Thursday, 28 June 2018

Reflections on ... Female Jungle (1955) and Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958)

This Friday (29 June 2018) represents the 51st anniversary of Jayne Mansfield's death, so – as a timely tribute to the ultimate sex kitten-gone-berserk – I’m posting some Jayne-related content in her memory.

As a committed Jayne Mansfield completist, I’m still indiscriminately working my way through all the movies in her filmography I’ve not yet seen. This is challenging because 1) whole swathes of Jayne's oeuvre are unavailable in 2018 and 2) she featured in some of the worst films ever made. (I'm speaking as someone who sat through The Fat Spy in its entirety). 

In May I made my long-suffering boyfriend sit with me through ultra-low budget exploitation b-movie Female Jungle (1955). I did warn him beforehand that I couldn’t vouch for its quality! A would-be hardboiled film noir crime movie starring a frankly worn-out Lawrence Tierney, Female Jungle turned out to be almost stultifyingly bad and inept, almost like an Ed Wood Jr film. The running time is only 73-minutes long (it was meant to be seen as part of a grindhouse or drive-in double feature, clearly) but the pace was so plodding it felt like two hours! It’s a fascinating curio in the context of Mansfield’s career, though: Female Jungle represented her film debut! (Her early films flopped and it wasn’t until she triumphed on Broadway in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and returned to Hollywood as a hot property that her movie career took off). In Female Jungle, the then-unknown starlet’s signature sex-kitten-gone-berserk comedic persona wasn’t in place yet and it’s fascinating to see Mansfield play a “straight” conventional bitchy and unsympathetic nymphomaniac bad girl. On the plus side – in a glittery halter top and sensational pair of painted-on leopard print Capri pants – Mansfield certainly looks delectable!

More recently we watched the mildly funny 1958 comedy Western Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (also known as The Blonde and The Sheriff). It’s no great shakes by even the most generous stretch of the imagination, but it is of interest and not without fluffy retro charm. Considering it was released by 20th Century Fox, filmed in gleaming deluxe CinemaScope and directed by a prestigious filmmaker (Raoul Walsh) , Sheriff of Fractured Jaw must count as Mansfield’s last “reputable” mainstream Hollywood film. (From 1959 onward, she would mainly feature in low-budget Continental exploitation films – or what Neely O’Hara in Valley of the Dolls would call “nudies”). The film is set in the American West, but the interiors were shot at Pinewood Studios in London and the exteriors in Spain. Mansfield stars as frontier town Fractured Jaw’s tough and sensible saloon proprietress Miss Kate. (She plays her with a wandering Southern accent. Martha Saxton, author of 1975 biography Jayne Mansfield and The American Fifties, accurately concludes, "Jayne plays the role with a lot of gusto and an imperfectly thought-out accent which falls somewhere between Fort Laramie and Newark.”). Her incredibly wasp-waisted, tightly-corseted 1880s costumes (and Mansfield was pregnant at the time with her second child) are certainly noteworthy. As well as being saloon keeper, Kate multi-tasks as the saloon’s onstage chanteuse and these musical numbers provide Sheriff of Fractured Jaw’s most gloriously campy moments because Mansfield is clearly lip-synching along to another woman’s voice which bears no relation at all to her own (the singing is, in fact, via Connie Francis!). Watch for a cameo appearance from British character actor Sid James playing a drunk which anticipates his Carry On persona.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Reflections on ... Mansfield 66/67 (2017)

(I'm posting this particular blog entry  for several reasons: 1) I reviewed the documentary Mansfield 66/67 for queer art and culture website Hiskind when it had its theatrical release in May 2018. The piece is still online but I know from experience I'd better post it here as well in case it gets yanked down at some point. Loads of my online articles have vanished into the ether over the years! 2) Mansfield 66/67 was the Lobotomy Room film club's selection on 20 June, so this will serve as a bit of a "scene report" of that night, too. 3) This Friday - 29 June 2018 - represents the 51st anniversary of Jayne Mansfield's death, so it seemed like a timely valentine to her memory).

