Directed by P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes
Those of you who watch “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” may only know of Jayne Mansfield as Mariska Hargitay’s mother. After marrying wrestler Mickey Hargitay, Mansfield was famously killed in a car crash in New Orleans during the summer of 1967. The new documentary Mansfield 66/67 from P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes focuses on the last two years of Mansfield’s life and her bizarre relationship with Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan who began to gain notoriety and fame as Mansfield’s star power was on the decline. (Ebersole and Hughes served as executive producers on the mind-bending documentary Room 237 so you’re in good hands here.)
Offering new insights into Mansfield’s final years and the mystery surrounding them, the film also shows how sensationalism and the desire to live in infamy led to a tragic death that, ironically, became more famous than her storied career.
Speaking with filmmaking legends like Kenneth Anger and Tippi Hedren and gossip columnist A.J. Benza from Howard Stern fame, it’s easy to fall for Mansfield after listening to them speak about what a bombshell powerhouse she was in her heyday. John Waters is also featured, and his Hollywood starlet expertise is on full display. Few have ever achieved the level of stardom she experienced, and just like Marilyn Monroe, few have fallen quite as quickly and publicly. Mansfield began to drink heavily, leaving her susceptible to opportunists like Anton LaVey, who gained followers through an increased interest in the occult combined with over-the-top theatrics and television appearances. Jayne and Anton were both playing characters in a sense; they connected on that level and together received more attention than they ever did apart.
Their relationship is a great metaphor for the entire decade of the Sixties: tumultuous, fame-obsessed, and violent. The disenfranchised youth of the time were looking for an alternative way to think about everything, including religion; and Satanism was suddenly hip. It’s also during this period, especially after the assassination of JFK (whose classified CIA documents are scheduled to be released today), that the conspiracy theory reached new heights. It’s no surprise then that there was suddenly a great deal of skepticism surrounding Mansfield’s horrific car accident purporting that, somehow, LaVey and his powerful sorcery were behind it.
Any horror fan with an interest in the supernatural who also has a penchant for Fifties glamour should give Mansfield 66/67 a chance. Arguably, this was the start of the Satanic Panic that would put its stamp on the Eighties, becoming a large part of what defined that decade. Mansfield was the ultimate pinup in the Fifties, who then, oddly, became the High Priestess of the late Sixties who wanted to be accepted by the new kids of the Summer of Love era in San Francisco. It’s a fascinating time, one so unique that it brought two of the unlikeliest people together to help define the absolute insanity of the entire decade.
Mansfield 66/67 will have its theatrical opening in Los Angeles at Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts theater on October 27, 2017, co-programmed alongside a number of Mansfield classics including The Girl Can’t Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? For more info on screenings in your area, visit mansfield6667.com.