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Sunday, December 03, 2006


Since 1978 when it was released, I've been dying to see "Sextette," the final film of Mae West (who died two years later). It's one of those infamous bombs you always read about, but it's hard to track down. While rehearsing with The Burners, I spotted it on my brother's DVD shelf. I realized immediatlely why Brinie bought it: Who drummer Keith Moon is in it. When I asked to borrow it, both Brinie and Nephew warned me that the movie is rough going.

I always figured "Sextette" would be so horrible, I'd have to watch it in 20- to 30-minute installments. Not EVERY bad movie is so-bad-it's-good. Not EVERY bad movie is "Plan-9-From-Outer-Space" funny.

My verdict: "Sextette" is a jaw dropper! A train wreck you can't look away from! A must-see disaster!

There are culture clashes galore. Timothy Dalton, nine years before playing James Bond, plays West's newlywed husband. Dalton looked 30. (He was 34.) Mae looked 85. (She WAS 85.) Dalton was acting as if he couldn't wait to get in bed with this woman who was old enough to be his grandmother. It makes "Harold and Maude" look like "Romeo and Juliet."

There's even a bit of unintentional foreshadowing, when Dom DeLuise tells Mae that Dalton is a spy who is "bigger than 007." (Mae's retort: "I didn't get a chance to measure him.")

Moonie, Ringo Starr and Alice Cooper are all in it, which leads me to wonder: Where are Harry Nilsson, John Lennon and May Pang? (These castings would complete the infamous Wasted Rocker Brigade of the '70s.) Ringo looks hungover, Moonie looks drunk (he died the following year) and Alice looks embarrassed (he SHOULD be). Also in the cast are Tony Curtis, Walter Pidgeon, George Raft, Regis Philbin and George Hamilton.

Raft's elevator moment with Mae is actually very sweet. (Mae: "I haven't seen you in two years, George. What have you been doing?" Raft: "Two years.")

At times, it appears that Mae can barely walk. During production numbers -- complete with dozens of dancers -- all of the action happens AROUND Mae. When she and Dalton serenade each other with "Love Will Keep Us Together," it makes your ears bleed. When Dom sings and dances The Beatles' "Honey Pie," you wonder who in his right mind green-lighted usage of the song.

There is something very "Plan 9" about this movie. In that film, the "star" (Bela Lugosi) was dead, and all of the action was centered around the existing footage of him. In "Sextette," the star is still alive, still very much participating, but very much past her sell-by date. So all of the action is centered around the actual, still-breathing corpus. This approach yields many moments of palpable desperation. But I have to say that Mae is a game old girl, and for better or (much) worse, she got out her lines and finished the job.



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