sun 14/04/2024

DVD: Mansfield 66/67 | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Mansfield 66/67

DVD: Mansfield 66/67

Snappy, trashy and enjoyable poke around the life and death of a Hollywood bombshell

The odd couple: Jayne Mansfield with Anton LaVey, leader of the Church of Satan

There’s long been a fascination with the death of busty, blonde, Marilyn-alike Hollywood star Jayne Mansfield. The fact that it supposedly resulted from a curse by the occult showman and head of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey, builds in an element of preposterousness that’s proved irresistible to generations of conspiracy theorists.

The first thing to note, then, for connoisseurs of golden age high trash, is that Mansfield 66/67 in no way gives definitive answers, selling itself as “A true story based on rumour and hearsay”. It does, however, prove an entertaining gumbo of fact, supposition and lurid gossip.

Directors and life partners P David Ebersole and Todd Hughes have mined Hollywood lore and the LA grapevine before, with previous documentaries about rock band Hole’s female drummer, Cher’s mum and hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Mansfield 66/67, however, is their campest outing yet. How could it not be? Jayne Mansfield was the living embodiment of camp, with her “pink palace” home, her outrageous body, her pathological publicity seeking, and her trademark habit of making cutesy, gasping, squeaking noises as a verbal sign-off.

Mansfield 66/67The film utilises interviews with relative heavy-hitters John Waters, Kenneth Anger and Tippi Hedren, alongside cheesier personalities such as Eighties pop star Marilyn and a drag queen called Peaches Christ. They weave the tale of an intelligent woman who milked her looks to make millions, playing on the pre-feminist archetype of the ditsy, child-like sex bomb. In the Fifties she was a major player, off the back of films such as rock’n’roll classic The Girl Can’t Help it, but by the early 1960s, she was reduced to topless sexploitation trash and nightclub appearances, overseen by her dodgy lawyer/manager/lover Sam Brody.

The film brilliantly intercuts snippets of Mansfield in her films with the modern talking heads, sending everything up, and there are cartoon “recreations of rumoured events”, the whole thing cracking along at a pace. The one element I really didn’t enjoy is the extensive use of Leeds Becket University School of Film, Music and Performing Arts students whose many am-dram interpretive dance interludes, usually dressed in blonde wigs, both jarred and irritated.

By the time she meets Anton LaVey – who comes over as a ridiculous real-life Vincent Price figure – a boozy Mansfield has been reduced to popping up uninvited at film festivals and being booted out for hogging the newspaper coverage. She and LaVey were both PR hounds of the most shameless order and their interlinking, which the film explores extensively, seems to be mostly about that. In the end though, the whole thing is more about Mansfield’s out-of-control rollercoaster journey than her sad, tawdry end.

Along the way serious points are made, especially by various feminist academics commenting on how the presentation of women changed during Mansfield’s professional life, but mostly Mansfield 66/67 is a romp that plays fast and loose with the story of a woman who lived her life exactly that way.

The DVD’s extras are very basic; three deleted scenes, a trailer and, heaven preserve us, yet more interpretive dancing by Leeds Beckett University students.

Below: watch the trailer for Mansfield 66/67

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