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Helter Skelter (Director's Cut)

3.5 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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(Oct 19, 2004)
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Director's Cut
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Jeremy Davies stars as convicted killer Charles Manson in this new television movie based on the true story of the August 1969 Tate/LaBianca murders, as chronicled in the bestselling book Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. Almost 35 years ago Manson's followers, at his instruction, brutally massacred seven people over two consecutive nights in Los Angeles and scrawled bloody messages on the walls of the crime scenes. The first night, director Roman Polanski's wife, eight-month-pregnant actress Sharon Tate, was murdered along with coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski and Steven Parent. The second night, supermarket chain president Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, were found stabbed to death in their home.


Solid performances are the high point of this 2004 adaptation of L.A. prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's book about Charles Manson's Family, the Tate-La Bianca murders, and the subsequent trial that caught the world's attention in 1969. While the 1976 TV movie focused mainly on Bugliosi (here played by Bruno Kirby), writer-director John Gray turns his film's attention to cult member Linda Kasabian (a typically fine Clea DuVall), who eventually testified against Manson (a mannered Jeremy Davies) and his followers after they were arrested for several brutal murders, including actress Sharon Tate. Gray gets chilling turns from Allison Smith, Marguerite Moreau, and Mary Lynn Rajskub as "Manson Girls" Patricia Krenwinkle, Susan Atkins, and Squeaky Fromme, respectively, and the production is atmospherically photographed, but the dialogue is often ham-fisted, and rushes to an all-too-early conclusion (midway through the trial). The DVD offers the 180-minute film in a 1:78:1 anamorphic transfer, and includes a brace of deleted scenes (including some violent moments cut for TV broadcast), commentary by Gray and executive producer Mark L. Wolper, and footage of Davies in rehearsal. --Paul Gaita

Special Features

  • Additional Scenes (Additional scenes with optional commentary )
  • Jeremy Davies rehearsal footage with optional commentary

Product Details

  • Actors: Jeremy Davies, Clea DuVall, Allison Smith, Eric Dane, Mary Lynn Rajskub
  • Directors: John Gray
  • Writers: John Gray, Curt Gentry, Vincent Bugliosi
  • Producers: Desiree J. Cadena, Mark Wolper, Peter Miller, Robert S. Costanzo
  • Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: October 19, 2004
  • Run Time: 137 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002WZRVS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,173 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Helter Skelter (Director's Cut)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas Bailey on January 29, 2005
Format: DVD
Most of you know - as it is mentioned in several of the reviews - that there are two Helter Skelters: One Made in 1976, and the other made in 2004.

Is one better than the other? Is either even worth watching or buying?

As is true, much of the time, when it comes to a remake - some will say the original is the best, and the new one is terrible (should have been left well enough alone); at least one says the actor playing Charles Manson is absolutely horrible.

The truth is that they are both very different movies. Similarities: Both were made for TV. Differences: 1. The 1976 version is told more from the side of solving the case, putting the pieces together, the trial, and the attorneys (more a story about Vincent Bugliosi and his challenges in dealing with this ordeal). Manson seems to be almost stuck in there as if some sort of collage or montage. In some ways, the actor playing Manson doesn't have much to do but just be there - I never really got where I could understand how he was able to control or manipulate his so-called family into doing those demented things he got them to do. There are moments though he does shine. The killings are presented in more of a telling by Linda, a member of the family, in a surrealistic-style blended in a sort-of-montage into her crying face. This entire TV movie, in some ways, is like watching an old Dragnet TV episode: The following is a dramatization, and the names have been protected to change the innocent; so you are being told the story, with a narrative introducing different parts. To me, it seems very flat in many ways. The acting is very flat-but there are some good moments, and some very good performances.
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Format: DVD
The 2004 made-for-TV version of "Helter Skelter" certainly received harsh treatment from both professional and amateur critics alike. This is not particularly surprising, considering the ghoulish subject manner and the intense sensibilities in relation to this legendary crime. Going into this film my expectations were low. While watching the DVD version, which included a variety of violent scenes not shown during its original TV broadcast, I was surprised to discover this was a quality production.

This new perspective of "Helter Skelter" is probably the best film ever made about this lurid tale, and Jeremy Davies' thoughtful performance as Charles Manson comes about as close to the truth as we are ever going to get. For the most part, the filmmakers had their facts straight. I rolled my eyes throughout several miscalculations, most notably the elimination of the murder of Spahn Ranch employee Shorty Shea. Granted, there's only a certain amount of information this film could pack into its busy two-plus hours running time, but Shorty was a known victim of this hippie-creepy cult - a human being murdered in the dead of night. If you're going to tell this story yet again (and the question as to whether it was necessary would require an entirely new post), don't eliminate victims simply to create a prime time package for mass consumption.

In addition, the meeting of Charles Manson and Sharon Tate is disputed to this day. While Manson most definitely visited the Tate property prior to the murders, the filmmakers' choice to have them meet eye-to-eye was tacky. That being said, there was an honest attempt by the filmmakers to portray the conditions that led this family of psychotic youths to commit such horrible murders in 1969.
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Format: DVD
still this product shows us the brutality of Manson first hand. In 1976, the tv-film gave us a chilling insight into intelligent madness - yup who can deny that the brain of Manson in not unlike Hitler; mad, but with vision and control of the environment.....

In this version we get to know the victims... they`re no longer just names and figures... The last scene in which Sharon whispers "Cut the baby" to Susan Atkins never happened, but she d i d try to negotiate with her killers; "take me with you, let me have my baby and then kill me" and "can you remove the baby from the womb" when she realised there was no hope...

This is a trashy account of the story and it SUCCEEDS in showing us that the kilings were not some sort of great ritualistic thing as been presented over the years.... But this was a total senseless massacre and THAT`s why this film succeeds; it speaks volumes why not the killers should ever be released.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Well, what can I say; after all these years, Charles Manson remains a looming presence in the collective American Psyche. And he doesn't even have a Public Relations Firm working for him. Pretty impressive, Charlie. So, as for the movie. I like it, mainly for the strange portrayal of Charles Manson who is, let's face it, strange to say the least. I like the Jeremy Davies' interpretation of America's most notorious Svengali and orchestrator of at least two very gruesome and very public mass murders. As for historical accuracy; who knows what Manson really said to these impressionable young people who carried out his wicked, murderous instructions? I liked the portrayal of Manson and other real life figures such as Dennis Wilson and Terry Melcher. Sharon Tate was so beautiful in real life that it would be difficult to find someone who could equal her physicality; but the actress who plays her does an adequate job, especially when she gets a glimpse of Manson when he comes to the door searching for Terry Melcher. Hey, let's face it; you may think he is evil and even repulsive; but the man, Manson, continues to fascinate still, after all these years. Anyway, maybe it wasn't necessary to remake this movie. The first made for television film was actually quite good though it did take a different approach to the material. Also, why bother to remake this material into a film after all these years? I like it, mainly for the eccentric Charles Manson portrayal; but I'm repeating myself. Well, that's that. Watch this film for Charlie and his gang and a lurid, albeit bloody and brutal, trip down memory lane.
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