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Helter Skelter (2004)

George Di Cenzo , Steve Railsback , Tom Gries  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: George Di Cenzo, Steve Railsback
  • Directors: Tom Gries
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Miniseries, Full Screen
  • Language: English (Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: April 20, 2004
  • Run Time: 184 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001AVZM6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,989 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Helter Skelter" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Based on the bestselling book by Vincent Bugliosi, the two-part TV movie Helter Skelter is a clinical but often chilling recount of the arrest and trial of Charles Manson and his cult for a pair of horrific murders in 1969. Character actor George DiCenzo is a bit dry as prosecutor Bugliosi, who must patch together a series of far-flung clues to incarcerate Manson for the murder spree, which claimed the life of actress Sharon Tate, among others; he and the rest of the capable cast (which includes Marilyn Burns from the '74 Texas Chainsaw Massacre) are completely overshadowed by Steve Railsback's disturbing performance as Manson. Railsback is the main reason to revisit this feature, which shocked many during its network run in 1976, but now seems methodical in its pacing and direction. Warner Bros.'s DVD is the longer 184-minute version of the film, which should please viewers accustomed to the 119-minute rebroadcast cut; otherwise, the disc is disappointingly supplement-free. --Paul Gaita

Product Description

The investigation of two horrific mass murders leads to the capture and trial of the psychotic pseudo-hippie Charles Manson and his "family".

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Chilling True-Crime Classic! First-Class DVD! April 21, 2004
1976's "Helter Skelter" is an intense and quite suspenseful TV movie, starring Steve Railsback, who is so good as Charles Manson, it's rather eerie. The film also stars George DiCenzo, as Los Angeles prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. The tele-film is based on Mr. Bugliosi's best-selling true-crime novel of the same title.

The film is told in semi-documentary style (with DiCenzo doubling as narrator throughout the movie). It begins with a very spine-chilling scene in the early-morning hours of August 9, 1969, in Los Angeles, California. We hear multiple gunshots from a distance. Gunshots which emanated from nearby 10050 Cielo Drive, the home of movie director Roman Polanski and his pregnant wife, 26-year-old actress Sharon Tate.

The gunshots were fired by a member of Charles Manson's so-called "Family". And so began one of the most bizarre chapters in the history of crime -- a senseless massacre, claiming the lives of seven innocent people, that became commonly known as the "Tate/LaBianca Murders".

Manson's "zombie" killers racked up five murders at the Tate residence, and the next night went out and killed two more people they had never met, Mr. and Mrs. LaBianca, at 3301 Waverly Drive, in another part of Los Angeles (Los Feliz).

(In my own view, Manson and his team of brainwashed murderers should *really* have been charged with EIGHT killings in August 1969. Number eight being the unborn child of Sharon Tate.)

The film recreates the discovery of the two grisly murder scenes with nerve-wracking effectiveness, but without showing too much gore, which is all the better (as well as tasteful). But the fact that this was a 1976 made-for-TV feature no doubt limited the filmmakers with regard to showing material of an overly-graphic nature.
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83 of 90 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What's With The Censoring??? June 10, 2004
Bought this TV classic, which has been LONG OVERDUE for DVD release, and was EXTREMELY dissapointed to find it has been censored. Yes, censored. I have a copy of the original 2-part on VHS, and I was stunned to find out that this DVD release is censored.
The cops raid Manson and his family at Spahn's Ranch and have gathered them up in a circle, with Charlie in the center. The cops bring in a handcuffed Shorty, who claims he's not part of the family. He offers to tell the police what he knows, which brings out jeers of SNITCH from the famlily. Charlie looks up an says, "It's not nice to snitch, Shorty." Shorty promptly replies, "Go f*** yourself, Charlie. This DVD version has Shorty instead saying "Horse manure."
When Bugliosi is interviewing Paul Watkins (the man who first explains to Vince what Helter Skelter means), he says that people are "scared s***less." This is painfully dubbed over with a cough.
The biggest dissapointment was in that during the trail, when Linda Kasabian is testifiying about the Tate murders, the scenes of carnage (which had previously been seen clearly) are shown with Kasabian and Bugliosi super-imposed.
My question is, why? This DVD would have been an instant 5, but I felt as though I was watching a version of "Cannonball Run" on TV.
This DVD release does not do this film justice. You do not get the full impact of this powerful film due to the censorship. Very puzzling.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A CLASSIC REVISITED. August 20, 2004
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Its been more than 35 years since the Tate-LaBianca murders and the facts of those crimes may not shock people too young to remember that brief period of history or those so inured to mindless violence through the media since 1969. But to those of us who lived through those days, especially in Southern California's San Fernando Valley, the potency of the crimes and this remarkable tele-film still reverberate today.

