Mansfield 66/67 focuses on the last two years of the Hollywood bombshell’s life and the documentary presents a slightly odd portrayal with much of it focusing on the salacious newspaper column inches that surrounded Mansfield’s final days and her relationship with the founder of the Church of Satan, Anton Lavey.
The documentary opens with a title card stating that the film is a “true story based on rumor and hearsay” which is true as there is a line of actual insight that is sorely lacking in this documentary. Told across seven parts and using talking head interviews with various fans and people who knew Mansfield from her days in Hollywood, including John Walters, Kenneth Anger, Marnie Von Doren, Dolly Read and 80’s pop star Marilyn. Most of these contributors back up or refute the salacious gossip written about Mansfield, with john Waters being the most engaging contributor (no surprise there!), who is counteracted by Marilyn who can sometimes barely string a sentence together and seems to not know how to answer the simple questions he was asked.
The documentary is directed by P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes and made in association with Leeds Beckett University, which gives the piece a slightly amateurish side that is not always successful. The little vignettes that puncture the narrative at certain moments are almost like reenactments or ‘interpretive’ reenactments from Mansfield’s life and on the whole do not work and disrupt the flow of an already only mildly interesting documentary.
We see clearly how Mansfield was almost created by Hollywood execs as a counterpart to Marilyn Monroe, whose star was beginning to wane and we see how Mansfield bought wholly into this idea of a dumb blonde but interestingly it turns out that Mansfield was supremely intelligent and calling Mansfield a ‘dumb’ genius blonde would have been a better description. Mansfield leaned into her portrayal and gained supreme success from it but as her star began to wane with the feminist revolution taking place in the 1960’s we see how she became more of a “tragic Aphrodite figure”, this stretch of the documentary is by far the most interesting.
As a documentary, Mansfield 66/67 manages to maintain its ability to be interesting until it introduces Anton Lavey whereupon it loses any grip it may have had on the audience and it becomes a by-numbers look at the friendship and possible relationship of Mansfield and Lavey. This section stretches on for far too long and at only 85 minutes the film can ill afford to waste so much time on something that frankly, seems improbable. The discussion that stems from this section is one that focuses on Mansfield death in 1967 and it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth for its crassness.
Mansfield 66/67 is an interesting idea on paper but due to some odd artistic choices and underwhelming content it collapses under its own weight.