“Marriage is like a book: the whole story takes place between the covers.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
As narratives go, the story — based on a play written by West — isn’t really all that terrible: it’s a zany farce full of double entendres, sexual innuendos, and innocuous musical numbers, and director Ken Hughes moves everything along at a fast clip. The “problem”, of course, is in the casting of West herself, whose advanced age defies our sense of sexual “normalcy” and “propriety”. Could Sextette be viewed as the ultimate May/Mae-December romance? It’s too bad, in a way, that West’s “real” age — or even something reasonably close to it — is never made explicit in the film, because a movie about an acknowledged octogenarian sexpot-actress would really be something!
Unfortunately, West’s performance here is passable at best — and while it lies at the center of the film’s fame, it’s sadly (almost comically) one-note. She struts creakedly across the elaborate sets, attempting to infuse some pizazz into her lines (many of which are cribbed directly from her earlier films), but since she only has one frozen expression, and a few familiar mannerisms (gently patting her hilarious pouf of a blonde wig, pursing her lips, rolling her eyes upwards), she’s more like a moving, talking statue than a viable living creature — wind her up and she’ll spout quips like the following (chosen at random as a representative sample):
Faring much, much better than West are her numerous male co-stars, who deserve major kudos for being so incredibly game. Dom DeLuise is amusingly sincere as West’s loyal assistant (secretly in love with her, as he reveals in a singing solo), while young Dalton has completely redeemed himself in my eyes after the debacle of his early performance as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (1970). He’s a Bond who can sing! (anyone who’s seen Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! will understand the reference). Meanwhile, both Tony Curtis and George Hamilton seem to be having great fun making brief appearances as two of West’s former husbands (both, naturally, still in love/lust with her).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: