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on August 9, 2012
First of all, it was a thrill to receive this film on DVD period. But this is by far the best quality release of this title yet on DVD. This film has had limited availability through the years on VHS and DVD put out by fly-by-night companies using very poor film elements which resulted in abysmal sound and picture quality. But now the filmmaker himself has taken the time to lovingly re-master the film for DVD release, restoring it's original vibrancy of color and sound. In addition to this, the buyer receives the DVD with his/her name handwritten on the cover and initialed by Robert Hendrickson himself.

Shot in 1970-71 the production of this film is actually mentioned in Vincent Bugliosi's true crime classic "Helter Skelter". Hendrickson and crew caught the Manson family at the height of its madness in the wake of the Tate/LaBianca/Hinman murders and Manson's subsequent arrest. Shot on location at Spahn Ranch and featuring extensive interviews with key "family" members such as Squeaky Fromme, Sandra Good, Bruce Davis & Steve 'Clem' Grogan as well as Manson prosecutor Bugliosi himself and ex-family members Paul Watkins and Brooks Poston we are given insight into the cult-group-brainwash tactics employed by Manson to gain total control over his followers. Especially eerie are the interviews with Fromme and Good as the young women play around with a weapons arsenal of guns and knives. Manson's "death is beautiful" worldview seeps from the lips of his obedient proselytes as they discuss their hatred of the establishment and of society in general while espousing the virtues of their fly and filth-ridden communal lifestyle. While Fromme, Good, Grogan et al were still completely committed to Manson at the time, their fawning affection for their wild-eyed leader is balanced by Bugliosi's detailed description of the murders and by the eyewitness accounts of Manson's wicked mindset and philosophy given by Watkins and Poston.

The family is also shown in various scenes wandering around Spahn ranch singing as well as loitering in and around the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles where Manson and Tex Watson were held while during their trials. An interview with Manson himself is featured (although little is revealed). The otherworldy music of Watkins and Poston serves as a background throughout the film, lending itself perfectly to the haunting and unsettling subject matter.

All in all, this fine documentary serves as the key time capsule of the Manson ordeal, caught in the period between the murders and the trials of Manson, Watson, Bobby Beausoliel, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten. It is, without a doubt, the definitive and best made recount of Manson, his cult, their murders and arrests to be committed to film.
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on January 16, 2010
Before I get into the film I need to mention that I received this DVD in record time. I ordered it on Wednesday and received it on Friday. That is the kind of customer service which needs to be celebrated. I will definately order more product from this vendor.

Now to the film itself.

It is the definitive visual account of the Manson family and their crimes. As a documentary it is very effective interspersing images(incredible picture quality) of Manson, Susan Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten in court with interviews with prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and interviews with Family Members at Spahhn Ranch.

The stars of the film are Lyn Fromme and Sandy Good who are wonderfully creepy and maniacal in their devotion to Manson. These girls who could have lived next door to you growing up are now handling guns and knifes and talking casually of murder. Hollywood couldn't write anything this perfect

This documentary works as a straight up horror movie due to the wonderfully grainy and unsteady camera work and psychedelic visuals which give it a similar feel to alot of the horror movies of the era.

An awesome documentary...visually stunning and it allows the family members to really open up to the camera. Incredibly fast shipping.

Highest recommendation
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on September 24, 2014
I am giving this DVD-R a five star rating but I do have a few caveats to point out to potential buyers:

This is a hand-made DVD-R. Though, it is an "authorized" version that comes directly to you from the filmmaker Robert Hendrickson, it is questionable the he has the actual rights to officially release this film. The back cover states, "This is a Limited DVD Edition of the now legendary 1973 MANSON. This Promotional DVD is being issued only to specific persons and or entities by way of only." Well, I got mine from Amazon, so the exclusivity mentioned in the above quote is definitely in question and by "specific persons" I'm guessing he means anyone willing to shell out $35. Promotional items are supposed to be free. I'm not complaining, I'm just pointing these irregularities out to potential buyers.

The cover is a black and white digital copy. I would have preferred the original movie poster or original VHS art have been used, and that it would have actually been printed, but since this is a "Promotional DVD" it is likely there would have been copyright issues using the original art. This DVD cover looks sort of cheap and rushed; there is no company logo printed on the spine, just the word, "MANSON" printed in Ariel. A bonus is that it will come to you personalized with your name printed on front cover next to Robert Hendrickson's signature (he also signs the actual DVD), which makes it fun for collectors, but is really there to prevent this version from being bootlegged; stated on the back cover, "If both do not have an original signature and or the cover does not identify the person or entity to whom it has been issued, this DVD is likely to be pirated."

The transfer on the DVD is the best I have ever seen. I own the original VHS and a couple of bootleg copies and this DVD blows them out of the water. The picture is crisp and bright and the sound is extremely clear. However, I do want to point out to the OCD crowd that there are four noticeable sound drop-outs that last about a second each; they seem to happen during the reel changes and, most likely, could not have been avoided as the original print was probably damaged at those spots. The drop-outs are noticeable but do not take away from the fact that this DVD is the definitive edition; you will NOT find a better copy.

