Juicy gossip, we all love it. Rumors used to spread like wildfire, now in the age of the internet, it’s at light speed. While we can substantiate stories immediately via video and photos from our phones now, in the mid 1960s, we were at the mercy of the media and heresay. And well before TMZ was an idea, celebrity info wasn’t as readily available. Thus our icons had a bit more of an air of mystery around them. And when they met an untimely demise, like Jayne Mansfield, all the moreso. The new documentary MANSFIELD 66/67 tackles the late years of her live, with an extra focus on a rumored relationship with Anton LaVey, the creator of The Church of Satan.
MANSFIELD 66/67 gives us a brief synopsis of Mansfield’s life, including a string of unsuccessful marriages and relationships. We learn about her career. We see people doing interpretive dance routines based on the era. Wait, what?!? Yes, while this film focuses on the rumor and hearsay of the era, it also tries to liven things up with scenes of dancing and amateurish acting to play out certain sequences.
As someone that has studied the written works of Anton LaVey, I’m aware of his account of his relationship with Mansfield. Per him, they shared a deep love, that was hindered by her business manager/boyfriend. From the documentary’s point of view, things never got that far. Instead, the Church of Satan appeared as a way for Jayne to take back power at a time that she was seeing her career faltering, as well as possibly losing custody of one of her children.
We get a glimpse into the showmanship of Anton LaVey, and how his dark philosophy and the sensually charged ritualism charmed a pocket of late 60’s San Francisco. The dude was electric. Hard not to bring attention to yourself when you are surrounded by skulls, naked women, and a male lion that you raised from a cub. With all of that flash though, you do see the propensity to flame out. This film focuses on that burnout for both LaVey and Mansfield, yet it doesn’t present any lessons learned from this.
The talking heads of MANSFIELD 66/67 contain film historians, journalists from the time, as well as fans, including filmmaker John Waters. Water explains how Mansfield was a prime influence for his co-conspirator Divine’s drag persona. They talk to Mamie Van Doren, who followed Mansfield in the ranks of blonde bombshells, which only makes me want more information about her. And we also get word from actress Tippi Hedren, who floated among the same social circles as Mansfield and eventually adopted LaVey’s lion. Sadly, the family of Mansfield or LaVey weren’t interviewed, so again, left with just the hearsay.
MANSFIELD 66/67 serves as a solid conversation starter. While not padded out with facts and historically based stories, it does make you want to delve more into the world of Mansfield. It serves well as an entertaining dalliance, but is by no means a substitute for an informative documentary.
MANSFIELD 66/67 opens in cinemas Friday, October 27th from FilmBuff: A Gunpowder and Sky Company. For additional info visit: www.mansfield6667.com