having to do something “just one more time”. This means Marlo has to fuck someone. OH SHIT. OH CHRIST. OH GOD.
There's a great moment here when someone gets on the elevator, stands there for a few seconds, and then gets back off on the same floor. Why? KOMEDY. A couple of men speaking in sign language get on, and Turner and his cohort are fooled into thinking they're deaf, so they speak openly about their plot. Turns out those guys were just practicing some hand signals for cheating at cards! KOMEDY KOMEDY KOMEDY! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
We return to Marlo's room, where she's dictating her memoirs into an audio recorder. Here we find the MacGuffin of the film and boy is it dumb. Marlo has dictated her ENTIRE LIFE STORY onto this one tape. Cassette tapes hold, what, an hour? How empty is her life, then? Jesus. Also, this tape is bright pink. Tell me who manufactures that product. Anyway, Marlo listens back to her memoir and we get a montage introducing “Sexy Alexi” (Special Guest Star Tony Curtis), a Russian politician who's holding up the world leader conference with his constant votes of “nyet”; and Laslo (Ringo Starr!!!!!!!), a movie director raised by feral gypsies or something. He's an apparent kleptomaniac. Marlo compares him to Lubistch, which she makes sure to say like “lubage”. Ack! In the waiting room to Marlo's bedroom (what a revolting thing to have), Turner flicks on the TV for Barrington. RONA BARRETT~!~!~!~!~!~! reports on the marriage. Barrington expresses his desire to BEAT THIS WOMAN for mentioning that Marlo is married. Oh, how dare she. Turner mentions that this is a live broadcast emanating from the lobby, and that Barrington should go down there and BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF RONA BARRETT.
OK, he says to just talk to her, but we all know what he really meant.
With Barrington gone, Turner bursts into the bedroom and...
Turner: “He's downstairs trying to save your reputation”
Marlo: “He should be up here trying to ruin it!”
...after that...he tells her she needs to fuck Alexi in order to get him to say yes on whatever vote those leaders are having and end the conference. I just vomited in my mouth. A lot.
Aside: How soft can the focus get? Pretty damn soft
Still ain't convincing me she's under 80, though.
Random flashback with Marlo recounting her work for the US government, banging important people into submission to the will of Uncle Sam. Admittedly, that particular form of torture would be very effective. Mercifully, Turner says Alexi actually just wants supper with Marlo. Oh thank God. Anyway, Marlo agrees and Turner is happy. He demands that she hand over her tape so he can shred it to...I dunno, protect someone else's reputation. Marlo scoffs, and then immediately has a change of heart and just goes “eh, here ya go”.
Turner leaves and Marlo turns on the telly to see Barrington talking with Rona. Rona asks if Barrington has been married before and he says no and then mutters some other stuff that makes it very clear that he gave up hope and just settled for the octogenarian gas bag upstairs. There's some KOMEDY involving differences in Barrington's Queen's English and Rona's American English causing Barrington to make himself out as a fag. And no, I don't mean a British cigarette. She thinks he's gay.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, so funny.
Oh, and he makes himself out as a slut, too. “I'm a team player!”
“Of course I'm gay! Happy and gay!”
FUCK YOU, SEXTETTE.
AND THERE'S STILL ANOTHER HOUR TO GO!
Elsewhere, in subplot number 209, the US Athletic Team arrives at the hotel. “Villain's dirge” segues us back onto the elevator for more KOMEDY with Turner and the shady guy.
Real master of disguise, old shady. Anyway, the athletic team piles in, interrupting the conversation. HO HO HO! HEEHEEHEEHE! When they arrive at their floor, the flow of the crowd carries shady right out of the elevator, leaving Turner alone. HA HA HA! Shady runs back and says “sorry, I seem to have gotten... ... ... CARRIED AWAY!” *Rim shot*
And now it's time for a Ha Ha-larious bit with Turner looking for somewhere to get rid of the tape. He mistakes a W.C. for the shredding room (does such a room commonly exist in hotels?), then considers shoving it into some woman's cleavage. Hee hee.
I'm not even gonna say anything about the next bit. You just have to see it to believe it. Captain and Tennille. Disco. Timothy Dalton. Mae West. The sizzling sound you hear isn't a hiss on the soundtrack, it's your brain cells frying.
