Sextette 1978 ***

Someone, somewhere at Amazon Prime, with over a century of cinematic history to choose from, is coming up with Sextette as their new release on their streaming service. With Disney, Apple and Warners all launching their own platforms, it’s pretty odd that this legendary 1978 clunker should be the plastic jewel in Amazon’s Fall 2019 line-up. Sextette had been a stage vehicle for Mae West from 1961, and it’s clear that the most, or only remarkable thing about it was the star. A film version was announced in 1970, but by the time it got in front of the camera in 1978, West was in her eighties and somewhat less that the sin-sational broad promised on the posters. West certainly had presence, but she moves like a parking hovercraft and delivers her lines as if she’s never formed a sentence before, a phenomena that has inspired a number of urban legends. But there’s many a film in which an aged male actor froths over young women, so Sextette’s notion of having West meet six of her previous young husbands while staying at a London hotel isn’t necessarily awful. But Sextette is awful, and the contents read like a crime sheet. How about Mae West and Timothy Dalton performing Love Will Keep Us Together? Or West directing a flirtatious performance of Happy Birthday Sweet Twenty-One to the entire US Athletics team? Tony Curtis as a diplomat called Sexy Alexi? How about random cameos from Dom Deluise, Ringo Starr, Walter Pigeon, Keith Moon, Alice Cooper and George Raft? Perhaps to compensate for the star’s immobility, all concerned give inhibited performances that must now be the subject of some regret. Hughes’s shambolic film switches gears with ease, balancing casual racism with tremendous homophobia while the cast pick their way through such mind-numbing innuendos as ‘Have you seen Big Ben? / I hardly know the man!’ Sextette is a car-crash of a film that has to be seen to be believed, filmed in a process which should be called Awful-o-Vision which makes everything look like its filmed through a screen door. After ninety minutes, you’ll feel like you’ve been trapped in Mae West’s boudoir with an assortment of 70’s glitterati; not pleasant, but an experience that you’ll never forget. Like the Mae-Goes-Disco version of Baby Face that climaxes the film, it burns it way into your consciousness, leaving you changed inside forever.

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Monte Carlo or Bust 1969 ***

A sequel of sorts to both Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and The Great Race, or perhaps more identifiable as a precursor of popular children’s Tv animation Wacky Races, Monte Carlo or Bust is one of those glamorous sixties capers featuring a variety of stars, exotic international locations, dated humour and a few points of genuine interest. Also knows as Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty jalopies, Ken Annakin’s film features Tony Curtis, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Terry Thomas, Eric Sykes, Gert Frobe, Susan Hampshire and Bouvril (from After The Fox) as the competitors in a weird race in which the contestant travel from different corners of the world to Monte Carlo, where the race properly begins. Curtis looks a tad tired as a leading man, but Moore and Cook seem positively invigorated by their satire of British poshness, and their comedy due score plenty of big laughs in this lavish production.

The Manitou 1978 ***

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Adapted from a novel by horror writer Graham Masterton, The Manitou is an engrossingly daft horror film that offers more amusement than most comedies. Karen (Susan Strasberg) has a lump growing on her back, and her psychic boyfriend Harry (Tony Curtis) comes to believe that it’s a 400 year old Indian medicine man known as a Manitou. What could have been a breakthrough film for director William Girdler proved to be his last, but he pulls together a ragbag of elements from Burgess Meredith as a doctor to an excursion to a fourth dimension where Karen develops the ability to fire lightning bolts from her fingertips. A complete farrago, The Manitou is a cornucopia of silly ideas, rendered into a classic of so-bad-its-good cinema.