/ Did the devil make her do it? Jayne Mansfield and Anton LaVey /

Skulls. Pentagrams. Heart-shaped swimming pools. Chihuahuas. Mansfield 66/67 contains all the components essential for an irresistibly campy cult film-in-waiting. Think of Todd Hughes and P David Ebersole’s documentary as When the Sex Kitten met the Satanist. It speculates about just what happened when Hollywood’s doomed, bosomy platinum blonde starlet Jayne Mansfield (1933 – 1967) encountered charismatic young devil-horned founder of the First Church of Satan Anton LaVey (1930 – 1997) during the messy final year of her life – in particular, whether he placed a curse on Mansfield, causing her fatal 1967 car crash.

Even if you don’t buy into the central thesis about the satanic curse (Mansfield and LaVey were both voracious publicity seekers and self-promoters, and the film begins with the tongue-in-cheek disclaimer “a true story based on rumour and hearsay”), the wildly enjoyable Mansfield 66/67 plays out like a delirious hot-pink fever dream.  The story unfolds via vintage newsreel and film clips, animation, a twangy surf guitar soundtrack, the medium of interpretive dance and commentary from various talking heads. And what a roster of talking heads! The pundits are a kitsch / queer dream cast including John Waters (a life-long Mansfield devotee), drag performer Peaches Christ, underground filmmaker and occultist Kenneth Anger, Tippi Hedren from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, scary Warhol Superstar Mary Woronov, various Playboy playmates and Russ Meyer leading ladies and 1950s b-movie bad girl Mamie Van Doren (who at 87 gives a good indication of what Mansfield might have matured into had she lived to see old age). And for some reason Boy George’s 1980s gender bender pal and pop star manqué Marilyn. (Perhaps there’s a bit too much Marilyn, in fact).

The film works best simply as a celebration of Mansfield herself. Frequently dismissed by the unenlightened as a dime store Marilyn Monroe wannabe, today she looks modern and relevant. Mansfield approached her life and career like a twenty first century reality TV star. Her 1950s pin-ups are ubiquitous on Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest. Fifty years after her death, Mansfield can be reappraised as the punk Marilyn, the drag queen’s Marilyn, the anarchist Marilyn and a vivid precursor to what we now call camp. She also has considerable queer diva value: there’s a reason Kenneth Anger put her on the cover of Hollywood Babylon instead of Monroe, and John Waters deliberately fashioned Divine’s persona as a hybrid of “Jayne Mansfield-meets-Godzilla.” In a particularly brilliant piece of editing towards the end, Mansfield cavorting in 1959 is juxtaposed with Madonna as a peepshow performer in the 1986 “Open Your Heart” pop video. Jayne’s gleeful exhibitionism lives on.

Mansfield 66/67 gives Waters the last word: “I never thought of Jayne’s life as tragic, never. Her ending had blood. Guts. Headlines. A dead Chihuahua. It’s what she would have wanted!”

/ The devil has all the best tunes: Anton LaVey with acolyte / 

Scene report: It was gratifying to see the FULL-to-capacity house enthusiastically embrace the shocking-pink, ultra-kitsch vision of Mansfield 66/67 at the Lobotomy Room film club on Wednesday 20 June! (The night actually coincided with the DVD launch of Mansfield 66/67 - it's available now from Peccadillo Pictures!). Watching the antics of Jayne Mansfield and Anton LaVey over cocktails in Fontaine's Bamboo Lounge proved to be a devil worshipin' good time! As you can see, we even had our own Jayne lookalike on the night!

/ The girl can't help it! Cheyenne as Jayne /

/ Above: Cheyenne as Jayne and I /

/  Above: Vadim and Fenella /

Next date for your Lobotomy Room social calendar: the boozy, punky Mondo Trasho dance party returns on Friday 29 June in the basement Bamboo Lounge of Fontaine's! Admission is FREE and there is one complimentary signature Lobotomy Room cocktail on arrival for the first twenty entrants! Full putrid details on event page!

Further reading:

Follow me on tumblr for all your kitsch, camp, retro vintage sleaze and fifties homoerotica needs!

Follow me on twitter!

"Like" and follow the official Lobotomy Room page on Facebook if you dare! 

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Lobotomy Room at Fontaine's 25 May 2018 DJ Set List

From the Facebook event page:

Revel in sleaze, voodoo and rock’n’roll - when incredibly strange dance party Lobotomy Room returns to the Polynesian-style basement Bamboo Lounge of Dalston’s most unique nite spot Fontaine’s! Friday 25 May!