How do you synopsize that? Thank God for that knock at the door, though. It's Roger (Keith Moon. No, really), the fashion designer. He has, well, designed some fashions for Marlo. This is the one genuinely funny bit so far. Roger is clearly coked up, running around screaming “Wild silk! Wild SILK! WILD silk! WILD SILK!!!!!!!!!” I refuse to recap the punchline regarding Mae West getting nude. Well, that's enough for you to understand my pain.
Marlo models some fugly outfits.
Marlo: “I'm the girl who works at Paramount all day, and Fox all night!”
YOU DIRTY OLD BITCH! SHUT UP! I'M HAPPY YOU'RE DEAD. There, I said it.
After forever and ever, we finally go the next scene. Turner runs down to the kitchen in his quest to destroy the tape. Here's an idea: stomp on it. Bend it in half. Unspool it. Follow Marlo around and record her croaking renditions of popular disco hits over it. Idiot. He throws it in the oven, where it lands in, and is baked into, a cake. Obvious set up for a gag? Oh yeah, baby. There's some KOMEDY with an angry chef, but you don't need to be burdened with it.
TO THE CONFERENCE ROOM! The leaders take another vote. Guess how it goes.
Hey! John Kerry!
Back upstairs, some awful dialogue between Barrington and Marlo regarding her many marriages.
Barrington: “Collecting husbands is a hobby of yours. Like collecting stamps...or books!”
[Rick: Books? Really?]
Marlo: “Marriage is like a book. The story takes place between the covers.”
Turner bursts in with a newspaper bearing the worst headline ever written:
Barrington has to rebuild his public image now. An excuse to keep him busy while Marlo deals with Alexi. A studio suit shows up with a cardboard cut out of Marlo, giving Dom De Luise a convenient way to do a song and dance number with Mae West without Mae's tectonic plate-like speed and grace getting in the way. He sings about how he's secretly in love with Marlo. Oh, you bastards. Do you have to use every obvious plot contrivance?
Marlo gets on the elevator, makes a repugnant fellatio reference, and runs into GEORGE RAFT *live studio audience applauds* They share three lines and then he gets off. George Raft, everyone!
In the lobby, Barrington stumbles upon sportscaster guy, who totally flubs the “wolf in sheep's clothing” line, and sits down to set the record straight. Instead, he makes himself out as being bi. Oh ho ho ho. And more man-slut jokes.
Marlo arrives in Alexi's room. Here, we discover just how much Tony Curtis sucks. His Russian accent is awful. He says things like “wy-olenz” (violins) and “tinks” (things), and all that jazz. Totally cliché. And, like all Russians, he chucks glasses into the wall and breaks them when done with his drinks. THE CAKE ARRIVES. Alexi cuts in, revealing the tape.
Marlo says something about cake going to your hips or something, convincing Alexi to chuck the cake out the window. The tape is picked up by a passing dog. Turner drags Barrington outside for an interview, and Barrington conveniently spots Marlo and Alexi smooching on a balcony many, many stories too high up for him to see so clearly. The doggie drops the tape on an athletic field, where a javelin spears it. By now, this tape should be all but destroyed, but nyet. The player picks up his javelin, ignoring the BRIGHT PINK CASSETTE TAPE lodged on the end, and wanders indoors. THE SUB PLOT MUST CONTINUE. Meanwhile, old lady Manners with her cateracts and all (seriously, Mae West needed SANDBAGS to mark her spots on the floor because she couldn't see tape) looks down from way on high and spots the tape on the passing man's javelin.
After a pathetic song, Marlo rushes off to the gym. And by rushes, I mean she oozes like molasses going up hill in January in the Arctic Circle.
Again, you can watch the next scene for yourselves. I...I just can't think of anything to say.
The implications of that song...Devestating. Also, that thing with the tape at the end? Stupid. Anyway, Marlo finally leaves and runs into Turner. They walk and talk and, at one point, they go around a corner and miraculously teleport back upstairs mid-sentence in doing so. The magic of editing, folks. And then, in the greatest magic act of all, they get on an elevator, and when the doors reopen, Mae West has been transformed into Timothy Dalton. Wow, Dom De Luise kicks the shit out of David Blaine!
Turner has a plan to make Barrington look real manly: take photos of him getting uncomfortably close to the Athletics team. OH SURE, THAT'LL WORK.
