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DVD SAVANT

The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield
&
The Labyrinth of Sex


The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield
Something Weird - Image
1964-68 / b&w / 1:85 anamorphic 16:9 / 99 min. / Street Date August 12, 2003 / 19.99
Starring Jayne Mansfield, Mickey Hargitay
Film Editor Mandela Tolena
Original Music Marcello Gigante
Written by Charles Ross
Produced by Charles W. Broun Jr., David Puttnam, Dick Randall
Directed by Charles W. Broun Jr., Joel Holt, Arthur Knight (!)  

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Something Weird has once again done its job of offering up vintage sleaze in a quality package; this double bill of celebrity exhibitionism and bad taste shows us two fine examples of the sexploitation strata of fringe moviemaking.

In the 60s, San Bernardino had its own adult theater, which at the time showed 'art-oriented' domestic and foreign pictures. I think they were mostly the tamer variety, and perhaps some Russ Meyer films, but the local authorities seemed to keep their presence fairly well suppressed - the newspaper ads were mostly restricted to tiny banners. The only specific title I can remember was Jayne Mansfield's Promises, Promises with Tommy Noonan, an independent attempt at a classy nudie comedy. My neighborhood friends wanted to see it really badly. I wouldn't have dared try.

The Wild Wild World of Jayne Mansfield is a quasi-docu incorporating old newsfilm of the ill-fated starlet, with newly-shot color and 'scope footage of Jayne roaming in Italy, France, and Los Angeles. The style is very tiring, with a narration provided by Jayne (or an imitator) purring away with what's supposed to be her inner thoughts, but are far too transparently the writings of one of the dirty-old-man producers. She squeaks like Little Annie Fannie at the idea of Italian men pinching girls, and continually talks about how shy she is. Most of the scenes have her just strolling here and there, reacting to phony restagings - fake streetwalkers lining an Italian road, fake 'Hell's Angels' who give her a motorbike ride at the base of the Eiffel Tower. She even says the 'M' on the French bike license plate stands for 'Malibu'. A trip to an island nudist colony reveals one topless woman in a lounge chair, and lots of Jayne standing in a tidepool talking about the thrill of taking her bikini top off. It's depressing.

Most of the film has Jayne 'attending' strip clubs and gay bars and acting surprised at seeing men dressed like women and vice versa, which gets old very fast. Her narration reinforces her status as a top star, when by the middle 60s her Hollywood career was for all purposes finished. Walking about in awkward wigs, and photographed in mostly unflattering light, she just seems a slightly overweight glamour queen having trouble looking graceful in tight skirts and high heels. She twists to a rock 'n roll band at one point, but the staging is so ugly, we can't appreciate the spectacle.

Toward the end, the 'docu' stresses her fabulous career, thumbing through the pages of Playboy and using a couple of unimpressive moments from Promises, Promises, and even worse clips from Jayne's The Loves of Hercules. Then there is an abrupt tone break, and an impersonal narrator takes over from 'Jayne' to relate the tragedy of her death in an auto accident. This is shown in a couple of gruesome news photos, including the corpse of her pet chihuahua. We see all the symbols of Jayne's life, the heart-shaped pools, etc., and suffer through shots of Jayne with her two boys, followed by 'candid' scenes of her husband Mickey Hargitay staring sadly at paintings, etc. The garish exhibitionism of the earlier passages, where Jayne is an active participant, becomes intolerably ghoulish, and the film ends on an incredibly tasteless note.


Second-billed on the disc is a feature called The Labyrinth of Sex that turns out to be entitled 'Sexual Inadequacies'. It's an Italian 'scope docu that using filmic recreations to explain that human sexual 'aberrations' are caused by childhood traumas and the like. For instance, nymphomania is represented by a lonely (but very attractive) female who mopes around in a nightie, and then goes to a theater to cozy up to an unescorted male patron. The rationalizations are all pseudo-psychology, with the requisite dubbed professor in a room full of books. Other subjects touched upon are voyeurism, masochism and homosexuality, which is of course treated as an aberrant problem that could have somehow been avoided in childhood. The show is padded with double-talk, at least in this English-language dub. Montages of atom bombs and modern woes vaguely illustrate some points about 'modern living.'  1


Both features are letterboxed flat and are taken from intact prints of average color quality, well-transferred. Also included are seven or eight 'eurosex' trailers that are less interesting than the usual Something Weird fare. As a package, the disc certainly has historic value, as both films are excellent examples of grindhouse sex product before the hardcore explosion of the early 70s. This particular pairing would seem to be commenting on Jayne's 'celebrity' exhibitionism as if it were one of the aberrations detailed in the co-feature. All we really get is an excellent idea of how low exploitation filmmakers will crawl to make a buck.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield rates:
Movie: Fair to Poor, but they aren't here for their merit as entertainment
Video: Good
Sound: Good
Supplements: Eurosex trailer selection
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: August 12, 2003


Footnote:

1. One montage clip in The Labyrinth of Sex is a rocket takeoff from some rare b&w science fiction film I've never seen. The couple of shots shown are of very elaborate miniatures ... I'd be very interested if anybody can identify it!
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DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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