Mansfield 66/67 – DVD Review

This documentary is about the very strange story of when actress Jayne Mansfied met the head of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey. Mansfield was the low-rent version of Marilyn Monroe, having followed her trajectory from Playboy centrefold to movie star, and her career was falling apart at this point. She was getting sick of playing the big-breasted blonde (the only parts she was typically offered). She had turned down a couple of major roles, including one in the Billy Wilder movie Kiss Me Stupid, and even ended up doing a borderline-nudie film in the early 60s.

She was paying the bills with an on-stage cabaret act when she met LaVey in San Francisco, where the Church was headquartered. They became friendly—there are even rumours that they had an affair—and there was already a small connection to that world because she had been on the cover of Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon and has remained its cover star sinceits original French publication in 1958 and through its American printing and beyond.

Mansfield had an IQ of 163, spoke five languages, and was very anti-war at the time, so did not live down to her screen image. Some element of the relationship between LaVey and Mansfield was about being noticed—they were both publicity whores—and they knew that the sexy bombshell plus Prince of Darkness thing would work.

Through a series of interviews with people like Kenneth Anger, John Waters, Mary Woronov and Tippie Hedren and archival footage, Mansfield ‘67 tells the story of the last few years of her life, including the possible curse that LaVey put on the actress after Mansfield’s jealous boyfriend broke some satanic talismans in Anton’s “lair”.

It’s a fun, fairly superficial retelling of that period of Mansfield’s life, but without much attention to others who were involved in the Church of Satan during that time. While the film is nothing amazing, it’s definitely funny. Mansfield certainly comes across as an intriguing character—as John Waters puts it, “a dumb genius blonde.” It could’ve picked it’s interviewees better, the recently departed and much missed Adam Parfrey of Feral House Books would’ve been a ideal interviewee. It also dispels the longstanding myth that she was decapitated in her fatal accident. (Actually, she was scalped, and she was wearing a wig at the time). When Mansfield died, there was an immediate tabloid storm of stories claiming a black magic connection.

The one flaw is a really pointless dance sequences and reconstructions of satanic rituals that were shot at Leeds Beckett Uni, which probably helped some students get a chance to work on a film but otherwise doesn’t add anything really. It’s really there to pad out the film to a feature length 80 minutes.

The DVD includes some deleted scenes and more dance sequences.


Ian Schultz

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