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43 years later, this excellent documentary serves as a perfect time capsule of the true Crime of The 20th Century.
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.