Lobotomy Room! Where sin lives! A punkabilly booze party! Sensual and depraved! A spectacle of decadence! Bad Music for Bad People! A Mondo Trasho evening of Beat, Beat Beatsville Beatnik Rock’n’Roll! Rockabilly Psychosis! Wailing Rhythm and Blues! Twisted Tittyshakers! Punk cretin hops! White Trash Rockers! Kitsch! Exotica! Curiosities and other weird shit! Think John Waters soundtracks, or Songs the Cramps Taught Us, hosted by Graham Russell. Expect desperate stabs from the jukebox jungle! Savage rhythms to make you writhe and rock! Grainy black-and-white vintage erotica projected on the big screen all night for your adult viewing pleasure! 

One FREE signature Lobotomy Room cocktail for the first twenty entrants! 

Admission: gratuit - that’s French for FREE!

Lobotomy Room: Faster. Further. Filthier.

It’s sleazy. It’s grubby. It’s trashy - you’ll love it!

A tawdry good time guaranteed!

/ Kick-happy? Thrill-hungry? Always reckless? Do I have the club night for you! /

This month we were graced by two visitors from Hollywood – well, Palm Springs via the Cannes film festival! Possibly lured by this month’s featured cocktail (the Jayne Mansfield), P David Ebersole and Todd Hughes – the flamboyant film-making duo behind red-hot recent documentary Mansfield 66/67 - took a break from hustling their new project at Cannes to swing by and do the frug and the Watusi! (If everything goes according to plan, Mansfield 66/67 will be the June 2018 Lobotomy Room film club presentation. Read my online review of Mansfield 66/67 for queer art and culture magazine Hiskind here). Like any self-respecting Los Angeles punk, David and Todd jumped up to thrash and flail when I played a track by X! There was even a tense moment of high conflict when a big group of crusty punks arrived, were caught smuggling-in their own booze and Fontaine’s boss lady Ruby forcibly ejected them!

/ Ladies and gentlemen - the Jayne Mansfield! The pink cocktail contained strawberry-infused vodka, Chambord, cherry bitters and was topped with sparkling champagne! Served with homemade raspberry sherbet and a heart-shaped lollipop, it’ll get you cooing and squealing like a sex kitten! /

There was additional drama when I ran upstairs to go for a piss and misjudged the timing! (This is  a perennial problem for all DJs - especially those of us who play short'n'snappy 2 1/2 minute punk and rockabilly tracks!). The current song ended and Pal (my stoical boyfriend) nipped into the DJ booth and turned up another tune. But when I came down, there were TWO songs playing simultaneously! Pal is still doing imitations of me demanding, “What have you done? What have you done?!” 

A handful of pics from the night:

/ Ruby (Fontaine's sex kitten proprietress) and I /

/ Red-headed vixen Louise - a vision in animal print! /

/ Filmmakers P David Ebersole and Todd Hughes /

/ P David Ebersole, Ruby and Todd Hughes /

/ Ruby and Pal /

My set list:

