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Beavis and Butt-Head Do America

D: Mike Judge (1996)

I realize that nothing I say about this film is going to have one iota of impact on your decision to rent it, but it really does deserve a mention on the strength of its merits alone. The first Beavis and Butt-Head saga to hit the big screen, series creator Judge takes America's two most notorious miscreants and sends them around the U.S. in search of... well, you know, like... chicks' thingies and stuff. Throw in your typical stolen biological warfare subplot, a gaggle of celebrity voice cameos, plenty of movie spoofs, and body cavity searches galore, and the sub-80 minute movie becomes one of the duo's best episodes. In fact, home video may be an even better place to watch the hapless boys do their business, as B&B have always seemed a little out of place away from their beloved TV. All in all, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America is a film with parts that add up to less than its glorious whole. Huh-huh... I said "hole."

-- Christopher Null






Poor Jayne Mansfield. The one-time UT student was always an also-ran to Marilyn Monroe, if the best-known of the lot. Her films go a long way in explaining why most thespians had nothing to fear.

The Girl Can't Help It

D: Frank Tashlin (1956)
with Jayne Mansfield, Tom Ewell, Edmond O'Brien, Julie London

The severely checkered career of Fifties bombshell-wannabe Jayne Mansfield really got put on the map with this rock & roll gem. Edmond O'Brien (as Jayne's mobster boyfriend) coerces press agent Tom Ewell to make Mansfield a singing star to cash in on the rock & roll craze. The only problem is Mansfield can't carry a tune in a dumptruck. Sexpot Mansfield develops a crush on the homely old Ewell (this was his follow-up to The Seven-Year Itch), and eventually O'Brien becomes the rock & roll star as Mansfield supplies her patented whoops and squeals. Appearances by Fats Domino, The Platters, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Little Richard (the theme song is one of his classics), and Julie London (the real-life Mrs. Jack Webb) are standard for this genre, but the performances make this one of the best of the rock & roll films. Multifaceted director/screenwriter Tashlin was previously a New Yorker cartoonist and Warner Bros. cartoon director, and later went on to direct a few Jerry Lewis vehicles, making him somewhat of an idol among the dang Frainch. His background shows in The Girl Can't Help It's cartoony flourishes, many of which center around Jayne's larger than life, almost preternatural attributes. Both of them.

-- Jerry Renshaw



Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

D: Frank Tashlin (1957)
with Jayne Mansfield, Tony Randall, Mickey Hargitay, Joan Blondell,
Henry Jones, Groucho Marx

Based on the George Axelrod play (he was also the author of The Seven Year Itch), Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, Mansfield's follow-up to The Girl Can't Help It, teams her with Tony Randall and transfers the focus of the satire from Broadway taking a poke at the movie industry to Hollywood throwing rocks at the fledgling television medium; a time when television was still a relative novelty, and perceived as a real threat by Hollywood. Rock Hunter (Randall, a Madison Avenue adman, hires Rita Marlowe (Mansfield) as a shill for Stay-Put Lipstick, in a last-ditch effort to save his gray flannel hide. His scheme backfires when the publicity-hungry sex bomb manufactures an affair between the two of them to make her TV jungle-man lover (and real-life hubby) Mickey Hargitay jealous. A follow-up to the success of The Girl Can't Help It, Rock Hunter is funny from the first frame, with jaw-dropping double-entendres ("Miss Marlowe is merely the titular head of the organization"). Eventually, the gags add up to a broad slap at Eisenhower-era mores that seems almost subversive now. Great turns by Henry Jones as Rock's boss, Betsy Drake as Rock's jealous girlfriend, and Joan Blondell as Rita's Girl Friday.

-- Jerry Renshaw




The Wild Wild World of Jayne Mansfield

D: Arthur Knight (1968)
with Jayne Mansfield, Mickey Hargitay

By 1968, Jayne Mansfield had seen better days, and this attempt to perform CPR on her flagging career was cut short by her death on a foggy highway in the South. Mansfield's style of wink-wink sexuality was already passé by the end of the Swinging Sixties, but Mansfield's escapades take her to drag bars, drug markets, nudist colonies, and nightclubs, where she gets ogled by men all across Europe. She twists to the swingin' sounds of Rocky Roberts & the Airdales and checks out the Ladybirds, a topless all-female rock combo. The director also inserts footage of Mansfield lolling nekkid in the tub in Promises Promises and a scene from The Loves of Hercules, with Mickey Hargitay slaying a preposterous three-headed dragon while Jayne (in a dark wig) cowers in terror. The mondo-style documentary is interrupted by phony news narration and an incredibly insulting, gratuitous segment on Jayne's car crash. The scenes with long-since-ex Hargitay moping around the pool, Jayne's fuzzy high pumps waiting by her pink bed, and Super 8 home movies of Jayne doing the Funky Chicken with her kids are much ghastlier than the average horror movie. Fascinating in a low-rent, morbid way, The Wild Wild World of Jayne Mansfield will make you squirm long after you drop the tape into the return slot at the store.

-- Jerry Renshaw

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