After the worst costume change yet,
Marlo sits down for an interview for Laslo's camera. Or are they shooting a movie? I can't tell.
Back at the gym, Barrington lifts some weights.
Oh, it's a screen test they're filming. Laslo, angered by the implication that his leading man has done it with Marlo, abuses the poor man with overbearing direction.
Barrington works over a punching bag.
The trampoline~! The athletic team reveals some info about the tape and Marlo being there earlier.
Blah bah bah blah
Goo goo ga ga
All the same to me.
Barrington walks in on Laslo reading romantic lines with Marlo. Conveniently, the ginormous camera crew momentarily disappear to give the illusion that they're alone. He leaves, then comes back with the actor there instead. He punches the guy out and Laslo does a lame “Brilliant! Bravo!” gag.
Anyway, finally alone, Barrington and Marlo prepare to...you know...when Barrington complains of a pulled muscle.
Cue up the Mae West cock joke-trola.
Conference room; another vote and Alexi finally says yes. Shady guy gives Turner a thumbs up. OVER THE PHONE.
Literally. He says “Dan?” and then gives a thumbs up. And then the Plot Convenience Generator 3000 kicks in and nefarious gangster George Hamilton, another ex-husband, walks in. Turns out that this gangster, Norton, may never have divorced Marlo. He merely faked his death once, leading her to think she was a widow. Thus, her marriage to Barrington might be illegitimate. She can't remember for sure, though, but she does remember recording the info on her...CASSETTE TAPE~! So now she needs it back.
Al Capone, the man with the all-year tan
How she could remember recording the info about whether or not she's divorced, but not what that answer is, is never explained. It's just, you know, CONVENIENT. Vance walks in (“Gun in your pocket” gag here) to collect his woman.
Barrington, muscle injury be damned, is scaling the building to get the tape out of the statue's mouth. Turner and Norton arrive on the roof at just that time (say it with me: Con-ven-ient).
After dangling Dom De Luise off the roof, the twits give up and Barrington finds the tape. He then leaps to his horrible death, bring the film to an abrupt and merciful climax.
Oh, I'm sorry, he lands in the gym and safely bounces off the trampoline none the worse for wear.
For literally no reason, Barrington then hands off the tape that could save his marriage to the chef, who is delivering another cake, this time to the conference. In said conference, the leaders are trading their traditional dishes, leading to KOMEDY about differences in culinary taste. Jimmy Carter is wise enough to just stick to his own plate of peanuts.
Elsewhere, Norton vows to murder Barrington, which makes Marlo smile obliviously. Way to show concern.
In the conference room, the cake arrives and the tape is on top of it. Luckily, the conference is being broadcast on TV, so Turner, Marlo, etc. can tune in and see the tape. Time for everybody to run on down there. Except Marlo who slowly drifts like arctic ice. When they get there, Marlo asks for her tape back, but the conference leaders demand it be played. Why?
I DON'T FUCKING KNOW. I DON'T KNOW ABOUT ANYTHING IN THIS MISERABLE WRETCH OF A MOVIE. NONE OF IT MAKE SENSE.
Since there's literally no security at this conference of IMPORTANT WORLD LEADERS, Norton is able to get the tape back in an armed stick up. But then, the crowd parts to reveal...
The Godfather. I...ah...ugh...
Godfather wants the tape played.
Again...I don't know.
So they play it and there's some revealing secrets about the various world leaders, and then the revelation that Marlo did indeed divorce Norton. The tape magically stops after that tidbit. Marlo then blackmails the leaders into accepting world peace. And how about a rendition of “Baby Face”? WHY NOT~!
Marlo returns to her room to find Alice motherfucking Cooper,
who has a note from the absent Barrington. Barrington felt like one husband too many, blah blah, he's on a yacht, yadda yadda, Alice sings a disco song, dancing maids, etc. After much bullshittery, Marlo heads out to the yacht. Turner says Barrington is a secret agent (shocking trivia: Timothy Dalton wound up playing James Bond later on).
On the yacht, Barrington is shocked when he finds Marlo in his bedroom. Somehow, this epically slow-moving creaky old woman sneaked past this secret agent. Helluva 007. One final disgusting double entendre and this trainwreck finally ends.
FUCK. FUCKITY FUCKITY FUCK.
My mother told me to speak good of the dead. Mae West is dead. GOOD.