Bullwinkle - The Centurions
Hey Little Star - Ann-Margret
Sugar Town - Lara and The Trailers
These Boots are Made for Walkin' - Mrs Miller
Fever - Edith Massey
Leave Married Women Alone - Jimmy Cavallo
Little Queenie - Bill Black's Combo
Sweet Little Pussycat - Andre Williams
Two-Headed Sex Change - The Cramps
8-Ball - The Hustlers
Handclapping Time - The Fabulous Raiders
Nobody But You - Mamie Van Doren
Save It - Mel Robbins
Mau Mau - The Fabulous Wailers
Kismiaz - The Cramps
Monkey Bird - The Revels
Little Darlin' - Masaaki Hirao
Dream Boy - The 5,6,7,8s
Adult Books - X
Train to Nowhere - The Champs
Mambo Baby - Ruth Brown
She Wants to Mambo - Johnny Thunder and Patti Palladin
Havana Affair - The Ramones
Steel Pier - The Impacts
Drive Daddy Drive - Little Sylvia
Rockin' the Joint - Esquerita
Don't Be Cruel - Bill Black's Combo
All You Gotta Do - Tracy Pendarvis
Jukebox Babe - Alan Vega
Atomic Bongos - Lydia Lunch
Wipe-Out - The Lively Ones
Beatnik - The Champs
Here Comes the Bug - The Rumblers
Let's Go, Baby - Billy Eldridge
Scorpion - The Carnations
Suey - Jayne Mansfield
Pass the Hatchet - Roger and The Gypsies
You're Driving Me Crazy - Dorothy Berry
I Can't Believe What You Say - Ike and Tina Turner
Krushchev Twist - Melvin Gayle
Bikini Girls with Machine Guns - The Cramps
I Don't Need You No More - The Rumblers
Riding with a Movie Star - L7
Hanky Panky - Rita Chao and The Quests
I Wanna Be Sedated - The Ramonetures
Batman Theme - Link Wray and His Raymen
Breathless - X
I'm a Woman - Peggy Lee
Funnel of Love - Wanda Jackson
Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad - Tammy Wynette
Muleskinner Blues - The Fendermen
Shortnin' Bread - The Readymen
C'mon Everybody - Sid Vicious
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent - Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers
I'm a Juvenile Delinquent - Ronnie Allen
He's the One - Ike and Tina Turner
Party Lights - Claudine Clark
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
Pedro Pistolas Twist - Los Twisters
Comin' Home Baby - The Delmonas
Gostaria de Saber (River Deep, Mountain High) - Wanderlea
Under My Thumb - Tina Turner
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Wallflower (Roll with Me Henry) - Etta James
Jim Dandy - Ann-Margret
Bossa Nova Baby - Elvis Presley
Viva Las Vegas - Nina Hagen
Somethin' Else - Sid Vicious
Your Phone's off the Hook - X
Forming - The Germs
Do You Remember Rock'n'Roll Radio? The Ramonetures
Human Fly - The Cramps
Vampira - The Misfits
Surf Rat - The Rumblers
Wipe-Out - The Surfaris
Margaya - The Fender Four
The Swag - Link Wray
Year 1 - X
Boss - The Rumblers
Shake Appeal - Iggy and The Stooges
Strychnine - The Sonics
Lightning's Girl - Nancy Sinatra
Harley Davidson - Brigitte Bardot
Five Years Ahead of My Time - The Third Bardo
Touch the Leather - Fat White Family
Bad Boys Get Spanked - The Pretenders

/ This month’s birthday boy! Sex Pistols bassist and ultimate punk pin-up Sid Vicious (10 May 1957- 2 February 1979, born John Simon Ritchie) would have turned 61. As you can see, I dropped a few putrid Vicious tracks in tribute. Polaroid of Sid Vicious at the Mabuhay by Jim Jocoy from his essential 2002 book We’re Desperate /

Dates for your social calendar:

Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies is the FREE monthly film club downstairs at Fontaine’s devoted to Bad Movies We Love (our motto: Bad Movies for Bad People), specialising in the kitsch, the cult and the queer! And boy, are we cooing and squealing in ecstasy this month to present MANSFIELD 66/67! In fact, the night will be the launch party for the DVD release! Wednesday 20 June!

Skulls! Pentagrams! Heart-shaped swimming pools! Chihuahuas! Mansfield 66/67 contains all the components essential for an irresistibly campy cult film-in-waiting. Think of Todd Hughes and P David Ebersole’s wildly enjoyable 2017 documentary (“a true story based on rumour and hearsay”) as When the Sex Kitten met the Satanist. It speculates about just what happened when Hollywood’s doomed, bosomy platinum blonde glamour queen Jayne Mansfield (1933 – 1967) encountered charismatic young devil-horned founder of the First Church of Satan Anton LaVey (1930 – 1997) during the messy final year of her life – in particular, whether he placed a curse on Mansfield, causing her fatal 1967 car crash. Featuring guest appearances from John Waters and Mamie Van Doren, a twangy surf guitar soundtrack, interpretive dance and animation, Mansfield 66/67 plays-out like a delirious hot-pink fever dream and is a suitably adoring valentine to Jayne Mansfield – the Patron Saint of Lobotomy Room!

Doors to the basement Bamboo Lounge open at 8 pm. Film starts at 8:30 pm prompt. Arrive early to grab a seat and order a drink! Dressing-up like Jayne is highly encouraged! A special-offer pink Jayne Mansfield cocktail will be available on the night! It’ll be a devil worshipin’ good time! Full squalid details on event page.

Next Lobotomy Room club: Friday 29 June 2018! 

Further reading:

Follow me on tumblr for all your kitsch, camp, retro vintage sleaze and fifties homoerotica needs!

Follow me on twitter!

"Like" and follow the official Lobotomy Room page on Facebook if you dare!