Jayne Mansfield was a Hollywood starlet born under the blinding light of the fifties, and shadowed by the sex-positivity of the swinging sixties. In either a desperate plea to the underworld, or a rather calculated publicity stunt – Jayne soon found herself knocking on the door of the devil himself, in Church of Satan Founder Anton LaVey.
Opening with bold, hot pink lettering, Mansfield 66/67 warns us that the film we are about to watch conveys ‘opinions expressed that are not approved or endorsed’. But, we were well aware we’d be digging through rumours – the film’s tagline is “a true story based on rumor and hearsay”. Is there anything more delectable than a Blonde Bombshell making deals with the devil? Bring on the Gossip!
As John Waters stated,
“Jayne was always in on the joke.”
In an aim to be campier that its subject matter, Mansfield 66/67 introduces us to a chorus of dancing ladies in garish blonde wigs to guide us through our journey. Pink and blue lights skew a barren set, while our partygoers wiggle to an aptly selected track that croons “The Devil Made Me Do it”. Honoring the 50th year of her death, the extravagant documentary aims to shed a light on the final two years of Jayne’s life.
Mansfield 66/67 features interviews from an eclectic cast of characters; filmmaker and artist Kenneth Anger, gossip columnist A.J. Benza, actress Susan Bernard, drag performer Peaches Christ, filmmaker Cheryl Dune, actress Tippi Hedren, filmmaker John Waters, and many more. The documentary is directed by P. David Ebersole & Todd Hughes, who served as executive producers on the amazing Room 237 documentary inspired by interpretations surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
Writhing in rumours, Mansfield 66/67 sniffs out the thread of truth in Jayne’s life. Reading between the lines of Tabloid headers and faulty memories, we hear the story of a starlet who longed for a steady spotlight – clinging to stardom on the heels of Marilyn Monroe only to be cast aside as Sharon Tate strolled in. A woman who oozed sexuality and harnessed it, exploited it’s quirks – only to find herself hunting for other opportunities as motherhood changed her body; seemingly all the public valued and her only meal ticket (despite playing violin, and *possibly* speaking over 5 languages, I might add).
And then there was Anton. Their budding relationship was a wet dream for Tabloids, and everyone exploited it. But when you take a closer look, you see that Mansfield and LaVey were two sides of the same coin. They were the two extremes the public feared and revered; sexuality and violence. The documentary so correctly coins them “Beauty and the Beast“, because their odd pairing teased something forbidden.
But all is not well in.. Hell.
Mansfield’s beau at the time, Sam Brody, is rumored to have angered LaVey – who in turn concocted up a curse on his head. LaVey professed that Brody would die in a car accident within a year. In 1966 and 1967, the couple had seven fender benders until the one that tragically took both of their lives; a bizarre crash where reporters argue Jayne was either beheaded on impact or merely wig-scalped.
A strange story begs for an even stranger retelling in Mansfield 66/67. The film is a bit of a hodge-podge of classic documentary interviews and archival materials, spliced with experimental dance numbers, performance art and cartoon animation. Though mixed-media the content, the subject is all Jane. With it’s eclectic voice, there is no doubt or question that Mansfield 66/67 successfully celebrates the life and controversy of a quirky Hollywood idol.
Mansfield 66/67 is currently touring several film festivals across the world. The film will see a limited release through October/November. Dates and locations can be found HERE.