Manson (1973)




   Serious time- Charles Manson was a sick and sadistic SOB; human flotsam that, because of beaurocracy and ill-timed changes in death penalties, still lives. He collected a group of cast-offs that were too stupid, scared or pathetic to stand up for themselves and, to please a man who offered them a modicum of attention and ‘love’, stole and even killed for his affections and attention. The deaths of the innocent victims were a gruesome coda to an end of a decade that pushed “peace, love and understanding”, and probably was the start of the media’s obsession with the bizarre and twisted, and how they could out-do themselves to get it to the TVs and newspapaers of Mr. and Mrs. American. At the time of the trials and afterwards, there was a call for any bit of info about Manson and family, which included numerous books (including one written by the Prosecuting Attorney- “Helter Skelter”; that was made into a stark and nervy TV movie in 1975- which was remade in 2004) and this documentary that actually won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and was summarily banned from showings soon after its release (it was argued that it could be considered  “impressionable” by the defending Attorney to prospective jurors of the on-going “Family” trials). Since then it was basically abandoned and, well, left for dead…


   The Documentary itself is built around footage obtained by the director Robert Hendrickson and Laurence Merrick (Merrick, mysteriously, was shot and killed in 1977 by an assailant who was never caught) that shows “The Family” prior and during their sprees; hanging around “The Ranch” (the makeshift commune where they lived”) and interviewed by an off-screen crew. Adding interviews and narration by the Prosecuting Attorney Vincent Bugliosi (and ‘faked’ Manson narration; even though the beginning of the movie has an on-screen placard that says “There are no Actors in this film. What you will see and hear is real.”); still photos; newsreel footage and effects like split-screen and solarization, they put together a snap shot of the 70’s that is very dated but still packs a punch (one more note- the music soundtrack was also provide by members of “The Family”, which, knowing that, gives what you watch an added Creep Factor)…


   But this is a DVD Review page- one that talks about not only the movies themselves but the companies involved. The Distributor of this disc is probably one of the sleaziest talked about yet- Beverly Wilshire Filmworks, based in New York and one that disappeared just as quickly as they cropped up. All of the boxes I’ve seen of the flicks they’ve put out are dated 1999 and 2000, and are easily recognizable by their tacky graphics, blurry photography and box-art and lurid descriptions of the enclosed flicks. All have a “Telefilms International” logo somewhere on the box; a small Chinese logo at the bottom of the back of the cases label; and multiple credits for a “John Matarazzo” who, if internet legend is to be believed, was a Mafia “made man” who had his hands in all kinds of grey-area business ventures and has recently died. Beverly Wilshire didn’t bother putting out Public Domain flicks for their product; they seemed to go after titles that (I would guess) they felt that no one would go after; stuff like the trainload of bad Mexican horror movies of the 60’s (like Wrestling Women vs. The Aztec Mummy and Black Samson); early 70’s forgotten Drive-In fodder (Like Flesh Feast) and karate imports (Jackie Chan’s New Fists of Fury & Snake Eagle’s Shadow)…


   This copy of Manson is a VHS dupe; blurry and a bit ‘strobe-y’ but not the worse that I’ve seen. It seems that whoever duped this though had an issue with tracking; during the whole length of the movie there’s a ‘bent’ part of the picture at the top, which is mildly distracting but again, it doesn’t fully distract from the movie. It appears to be a complete copy; this is not one for kids as there are multiple shots of female (and male) nudity and vulgar language. This copy runs 84 minutes, and has no Extras other than a DVD Credits List, which is pretty ballsy considering these guys basically stole this movie and put it out on their own…


   One more point that I’d like to make- the surviving Director has re-released this movie on DVD (and a follow-up entitled Inside the Manson Gang, which seems to be a recent release; however there is no information on IMDB for dates and credits and if you go to the filmmaker’s page ( he rants on and on about the suppression of his films). I think that if you DO want to see this movie then the money might as well go to him- I just think that what he’s charging ($70 for both films on DVD- autographed to you by him) is pretty steep and a bit self-aggrandizing of his importance and that of the flick (his only screen credit, by the way)…



   Manson– 3-1/2* of 5


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