P. D. Ebersole and Todd Hughes (director)
Peccadillo Pictures (studio)
25 June 2018 (released)
16 July 2018
This documentary about ‘La Mansfield’, the blond bombshell who lost her life so tragically in a fatal car crash June 29th 1967, is a curious hotchpotch of interviews, archive footage, more interviews, rather pointless dance interludes and above all the theory that her untimely death was – more or less – a direct result of a curse of ‘Church of Satan’ founder Anton LaVey.
Jayne Mansfield, one of Hollywood’s sex goddesses during the 50’s and 60’s, was often hailed as the typical ‘dumb blonde’ though this documentary is proof that Mansfield, who not only had a successful acting career but was a popular singer too, was anything but dumb: multi-lingual and with a sharp sense for business she was perhaps a typical sample of a manufactured Hollywood product and lets face it, her choice of husbands and men war poor (as this docu also shows), but other than that she knew what she wanted and how to get it… more often than not playing the part of the bimbo to achieve her goal. Admittedly there are some interesting archive clips which show a very vulnerable side of Mansfield (like her breaking down after returning from a United Service Organization tour from Vietnam) which is brilliantly juxtaposed by examples of her talent for comedic timing and her trademark ‘squealing’ way of speaking. We get to know Mansfield the singer but also Mansfield the domestic victim - she was married and divorced three times – not taking into account her numerous lovers and affairs. Contrary to her femme fatale image she was also a dedicated and caring mother of five children, one of which, Zolten, was badly mauled by a lion during a visit at a California theme park in 1966.
Mansfield explains in her own words why pink was her lucky colour although initially she almost opted for lilac – a colour favoured by actress Kim Novak.
Interviews with the likes of fellow former blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren, cult director John Waters, 80’s Brit pop-singer Marilyn, actress Tippi Hedren and most intriguingly perhaps Kenneth Anger deliver interesting opinions but hardly offer anything new. Most disappointingly of all, the latter half of the documentary seems to focus almost entirely on Mansfield’s involvement with self-styled showman cum Satanist Anton LaVey, depicting Mansfield not only as a High Priestess cult member but suggesting that her romantic involvement with LaVey made him jealous of her then boyfriend Sam Brody (or was it the other way around?) – resulting in LaVey putting a deadly curse on him though unfortunately it was not only Brody but also Mansfield who paid with their lives. It is the stuff of never-ending gossip and speculation and it is a shame that it takes up so much documentary time, indeed it’s almost as if halfway through the film changes into a documentary about LaVey!
Likewise, the numerous dance numbers during the film’s opening sequences and also in the Bonus section (depicting the various chapters of Mansfield’s short live) by members of the Leeds Beckett Uni seem somewhat pointless. This by the way is not meant to be a criticism of the choreographic talents of the performers, it’s just that it doesn’t really contribute anything of value to this documentary.