We think it is no secret that the multi-talent that is Charles Busch was born in the wrong era. He is the perfect epitome of a glamorous Hollywood star of the 1930s and 1940s: he doesn’t just look the part, but he totally lives it. So convincingly with all the mannerisms and melodrama, watching his new movie. we revel in turning the clock back for the next 90 minutes
It’s surprising to find that despite a resume that covers every area of high drama, The Sixth Reel is only the 2nd movie he has actually directed. And he did so with his co-writer Carl Andress. The story is a hilarious caper with Busch doing what he does i.e. turning camp into a high art form.
He plays Jimmy, and like many Busch fans, we find it a little difficult at first to adjust to seeing him in male clothing. Frankly, it so doesn’t suit him or his performance. His Jimmy is obsessed with old-Hollywood memorabilia: the more obscure the better. He’s barely weaning out a living and is so behind in paying for his shabby rent-controlled Manhatten apartment that the Landlord is trying to evict him.
He seems to pass most of his time visiting several old friends on their death beds. When the latest ones dies, Jimmy is happy enough to sort through the dead man’s jumbled apartment as there has always been a rumor that somewhere amongst all the trash there is a precious lost final reel of a classic Tod Browning horror film.
Like every Busch project, this melodrama is obviously made with love as he is surrounded by a celebrated cast of actors he has worked with regularly. Each of them plays a scheming character desperate to get their hands on this ‘sixth reel’ as a matter of life and death so they can get rich quick
This all-star cast includes André De Shields as the bitter Gavin Plimsol, Margaret Cho as deadpan Doris the best memorabilia dealer in town, Tim Daly as Michael the aging gigolo who will sleep with anyone to, Julie Halston as Helen the dead man’s pushy niece, Patrick Page as this suave wealthy Mr. Beltrane who will save both the day and Jimmy. All of them give over-the-top performances we would expect from them. We could never imagine Busch ever tell anyone to bring it down a level or two.
The whole thing comes alive when Busch finally dons his drag and his femme fatale act in order to retrieve the film that he had found but had lost again.
The Sixth Reel may not quite reach the heights of Busch’s celebrated Die Mommie Die but it comes close enough especially for his many devoted fans who will lap this all up.
The Sixth Reel is having its Word Premiere at Outfest Film Fest on 8/19