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Docu-drama on the Manson Family
on September 18, 2009
First let me state that I'm writing this review as someone who has seen this program on TV and the History Channel DVD release which is currently available for sale. I've followed this case for many years (I'm old enough to remember when it actually happened.) I've seen many documentaries on this case and never seem to tire of them. If you are well informed on the details of the lifestyle of the'family' and the events that led up to the Tate / Labianca murders this offers no new information. The only interesting point I found in this is the interview with Linda Kasabian (who does not do many interviews) and her recollections of those days spent with the family.
There are good and bad points to this DVD. First the good points- the production quality of this program is excellent. The music and photography is well done and to my best recollection this is the only documentary (officially released) that contains the pictures of the actual crime site, although in black and white.
The bad points are in the recreation of the facts. Though Linda Kasabian accurately describes what she went through on those 2 nights of murder, the producers show a very inaccurate portrayal of the events. For example the house used for the Tate house does not resemble it one bit. Even in the layout. There is no gate the killers avoid and climb around, and they slice open the screen on a patio door! They shoot Steve Parent from the wrong side of the car, and on and on it just doesn't match what has been written about for so many years. The house that they use for the LaBianca house is also wrong and in this one there is a gate (they should've used this for the Tate house.)
You would think that after all the effort was made to put such production values in this and finding and talking Linda Kasabian into participating in it, that they would of done a little more research using photographs and information that is readily available all over the internet to make there re-creation look more accurate. But no. Things just look wrong. For people familiar with the crime, the inaccuracies are countless.
That being said, the only other problem is with the version on the DVD itself. It seems that this is the broadcast version that was used by the History Channel. For example, there are spots that jump cut or dip to black where the commercial breaks were, and the closing credits run at a high rate of speed during the last scene in the lower left hand corner, a tactic used to slam the next program in before the viewer can get away. No closing music at all. I believe this was shown overseas and a different version may exist.
All in all, as for a docu-drama this is still an interesting thing to watch, inaccuracies and all. The interviews help carry it through even though you've heard it all before.