Despite my critical observations about this release, I am very glad to own it. This is an important documentary that perfectly captures a razor-thin slice of the 1960's hippie implosion. It is amazing that this movie was filmed and released during the actual events and that it has survived for future generations to study on DVD. The $35 price they are asking is nothing compared to the priceless footage contained within.
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on May 11, 2014
I was really looking forward to viewing this DVD and it did not disappoint. The shots of the ranch, victims homes and various interviews with family members helped me piece everything together, even after reading a couple Manson books. If you are a Manson Family enthusiast this DVD is a must. Very informative, to see them in their natural environment back in the day was like being back in the 60's all over again.
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on March 30, 2014
Aside from having some areas which needed better sound & video 'tuneups', overall it was an excellent product. Very little undoubtedly exists from that time in the Santa Susana mountains & Barker Ranch in which to create any extensive video production other than still photographs & written words. I can remember the headlines from '69......I was 15 years old at the time!Having visited both locations in 2012, I still felt a 'chill' in the air, some 43 years later, from the evil that one resided there! Spahn Ranch has been reclaimed by Mother Nature & Barker is mostly ruins but both locations are still spooky, especially at sunset. One gets the feeling that you're being watched by unseen 'eyes' from the hills nearby!
Suggestions? Read Bugliosi's 'Helter Skelter' first and then watch this DVD. You'll step back in time!
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on August 25, 2014
I'm one of those that has never written a review until now. I was compelled to do so. This is a movie I owned on VHS for years. I had lucked out finding it in a thrift store in my teens and it was one of my prized possessions. I ended up losing the movie somewhere through the years and I've been on the hunt ever since. Imagine my surprise, finding it on DVD and being sold by the filmmaker himself! AWESOME! Not only that, upon ordering my confirmation email said I would get it in a couple weeks. Imagine my even bigger surprise when I got the DVD TWO DAYS LATER! Just amazing. Mr. Hendrickson, thank you for showing others how customer service is done. The transfer looks good, yet still old, which I personally love. It helps transport you back to 1969. It feels so genuine and authentic. I applaud you Mr. Hendrickson for having the guts to get up close and personal with the Manson family. I cannot thank you enough for my personalized DVD copy of your groundbreaking documentary and will share with as many people as I can. This is TRUE filmmaking at it's greatest.
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on June 22, 2014
This film is invaluable as an immediate record of the events in question; it was made before the death sentences of several Family members were commuted, and before the final verdicts were known on several others. Of great interest were the scenes with a few of the girls cheerfully jabbering away while holding their rifles; Squeaky Fromme in particular comes across as a scary lunatic - cute, vivacious, and totally committed to her "cause" as I imagine a suicide bomber would be.

Given the number of people who would have had contact with Manson, I would have appreciated a little less of Fromme and more input from different people. Growing up in Hawthorne, California, the Western Surplus robbery is a staple of local reminiscence, and I know old bikers who hung out at the Spahn Movie Ranch - they came for the drugs and sex, but left when Manson started sermonizing. "Helter Skelter," like any apocalyptic religious philosophy, would have been interesting the first time, but tedious on repetition for anyone but a true believer, along with Manson's nasal whine, at once accusatory and victimized:

"Why do I have to stand and take the blame for your sins again? I've spent my life in jail, paying for you, so you could ride your bicycle, have your birthday parties, have what you'd call a life. You know, I never had a life. I don't even know what life is, you know? I go to the desert - I'm not even allowed to live in your desert! I'm no good for anything except to be used as your scapegoat. I'm used, every day of my life, I've been used. When I haven't been used, and I've been on the street, I've been chased, run, harassed, pushed, kicked, my ribs have been broken, you know? The same man that gives you a traffic ticket is the same guy that knocks my brains out."

Oh, poor you. You probably deserved it, you insufferable jerk.
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on May 18, 2013
Just received my copies of these two dvds. I love anything Manson family related, and would have given it 5 stars if the running time on the dvds was longer than 85 minutes, and not so expensive. I knew how long they were before I purchased them, but really wanted too see these, so I paid up. I like watching anything related to the Manson family, and that time period. The quality from the original taping and the transfer to the dvd could have been done better for the price. It is clear and the sound is good, but I think they could have done better with the technology that we have. It was cool to see the family being themselves, just hanging around the ranch, and just doing whatever they wanted. Most of the footage was stuff I have never seen before, so that was a plus. Some very small clips between the two dvds you may have seen, but not in it's full content. If you like this case and that time period, you will enjoy these dvds. I know fifty bucks is expensive for this, but I have them, and you can spend 50 dollars at the movies, and come home with nothing! If your debating on spending the fifty dollars, like I was and want to watch these, I would recommend purchasing them! I was pleased, I watched both the same day I received them, and the time flew bye, before I knew it, it was over. I plan on watching them again when I get a chance.
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on March 26, 2016
This movie helped me fill in a couple of questions I've been trying to figure out about Manson and the Family. I'm really glad Mr. Hendrickson was able to share a piece of history in it's true form. Enjoyed.
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on August 9, 2014
Very good. I really enjoyed the glimpse into the madness.
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