Wow, wow, and double wow!
That's right, our own workingman's Marilyn Monroe takes us on a sexy world tour that's only about 37% either and really resembles a mild, mild clip show compilation of the bland blonde bombshell's home movies. First stop is Italy…or maybe it's Cannes. Either way, Jayne does view some ancient Olympic ruins (and we're not talking about Mickey Hargitay) and envisions bulked up beefcake comparing their quadriceps. Then she travels to a famous nudist resort island that seems populated solely by two quasi-nature people (they have far too many garments on to be true sun worshippers). Jayne decides to join in and removes her bikini top, only to spend untold screen time grappling with her mind-of-their-own-mammaries before the camera catches wind of them. Jayne then visits the Eiffel Tower in the city of lights. There she fantasizes that everyone in France is having sex. And she's apparently right. Then she travels to each and every (each and every!) nightclub in Paris. They all turn out to be gay. Homosexuality just bamboozles the matronly Mamie Van Doren and she heads over to New York, where there are even more same-sex mysteries to mystify Mansfield. Just when we think her trip will be more film clips, topless bands, and drag queen beauty contests, we are treated to gruesome car wreck photos of Jayne's final freeway farewell and a dour tour of her heart shaped life by grief stricken family members. Say what you will, but this mondo mess is one outlandish foray into The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield.
Dr. Imman Italianstereotype walks us through the seedy heart of sexual perversion and preoccupation, each adoringly recreated for the camera in nauseating loathsome color. We learn that a nymphomaniac is a woman who requires many cold showers before she gives in to her urges and molests men in movie theaters. Voyeurs, they say, get their start by being whiny brats who become suddenly sullen when they witness Mamma's massive ass doing the donkey dunk with Daddy. As further proof that fetishes are fiendish and frightening, we witness a slimy legal lout going through an elaborately staged ritual of ribaldry, all to worship at the feet of the worst homemade sex doll in the history of horniness. Homosexuality is explained away as the result of massive parental neglect and, in the case of lesbians, untold hours of screaming like a banshee with jelly on your face. Under the intense study of theses Mediterranean medicos, masochists basically all have bad table manners and sadists are simply trying to recreate their parents' Punch and Judy routines. Attach some completely gratuitous scenes of surgeons reconstructing a mutant man's damaged urethra, in full blood flowing color, a couple copulating for science, and a final juxtaposition of innocent stills of naked children, and you've got a seriously sick trip through The Labyrinth of Sex.
Seen in light of what we now know about the misunderstood Goddess of Sex, The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield is a posthumous attempt to cash in on the death of the by then bygone beauty queen. It goes from goofy awkward romp to downright disrespectful tabloid exposé so suddenly that you can almost feel the slime soil your soul as the film does its jagged sales shift. Basically silent home movies (with occasional added scenes with sync sound) of Mansfield touring the globe on what would be her final publicity trek, Wild Wild World hires a horrible impersonator and lets this feigned Jayne "narrate" her adventures with all manner of lurid, ludicrous voiceover remarks. Not quite the mondo movie workout of Primitive Love, WWWJM is still a stagy, vignette heavy coquette's exploration of some of the most mundane places on the planet. Every nightclub scene is the same: heavily made-up women on the arms of puffy, gin blossomed men, bloodshot eyes starring at the featured act while nicotine stained fingers fiddle with a martini glass. All the nudity and sex is strictly PG. And thrust into the middle of it all like the bust from Planet X is our poor joyless Jayne. She looks lost and lonely most of the time, her campy queen qualities long inflated into bloated ersatz beauty. The insertion of scenes from Promises, Promises (where Jayne finally bared it all on screen) is unnecessary, as are the constant flashes of her Playboy pictorial. This is really nothing more than a cobbled together class in kitsch for a woman who once ruled the world with the swell of her bosom, but who by 2003 is almost completely forgotten. The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield may not be a masterpiece. It may even be borderline manipulative grave robbing. But there are enough ridiculous risqué romps through the world's subcultures to keep you interested, if not necessarily overly sympathetic to the makers.
If you mixed the Italian Giallo with an incredibly biased view of human sexuality and decided to treat it as an amoral anthology you'd have The Labyrinth of Sex (or as it was called previously, Sesso or Sexual Inadequacy): a weird short segment filled farce about the weird ways of sin. The hypothesis of this haunting, strangely sober look at perversity is simple: it argues that childhood mayhem and overall parental neglect, pre-puberty, results in all modes of revolting behavior in the boudoir. Indeed, noted "professor" Emilio Servadio walks us through various sex stories that play out like sad sensual science lessons. After a rapid-fire seminar in salaciousness that throws every excuse imaginable at the viewer, we cut to moody, well-filmed sequences filled with lifeless mannequin people that attempt to examine and explain (in rather squalid terms and symbols) why perverts are as perverted as they are. Some of the stuff is pretty depressing. A child whose mother refuses to bother with her is left dirty, screaming, and smeared with food. The natural conclusion that this movie draws is that she will turn into some manner of Mediterranean model type and hook up with the sisterhood of Sappho. A young boy is locked in a closet for hours on end to cure him of his impertinence. So naturally he grows up to have a dominatrix dig into his dermis. Anyone not wanting to do it missionary is a mischief-maker. But probably the most unbelievably bizarre segment focuses on a warped lawyer who has sacramented his self-gratification into an obsessive compulsive's damp doll fantasy. The actor playing the crazed counselor is so downright deranged in his performance you feel dirty watching him. Indeed, most of the time this movie feels like the topless version of Don't Torture a Duckling. And the real life sex surgery doesn't help amusement matters much. The Labyrinth of Sex is one morose maze of malevolence that's mesmerizing in its look and tone, but terrible in the tactics it takes to make its points.
Visually, both films have seen better days, but thanks to the Something Weird Preservation Society, they are given the best possible transfers. Of the two, Labyrinth looks the best, since the lush, complex color schemes used throughout the movie are beautifully preserved. As for Wild, Wild World, well, it looks as good as a poorly shot set of home movies can look. Most of the nightclub scenes suffer from the massive shadows of spot lighting, and occasionally the outdoor material is as washed out as Jayne's then career. But the overall image is fairly decent. Both movies are offered in their original aspect ratios (World: 1.85:1, Labyrinth: 2.35:1) and in the case of Labyrinth, this really helps to highlight the composition and framing choices made. As for bonus content, SWV adds a series of silly sex farce film trailers from Eurotrash treasures like He, She and Him and The Countess Died of Laughter, as well as an incredibly strange short about a couple who fall in love and end up coincidently (and fatally) car crashing into each other (obviously a sick cross-reference to the way Jayne met her maker). And as if that wasn't peculiar enough, SWV goes out of their way to offer a totally remastered nudie loop that purports to be Marilyn Monroe's first screen appearance. Called The Apple-Knockers and the Coke, it's nothing more than ten minutes of someone who kinda maybe looks like Monroe cavorting in her creation costume. It's interesting, but not earth shattering.
Like any look through the undulating undercurrents of proper society, The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield / The Labyrinth of Sex are dated, disturbed visions of a private world of carnality and compulsion. You'll be amazed. You'll be amused. And if you're anything like jolly Jayne herself, watching all this abnormal canoodling will leave you feeling "just oh so confused." But in a good, exploitation kind of way.
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