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Dog Eat Dog

Dog Eat Dog(1966)

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The dvd release of Dog Eat Dog! (1964) taps into one of the last films starring Jayne Mansfield (1933 – 1967) before she died in a car accident outside New Orleans. It's a campy bit of ephemera that has supposedly been championed by Quentin Tarantino, with others noting that he even modeled Mr. Brown, the character he played in Reservoir Dogs (1992), after the character playing Mansfield's husband. The film is based on the novel When Strangers Meet, by Robert Bloomfield, who is also one of three credited writers to the film, a crew that, in a rare feat, find themselves outnumbered by four directors: Richard E. Cunha, Gustav Gavrin, Ray Nazarro, and Albert Zugsmith. With so many cooks in the kitchen it's not surprising to see the film come out like a schizophrenic casserole made by relatives fighting over all the ingredients.

Cutting to the chase, literally, Dog Eat Dog! begins with Dolph Costis (Ivor Salter) pursuing Lylle Corbett (Cameron Mitchell) with his car along the dark streets of a city by the Aegean Sea. Corbett tumbles off a cliff and Costis goes back to his hotel to meet his wife, Darlene (Mansfield). Darlene has been rolling around in bed with a million dollars stolen by Costis and Corbett from a passing ship, she has also raised the suspicion of the hotel manager, Livio Morelli (Aldo Camarda), who decides to plot his way into a piece of the action. Wanting to get as far away from the authorities as possible, Costis gets on a boat and makes his way to a coastal island, but he and Darlene are far from alone and they meet up with a smashed-up but surviving Corbett, Livio's sister, and (in a knowing nod to Sunset Boulevard) an old woman and her butler – inhabitants of a chateau destined for the selective demolition of flared tempers.

Amidst the volatile mix of treachery, greed, and violence that motors the film along to its grim conclusion there is a manic ineptitude to the proceedings that will either charm fans of campy cinema or repel more conservative viewers. Mansfield, sometimes cruelly referred to as "the poor-man's Marilyn Monroe," is certainly not looking her best and was supposedly pregnant at the time (with Mariska Hargitay, who stars on television's Law & Order: SVU). Nathin Rabin, writing for The Onion, writes: "It's a strange juxtaposition of a pregnant Mansfield, seemingly New Wave-inspired high-contrast black-and-white photography, a happening jazz score, hilariously overripe dialogue, international co-production cheesiness, and location shooting in Yugoslavia." By some accounts, everyone except Mansfield and Cameron are dubbed from Italian. By other accounts, everyone gets dubbed, even Mansfield. Either way, she gets to say "Crackers!" enough times to dull the senses of even the most discerning viewer.

Some of the highlights for Dog Eat Dog! include seeing Mansfield complaining about her dirty panties and getting in a catfight, which certainly buys into her image as a blonde bimbo. She was also a one-time Playmate of the Month (February, 1955) and the first mainstream American actress to appear nude in a mainstream American film (Promises! Promises!). These tidbits are easily trolled from IMDB's trivia, where it's also fun to note that she turned down the role of Ginger in Gilligan's Island, spoke five languages, was a classically trained pianist and violinist, and she claimed to have an IQ of 163. Of equal entertainment value are her message boards to see fans sparring over whether her fraternizations with Church of Satan big-wig Anton LaVey reveal her to be a Satanist or simply a cautious observer who was wary of his curses. One fan even notes that Mansfield was not decapitated when the car she was in slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer truck, as is often grimly observed (see Ephraim Katz' The Film Encylopedia), but rather "virtually scalped," leaving a blonde wig on the dash. These morbid ruminations speak of a different curse altogether, one of celebrity, and one easily illustrated by Kenneth Anger's choice to put Mansfield on the cover of his book, Hollywood Babylon.

The Dog Eat Dog! dvd includes a trailer which promotes the film as being "A blind orgy of fury and revenge," as well as two very short newsreels that were shot just prior to the making of the film around 1963 and that feature Mansfield with her family.

For more information about Dog Eat Dog, visit Dark Sky Films. To order Dog Eat Dog, go to TCM Shopping.



by Pablo Kjolseth