Superstar of the silver screen Marlo Manners (Mae West) has just been married to Sir Michael Barrington (Timothy Dalton), making this her sixth wedding. They retire to a top London hotel to spend their wedding night, but there are complications. Nearby, world leaders are deep in heated discussion, fighting for a compromise which will only be reached if Russian diplomat and ex-husband of Marlo, Alexei (Tony Curtis) gets to spend one more night with her. Meanwhile, another ex-husband, film director Laslo (Ringo Starr) wants Marlo to do romantic screen tests for her next movie. Marlo is willing to help both of them out, but will Sir Michael understand?
This comedy musical was scripted by Herbert Baker from Mae West's stage play, and, acting as if the many years between her heyday and her present status had never happened, the eighty-five year old star attempted the glamour queen role once again, firing off quips and innuendo like they were going out of fashion. You'll note that there are no women cast in any important roles other than Marlo, and it's she who is the centre of attention, with no competition for the men who gather around her. We're supposed to believe that all those men are lusting after this elderly lady, and therein lies the problem most viewers have with Sextette.
She's eighty-five! You don't want to hear a pensioner saying, "I'm the girl who works for Paramount all day and Fox all night" - what kind of images does that put in your mind? A reporter asks Marlo, "How do you like it in London?" and she answers, "I like it anywhere!" - nooo! You should be asking for a cup of tea and nodding off in front the telly, woman! West, whose many facelifts have left her with that "caught in a wind tunnel" appearance, trundles around the overlit sets, geriatrically sashaying her ample hips and chatting up anything in trousers. When Sir Michael mentions she won't be wearing many clothes over the next few days, the complications that prevent us seeing them consummating their marriage are a blessed relief.
The musical numbers are amongst the worst ever committed to film. Dalton looks justifiedly embarrassed about singing "Love will Keep Us Together" to West, and Dom DeLuise exhibits some of the least graceful dancing you'll ever witness during his "Honey Pie" song. West gets to sing (but mostly speak) a few tunes herself, including one to Tony Curtis - it's OK, Tony doesn't sing - and another to a group of muscular male athletes as they train in the hotel's gym. The world leaders, including a Jimmy Carter lookalike, croon "You've got the cutest little baby face," to Marlo, but most cringeful of all is Alice Cooper, without makeup, singing a Van McCoy ditty, accompanying himself on the piano like an Elton John tribute act.
There is no irony apparent at all, Sextette really is one massive ego trip for faded star. It's sad that a genuinely influential woman such as West should believe her own publicity to the extent that she would think that everyone would see her as she was at the height of her fame in the thirties and forties, rather than see her as she was in the seventies, over-dressed and over the hill. By the time George Hamilton turns up as yet another ex-husband, this one a gangster who claims Marlo never divorced him, it's all too much, and even the camp appeal of the film has evaporated. Still, in some ways this is one of the most incredible things Hollywood ever threw up. You have to admire her nerve.