Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 21st, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: 1984
Director: John Aes-Nihil
Writer: John Aes-Nihil
Cast: Rick the Precious Dove, John Aes-Nihil, Katie Lazarus, Knarly Dana, Krista Meth, Mr. Jacquetta
DVD released: July 26th, 2005
Approximate running time: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 full frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Cult Epics
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Charles Manson is a social deviant who has spent more then two thirds of his life in prison. He would form his own community at the Spawn movie ranch located just outside of Los Angeles in which he would take in young impressionable men and women who he would brain wash his followers into starting a revolution between the blacks and whites. On the evening on August 9th 1968 the Manson Family would arrived at the Benedict Canyon home that was currently being rented by Sharon Tate and her husband Roman Polanski. Sharon Tate who was just two weeks away from giving birth and her four visiting friends Voytek Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring and Steven Parent who all be savagely murdered by member so the Manson family. These weren’t your typical murders as many of the victims’ were repeatedly stabbed as many as forty to fifty times. Before the police had enough time to catch the killer and the city had enough time to catch its breath the Manson family would strike again on August 10th 1968 at the Leno and Rosemary LaBianca residence. The LaBianca’s would be butchered in a similar fashion to the way they were in the Tate killings. The police would search for months for the killings and as the clues started to lead to dead ends the case was looking to go cold. Then everything fell into place for the police when a Manson family member Susan Atkins who was in Jail at the time bragged to another inmate about the murders.
Manson Family movies covers everything from the Manson family’s arrival as the Spawn movie ranch and works its way through the two murders rampages before ultimately finishing off with a faux crucifixion of Charles Manson. This film was shot on the cheap and it looks like someone’s home movies instead of footage being compiled for a movie. Even though Manson Family Movies is not as polished as the excellent 1976 T.V. movie about the Manson killings titled Helter Skelter there is still something extremely powerful about it visually. All the actors in the film had never acted before and haven’t worked since which if anything gives this film a more un-polished feel adding to the film ruff look. The films lack of budget does lead a too a few effects looking not that realistic and kind of silly. Due to the fact it was shot over a five year period many actors would leave and others would step in playing the same role. If you are looking for a film that looks slickly put together and follows the rules of continuity then this film is not your type of film. Charles Manson has continued to fascinate and anger nearly forty years after these infamous crimes were committed. Rock stars like Nine Inch nails have rented out the house that Tate and her friends were murdered in to record an album. Guns N’ Roses front man Axl Rose often wore a Manson Tee shirt in concert and his band recorded one of his ones for their Spaghetti Incident album. Manson is also kind of different when you compare him to other serial killers who came before or after him in the way that he was able to wrap others under his control and get them to do his bidding while other serial killers tend to be loners. There have been many shocking murders since the Manson Family killing spree in the summer of 1969 and yet outside of maybe the O.J. Simpson murder trial none of them have really remained too long in the public’s consciousness before being forgotten. These crimes are first and foremost are heinous and the fact that Charles Manson after all these years commands such a large following is extremely disturbing.
When grading or accessing the quality of a transfer certain factors like condition the surviving elements or if it was shot on 8mm films instead of 35mm should be taken into account when judging the overall quality of a films transfer. John Aes-Nihil’s Manson Family Movies was shot on 8mm and Cult Epics DVD presents the film in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The colors are slightly faded and there is some noticeable print damage in the form of scratches and dirt. The image looks sharper then I thought it would be and despite looking ruff around the edges this transfer perfectly captures the look of the film. To clean up and restore this film would be totally missing the directors’ intention as the film was meant to look like home movies that were thought to have been lost. The audio for this film is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. This film was shot without out any sound and the soundtrack was complied in post production. There is no dialog spoken in this whole film and beside some ambient incidental music the rest of the soundtrack is made up of songs performed by Manson and his family. The Beatles song Helter Skelter and the theme from the valley of The Dolls also make an appearance in the film. This stereo mix handle the soundtrack pretty good and it is not surprising that it is a lot better shape then the image.
Extras for this release include original Charles Manson artwork, the original LAPD crime scene murder photos and outtakes from the films that can be watched silent or with audio commentary from the films director. Other extras include that last interview ever conducted with Charles Manson which runs about thirty minutes in length. Anyone who has ever heard Manson speak knows what to expect from him and those who are the uninitiated are in for an assault of the mind and senses as Manson is all over the place with his comments that in most cases make no sense. There are a few amusing moments like when he discusses some of the musicians he knows and he attempt as a musician. Most of the mantra he spews forth is about his troubled life in and out of prison. Rounding out the extras is an audio commentary with the films director John Aes-Nihil who spends most of the audio commentary telling us what were are looking at and what is going on. In normal circumstances these type of commentaries tend to be tedious and due to the fact the no dialog is spoken during the film this audio commentary comes in handy explaining what the hell is going on. Sure just about anyone who knows anything about Tate-La Blanca killings should known the events surrounding this shocking crime, still the commentary will help fill the wholes that some may have about these events. Outside a few that are curious about this film and the Tate-La Blanca killings a film like Manson Family Movies obviously has a very limited fan base. One has too give mad props to Cult Epic films for releasing this film with a few interesting extras and not just dumping a movie only DVD on the market. Manson Family Movies is a film that borders between images that are disturbing real looking and a reality that has been distorted so many times through the years that it is not always easy to know whose recollection of these events are closet to the truth anymore.
For more information about Manson Family Movies and other titles released by Cult Epics visit their website.