B&W, 1964, 84m. / Directed by Richard E. Cunha & Gustav Gavrin / Starring Jayne Mansfield, Cameron Mitchell, Ivor Salter, Siegfried Lowitz, Werner Peters, Elisabeth Flickenschildt, Isa Miranda / Dark Sky / WS (1.85:1)

Few movies have openings more catchy than Dog Eat Dog, whose credits intercut footage of a busty Jayne Mansfield writhing in ecstasy in a small white teddy on a bed covered in fluttering thousand dollar bills, while Cameron Mitchell is pursued on foot though Mediterranean alleys by a cackling goon in sunglasses driving a fast sports car and brandishing a pistol. Sound fun? You betcha. Fans of campy Continental trash will have a blast with this deranged crime caper, which follows the misadventures of three dysfunctional criminals who've swiped a huge stash of cash marked for destruction by the U.S. Treasury. Darlene (Mansfield) is a highly aroused, money-obsessed sexpot prone to exclaiming "Crackers!" in every sentence (as in "Crackers, you're cute!"); Lylle (Mitchell) is half-insane and really ticked off after barely surviving a tumble down a cliff in the aforementioned opening and spends the rest of the film with half his face ground into hamburger; and Dolph (TV actor Salter) looks smarmy and cooks up nefarious plans of his own. Things get far more complicated when the trio decides to hide out on a remote Mediterranean island, only for the cash to go missing with a mysterious killer lurking about. Among the suspects are a roster of familiar faces from the German Edgar Wallace thrillers, including Flickenschildt as an aging and rather deranged matron in a black veil and Peters (the fey antique dealer from The Bird with the Crystal Plumage) as her oddball butler. Pretty soon most of the cast winds up dead, as the film spirals further into pure surrealism with an oceanic finale that's almost poetic enough to wind up in a Jean Rollin film.

Though the overacting Mitchell gets top billing for this film, it's really Jayne's show all the way. Looking a bit more zaftig than usual and sporting that same dubbed voice familiar from most of her European work (e.g., The Loves of Hercules, Primitive Love, etc.), she's still a treat to watch as she really cuts loose here, gyratic and scheming with the best of 'em. Fast-paced and filled with moody location footage, the film is definitely a cut above your standard Euro-crime film, augmented with a catchy Carlo Savina score and plenty of weird, unexpected surprises, both visual and narrative. Newcomers to strange '60s cinema may find it all a bit too bizarre to swallow, but die-hard cult fans should lap it right up.

Extremely difficult to see apart from rare after-hours TV airings, Dog Eat Dog comes to DVD in a nice edition from Dark Sky. For some reason the widescreen transfer isn't anamorphic, but zooming in on a widescreen monitor still produces a sharp, pleasing picture that minimizes the damage. The looped English track (which is as close to an original audio source as possible since this was probably shot without sound) matches the lip movements of the two American leads, less so with everyone else. Extras include the theatrical trailer (which credits the film onscreen under its current title while the voiceover repeatedly calls it When Strangers Appear, the title of Robert Bloomfield's source novel) and two Mansfield-related newsreels, the more interesting one prepared shortly after her death with plenty of footage from her career and public appearances with husband Mickey Hargitay.

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