Produced by Todd Hughes, P. David Ebersole,
Larra Anderson, Alison Martino
Written and Directed by
Todd Hughes, P. David Ebersole
Starring Jayne Mansfield, Anton LaVey,
Ann Magnuson, John Waters, Tippi Hedren,
Mamie Van Doren, Kenneth Anger, A.J. Benza,
Mary Woronov, Richmond Arquette
Growing up all I remember about Jayne Mansfield was that she was decapitated in a car accident. Of course this information came mainly from old-style sideshow barkers trying to get me to see a living severed head at a State Fair; when they still had that kind of thing at State Fairs.
But there was more to the story than her tragic and tragically exaggerated end. Mansfield 66/67 looks at the end of her career and the behind the scenes search for attention that played out in this reality theater well before reality TV came into being.
P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes, the team behind the excellent documentary Hit So Hard about Hole drummer Patty Schemel, bring you the last two years in the fabulously extravagant – you can’t make this up – world of Jane Mansfield. The centerpiece of the story revolves around the relationship between Mansfield and Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey.
By 1966 her film career was winding down and her nightclub act was sustaining her need for adoration and money. She had fallen under the spell of attorney Sam Brody after three marriages, five children, and an ongoing battle with alcoholism. It was during this time in her life that she formed an association with LaVey. Was this relationship all that the documentary makes it out to be? Probably not. But it does illustrate how Mansfield’s and LaVey’s craving for the spotlight made them good fodder for the tabloid fan magazines of the day.
The story in Mansfield 66/67 (the title is cleverly chosen to highlight the 666 incidental to the years covered) is told in seven parts and gives a short summary of her early career to hurry up and get to the years of focus for the film. Many good interviews with people like Mamie Van Doren, Tippi Hedren, John Waters, Kenneth Anger, and gossip columnist A.J. Benza both shed light on the times and bask in the memories of her outsized persona.
Many historic documentaries rely upon recreations of scenes to liven up the talking head interviews. Mansfield 66/67 goes one step beyond and has most of the recreations done through an interpretive dance troupe. It was somewhat confusing at first but was used to good effect. And if that wasn’t enough there was a segment of recreation using animation that reminded me of Ralph Bakshi’s Heavy Traffic with Mansfield being voiced by performance artist Ann Magnuson.
There is no surprise ending; it is revealed early and the film careens toward the end very much like the life of Jayne Mansfield. But this isn’t the documentary you want if you’re really interested in finding out about who she was and how she became the personality she is by 1966. This film cuts to the chase and gives you the outrageous ending; somewhat daring you to watch and enjoy the guilty pleasure Jayne Mansfield gave until the very end.
Mansfield 66/67 Opens in Los Angeles on October 27th
For more screening information, visit mansfield6667.com