Mansfield 66/67 Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by The Ebersole Hughes Company
Directed by P. David Ebersole, Todd Hughes
2017, 84 minutes, Not Yet Rated
UK FrightFest premiere on 26th August 2017
Jayne Mansfield as Herself
Anton LaVey as Himself
Ann Magnuson as Jayne
Richmond Arquette as Anton
In 1967, the silver screen Hollywood goddess Jayne Mansfield was killed in a shocking car accident. The documentary Mansfield 66/67 follows her final two years; the months, weeks and days leading to her untimely demise. Doesn’t sound very FrightFest? Well don’t discount a flirtation with the occult, rumours of a fatal curse and the producers of Room 237. Rumour, hearsay and those behind the nuttiest documentary ever made join forces to make Mansfield 66/67 thoroughly horror-fest worthy.
Make no mistake, the film is a celebration of the actress and her life, but the salacious Satanist stories loom heavily over the documentary’s narrative – almost singularly so, in fact, once the cursory setup is out of the way. Enter Anton LaVey, alleged leader of the Church of Satan. This is Mansfield’s show, but LaVey gets second billing by quite a stretch. Both make for fascinating viewing, even (especially) for a relative Mansfield neophyte like me.
A colourful variety of talking heads (most notably director and cult personality John Waters) and heaps of footage from Mansfield’s movies and beyond (there’s a bit of Rosemary’s Baby in there too) pack the film out, in addition to sharp musical numbers and even cartoon reconstructions. It’s a fun, spirited and amusing documentary, playing more like a winking tabloid than a morbid obituary. Disappointingly, in spite of the Satanist angle, it’s all very plausible, lacking the hilarious stretches of logic which so typified the ridiculous Shining documentary Room 237.
Whether all of this is in good taste in debateable, but it’s a fascinating glimpse at what might be Hollywood’s most colourful period. And there, too, is the spectre of one Charles Manson, briefly mentioned and ultimately responsible for bringing the summer of love to an end. But that’s a shade too dark for this puffy, cheery profile which largely trades in camp and gossip. Nobody wants Charles Manson killing the mood.
Even the moment itself is largely glossed over, depicted in a clip from The Jayne Mansfield Story (a 1980 TV movie which starred Arnold Schwarzegger!) before the talking heads get back to debating the viability of the curse theory. “A lot of people think that Jayne’s head came right off. But I can tell you… it was attacked” one of the talking heads intones in a comedy voice (mimicking the coroner) while John Waters pictures the actress clawing her way out of her own grave, desperate to get back to Hollywood. A line only John Waters could get away with.
Like her death, Mansfield herself feels oddly glossed over too, so fixated is the film upon her Satanist connections and the mystery of Anton LaVey. Fittingly, the segment of the film which focuses on her legacy and legend is its most effective, and genuine, questioning its own focus and reliance on tabloid gossip.
A charming, glitzy, knowingly camp affair, Mansfield 66/67 would make a fine double-feature with last year’s The Love Witch. Viewers less familiar with Mansfield would be best served seeking out a few of her films before seeing this one, or at least giving one of her many biography pages a good look. It functions well enough without, but you (and the film) owe her that much.