This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Daniel Heaton’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Oh this thing was just delightful in all honesty, largely shot in 1964 and posthumously released a year after her untimely death agred 33 in 1967. 'The Wild Wild World of Jayne Mansfield' is...well sort of a travelogue by way of the Mondo craze that was picking up steam around this time.
Basically we follow Jayne Mansfield as she travels around Rome, Paris, New York and LA looking at the landmarks, sights and sounds of those cities, before also exploring the more erotic underbelly of these European locations.
And if you ever wanted to know where John Waters and Divine got some of their key influences. This movie very likely holds the answers. Its SO camp, REDICULOUSLY campy, the cheesiest, most hammy delight i've sat through in a good long while. Jayne narrates a good chunk of the movie (and...due to her death a Jayne soundalike was bought in to finish the movie after a certain point) but her narration is just SO goddamn cheesy. she says such strange and wonderfully worded things. I was honestly captivated by this for about 90% of the runtime.
It's a rather speedy trip through Europe which, for 1968 I imagine would have been quite exotic for the average american looking for dirty picture movies. It's largely tame, plenty of topless scenes and the ocasional nudie shot where the more modest areas are covered. But even so I thought it was pretty wild given how restrictive studio pictures had to be at that time.
Whats probably the most bizarre thing for this film is how it progresses across its runtime (and the thing I fell in love with the most quite honeslty.) Y'see, around halfway through the second act this thing really begins to run out of steam. After all, theres only so many topless bars and erotic dancers you can capture before it all starts to look a bit samey.
they go to a Trans beauty pageant which is fascinating given the time it was filmed. But as is the case with pictures from this time, they seem to conflate Trans, Cross dressing and Drag interchangably. Which I imagine would create some more problematic moments to a more modern audience. I understand WHY they were so vague given its absolute illegality at the time. But I could easily see some being offended by trans portrayal in this.
What REALLY stunned me was the ending, as...10 minutes off the end of the movie we go from soft shots of Jayne wallowing around nude in a bathtub to a sudden STARK bit of tonal whiplash as we hardcut to photos from the crash scene where Jayne lost her life. The narration shifts to an unknown male and the rest of the 10 minutes is basically a HARSH recounting of Jaynes Car crash, death, photos of the crash site AND her dead dog, shots of her former mansion home, SHOTS OF HER ACTUAL CHILDREN where the narrator basically tells the viewer theres uncertainty about where her children will go and what they'll do now their mums dead, FOOTAGE OF HER CHILDREN TENDING TO THEIR MOTHERS MEMORIAL GARDEN.
Basically, the whole thing 180's into a SUPER hard mondo exploitation flick that absolutley takes advantage of Jaynes death for sensationalism. Its disgusting seedy and the WEIRDEST way to end what was otherwise a glam romp around Europe for 80 minutes.
Despite the totally out of left field ending. I really REALLY enjoyed this one, if you've ever seen anything put out by 'Something Weird Video' or you have an affinity for mondo as a genre, this things very much OF the genre but approaches the subject completley differently to the other mondo movies out there. I thought this was great fun, I'd easily recommend checking it out if you can find a copy. it's just...SO damn campy.