10/16/08

Why Don't You Come Up and Review Me Sometime?


In the 1930's and 1940's, Mae West was pure unadulterated sex. She was the kind of hot that made Vargas girls look homely, but that wasn't all there was to her. From her very first film costarring with George Raft in Night after Night(1932), she controlled her own destiny as few women in that time did. Mae was allowed to rewrite all her lines which lead Raft to say that in that film "She stole everything but the cameras." She would go on to star in classics like She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel, and then match wits with W.C. Fields in perhaps her best known role, Flower Belle in My Little Chickadee (1940). By the '50's, Mae's star all but faded, but she had already left an indelible mark on pop culture.

However, Mae wasn't one for taking things lying down (at least most things). After a comeback in 1970's Myra Breckinridge, a forgotten classic in and of itself, she managed to get a movie made of one of her own plays. It was her last film, and it even featured a cameo by her first onscreen partner George Raft.

Sextette (1978) starring Mae West, Dom DeLuise, Timothy Dalton, Tony Curtis, Ringo Starr, George Hamilton, and Alice Cooper. Directed by Ken Hughes.

Marlo Manners (West) is a sex queen of the silver screen and known for her voracious appetite for men. As the film opens, it's a special day for Marlo. She has just married her sixth husband Sir Michael Barrington (Dalton), a dashing Englishman. They retire to a ritzy hotel to spend their honeymoon, but her manger Dan Turner (DeLuise) has other plans. There's a screen test to do, a fitting for costumes, and a Russian leader to seduce. It seems that Marlo's man-eating talents have been put to use by Uncle Sam over the years, and the good old U.S of A needs one more job from the voluptuous actress. As luck would have it, a meeting of world leaders is happening in the very same hotel, and the lone holdout in the negotiations, the Russian delegate, Alexei (a barely recognizable Tony Curtis), just happened to be Marlo's husband #2. Alexei might be convinced to change his mind if he could just have a romantic dinner with his former wife.

While Marlo is ensuring world peace, Dan has his hands full distracting the new groom. Dan shoves the Englishman into an interview with an American reporter who gets the Michael to agree to being "gay" in a case of two people being separated by a common language. The groom spends the rest of the afternoon trying to right the misunderstanding, but he only suceeds to dig himself in deeper. Dan also is desperately trying to get rid of a tape containing Mae's autobiography which details her sexual hi-jinx and secret "missions". The tape seems to have a life of it's own as it bounces from one party to the next over course of the film.

After returning to their honeymoon suite, Micheal is ready for some private wedding night fun, but it's not to be as Keith Moon of The Who makes an appearance as a flamboyant (and utterly coked out acting) fashion designer, Ringo Starr shows up as film director Laslo Karolny (who was also husband #4), and husband #5, the missing and presumed dead mobster, Vance Norton (Hamilton) shows up to reclaim his wife. The sex pot and her put upon groom both begin searching for the missing tape as the fate of world peace hangs in the balance.

There's not a chance that my summary captured the amount of craziness that goes on in this film. It's chock full of classic Mae West one liners ("I'm the girl that works for Paramount all day, and Fox all night.), but they do begin to wear at points when Mae recycles some of her more famous quotes like a "Best of". Perhaps the most bizarre thing about the film is the romance between the 85 year old star and the 32 year old future Bond, James Bond. While West might look good for her age, although considerably more made up and fuller figured than in her heyday, it was disturbing to see the young Dalton fawn over her. Let me put this in a little perspective here. Consider for a moment a romance between the equally age differenced Betty White and bad boy Colin Farrell. Yeah. Let that sink in. Get a mental image. That's one that'll stick with you.

Yet there is something else even more truely bizarre to push this film further toward the pinnacle of campy goodness, the songs. Yes, songs. West and Dalton duet on the Captain and Tennille hit "Love Will Keep Us Together" that has to be seen to be believed, Dom DeLuise belts out The Beatles "Honey Pie", and to cap it all off a short haired square looking Alice Cooper shows up to sing the Van McCoy penned song "Marlo's Theme". As if that wasn't enough, to top it all off the film is packed with cameo's from Regis Philbin, sportscaster (and The Wild One actor) Gil Stratton, Van McCoy, Rona Barrett, and of course George Raft.

It's hard to sum up what I think about this film. In comparison to West's earlier work, it obviously pales, and set against other sex comedies of the time, it doesn't hold a candle. Yet the wild high camp aesthetic really makes me have a great time watching this film. I saw it the first time a few years back on DVD, and recently got my own copy on videotape. Even with the poorer quality picture and sound on the tape, it's still something I can see me re-watching several more times. Don't get me wrong. If you set the average middle American viewer in front of it, they probably wouldn't last more than a few minutes, but if you're like me and you have a love for the kind of manic schlock only the 70's could provide, then give this one a spin. After all as Mae West once said "When I'm good, I'm good. When I'm bad, I'm very good"

Bug Rating



1 comment:

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