The movie covers an amazing amount of factual ground and does justice to Vincent Bugliosi's massive, definitive account of the Manson Family and the era in which he operated. As a movie, it's a classic example of mixing documentary style dialogue with first-rate characterizations. Though Steve Railsback's frighteningly realistic performance allegedly typecast him, this actually adds to the impact of his superb performance--it was simply TOO good. George DiCenzo is appropriately business-like as Bugliosi at the start, then slowly grows more impassioned and frustrated as the travails of the justice system wind before him. All the "Manson Girl" roles are performed well, Marilyn Burns is poignant as Linda Kasabian, but special kudos should go to Nancy Wolfe as Susan Atkins. At the least, she should have gotten a supporting actress Emmy nomination, if not the award, for her stunning depiction of the robotic, demented Manson slave who was perhaps more frightening than the leader himself. Also noteworthy are Sondra Blake (yes, Robert's ex)as the brave Ronnie Howard and young Jon Gries as the caretaker initially suspected of the Cielo drive murders. All in all, this film stands the test of time and is even more impressive next to the sickly "reimagined" version that played on early 2004 television. Some classics don't need remaking. Just revisiting. "Helter Skelter" stands in this pantheon.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Long Awaited Helter Skelter May 11, 2004
It's taken years to finally get this tele-film released in it's entirety as seen on CBS in two nights during March of 1976. It's a good enough print but I was disappointed that there were no extras included on this Dvd. It would have been interesting to have a documentary etc included in the pkg.
Previously this film was released by Key video on VHS in it's edited down European theatrical release version. I say edited down because although an hour was cut there were also present a number of profane words that didn't make it to Tv and also the two murders they show snippets of were not over ghosted by Linda Kasabian (Marilyn Burns) sitting on the witness stand telling about the horror the night at Sharon Tate's house.
This new Dvd version is released just how CBS presented it back in 1976 for it's first airing. Steve Railsback still sends chills down your spine as Manson and George DiCenzo does admirable job as prosecutor Bugliosi as does the rest of supporting cast. I give the movie four stars but no kudos to Warner Home Video for releasing it rather plainly.
It will be interesting to see how the new CBS tele-movie also named "Helter Skelter" will hold up against this still frightening account of the Manson Family and subsequent murder spree that "scared the hell out of us all!"
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks bugliosi!
This movie in itself is probably the deepest dive into a psychopaths mind as you can get without reading the book. This documovie is well cast and so well acted. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Pen Name
4.0 out of 5 stars Helter Skelter
It was a very interesting "documentary type" movie. I enjoyed watching it. I thought it would be interesting if a modern day producer/director did a remake. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Michelle R.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Exactly what I expected and reasonably priced.
Published 27 days ago by Terry Gordon Dunn
4.0 out of 5 stars Movie is like Book
A movie that doesn't stray from the book of the same name.
Published 29 days ago by Lilly
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Great 80's made for TV movie of the week.
Published 1 month ago by Anthony Emberley
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by steven finch
5.0 out of 5 stars Leave the lights on when you watch it.
Still as creepy and disturbing as I remember. Fabulous true story. They nailed it.
Published 1 month ago by Sadie
5.0 out of 5 stars God
Good pic
Published 1 month ago by Noe Gadea
2.0 out of 5 stars Mostly a hagiography for Vincent Bugliosi
Toward the end of the movie, Charles Manson addresses Bugliosi directly and seems to want some affirmation, but Bugliosi boldly states that Manson is just a con artist who... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Tim Lieder
5.0 out of 5 stars This movie is one of those that sticks with you forever.!
I have read the book and then watched this movie time and time again over the years. I think this movie is one that needs to be shared with everyone old enough to sit through the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by techie mike
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