Exploitation Film + Manson Family Footage = Surprise Documentary Gem
August 3, 2007 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Manson may be the only grindhouse film released by schlockmeisters American International Pictures to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary. (more inside)
posted by jonp72 (58 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The director Laurence Merrick started his career making grade-Z vampire movies, but stumbled on a gem, when he and co-director Robert Hendrickson captured eerie but priceless footage of the Manson Family during the Manson trial, including an iconic photo of Charles Manson recycled on endless T-shirts. Sadly, Laurence Merrick never had the chance to make another film, due to being shot in the back by a deranged student from his acting school in 1977.

The film itself has a haunting soundtrack by two Manson Family refugees, Paul Watkins and Brooks Poston, the man who revealed to Vincent Bugliosi the mystery about Manson's fascination with the Beatles. (They sound like late period Simon & Garfunkel... That is, if Simon & Garfunkel had post-traumatic stress disorder due to escaping by the skin of their teeth from a murderous LSD cult.) In addition, two years before Squeaky Fromme attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford, she can be seen in the Manson documentary caressing a bolt action rifle and cooing to the weapon, "You have to make love with it." A chilling documentary on the dark side of the 1960s, now available for viewing here.
posted by jonp72 at 7:29 PM on August 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


"Filmmaker Laurence Merrick was shot and killed by a deranged stalker in 1977."

Are there ever any NON-deranged stalkers?
posted by davy at 7:42 PM on August 3, 2007


I've just finished reading the Squeaky Fromme biography and I wondered if I'd ever get a chance to see this movie. Thanks for the post.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:50 PM on August 3, 2007


Why in the fuck is there a biography of Squeaky?
posted by davy at 7:57 PM on August 3, 2007


Dude, even I have biography. It's at amazon.com
posted by nola at 7:59 PM on August 3, 2007


Cool post btw.
posted by nola at 8:01 PM on August 3, 2007


I've just finished reading the Squeaky Fromme biography

My mom has a fairly strong facial resemblance to Squeaky, and she's a redhead and wore her hair in a similar style at the time. It freaked my grandpa out when he saw Ms. Fromme on the news.
posted by jonmc at 8:04 PM on August 3, 2007


I sense that either Helter Skelter or Metatalk is coming down fast.
posted by jonmc at 8:13 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


If anybody seriously care, I never thought Lynette Fromme was significant enough to rate a biography. Is there one of each of the Manson Grrlz?
posted by davy at 8:13 PM on August 3, 2007


I never thought Lynette Fromme was significant enough to rate a biography.

Well, along with being a Manson squeeze, she did try to off the President. That would qualify as...colorful, at the very least.
posted by jonmc at 8:15 PM on August 3, 2007


It "may be" the only grindhouse AIP release to be nominated for Best Documentary? Don't you mean it is the only one?
posted by goatdog at 8:15 PM on August 3, 2007


Yeah, Squeaky pointed a gun with four rounds in the magazine but none in the chamber at Gerald Ford just long enough to get tackled. That's not an assassination attempt, that's a desperate plea for three hots & a cot.
posted by davy at 8:32 PM on August 3, 2007


Squeaky pointed a gun with four rounds in the magazine but none in the chamber

On my birthday, no less.
posted by jessamyn at 8:36 PM on August 3, 2007


Here are some samples of Manson's music. It doesn't suck that much.

And more shit about Him.

Thanks for the post, gonna have to check out the documentary in full.
posted by snsranch at 8:40 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Your 7th birthday, according to Wikipedia. I think that was coincidence, though.
posted by davy at 8:41 PM on August 3, 2007


What was that about the "non-deranged stalkers" again?

I kid, I kid...
posted by maryh at 8:46 PM on August 3, 2007


Hell, on my 9th birthday a bunch of people got trampled at a Who show. on my 14th a gas pipe exploded in Bhopal and lots of people died. On the plus side it's Ozzy's birthday, too.
posted by jonmc at 8:49 PM on August 3, 2007


"Hell, on my 9th birthday a bunch of people got trampled at a Who show."

Ha! So I'm several years older than you, Young Man.
posted by davy at 9:07 PM on August 3, 2007


I confess, I actually thought Charlie was a cool hero when I was a young teen. Then I lost my virginity and fantasies of mass murder lost their importance.
posted by davy at 9:13 PM on August 3, 2007


Is there one of each of the Manson Grrlz?

Susan "Sadie Mae Glutz" Atkins wrote her autobiography back in 1978, I think: Child of Satan, Child of God. It's unintentionally funny in some places, like when she describes the bloody murder of Gary Hinman and how it upset her, and then says, "Desperately trying to control ourselves, we went out for pie and coffee."

Charles "Tex" Watson also wrote an autobiography, as did Paul Watkins (the Watkins book is probably the best of the bunch). I saw Manson many years ago, and remember being underwhelmed. All of the major Mansonites were behind bars, so the documentary featured a bunch of peripheral members, like Brenda and Squeaky.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:14 PM on August 3, 2007


I confess, I actually thought Charlie was a cool hero when I was a young teen. Then I lost my virginity and fantasies of mass murder lost their importance.

This comes as no surprise to anyone.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:25 PM on August 3, 2007


Let us know when you lose yours, okay Bligh?
posted by davy at 9:41 PM on August 3, 2007


""Desperately trying to control ourselves, we went out for pie and coffee."

That might be a better .Sig quote than any Steely Dan lyric.
posted by davy at 9:42 PM on August 3, 2007


Why in the fuck is there a biography of Squeaky?

Why the fuck is there a MeFi user named davy?

Cool, I got a comment deleted at MeFi. It was te comment above. Which I think was a relevant response to the comment of davy's, but apparently the Mefi gods thought otherwise. I guess stupidity mocking stupidity isn't allowed, only original stupidity.

After watching this movie I was impressed. I think they captured the Manson movement well, and without being judgmental. They allowed the family to stand on their own words. The footage they had was amazing to say the least. After watching this, I really felt the desire to talk to these people now, and see how their stories have changed, or stayed the same, after all these years.

As an anecdotal aside, I used to know a prison guard at San Quentin. He said they used to move ole Charlie around to keep him from stirring things up. I thought it was an interesting inside view of things...
posted by Eekacat at 9:47 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I saw this doc back in the '80s and just recently bought the VHS tape of it. It's interesting and sometimes unintentionally funny, but the best way to learn about Manson and the family is to read The Family by End Sanders.
posted by NoMich at 10:07 PM on August 3, 2007


NoMich, what do you think of Bugliosi's book?
posted by davy at 10:09 PM on August 3, 2007


My Dad was an L.A. County Public Defender and he used to chat up the Manson girls while they were hanging around outside the courtroom during Manson's trial. He said they were very cordial. He almost got the Manson case, but a private attorney volunteered to do it.
posted by mrhappy at 10:38 PM on August 3, 2007


This was utterly fascinating. The footage is incredible.

Man, that was some creepy, creepy shit.
posted by perilous at 10:57 PM on August 3, 2007


Speaking of birthdays, mine is the same date as Charles Manson's. He's much older, though.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:58 PM on August 3, 2007


Let us know when you lose yours, okay Bligh?

Funny that I originally wrote an additional sentence, excepting the losing your virginity part, but erased it from my comment because I didn't see any reason to be that insulting.

Anyway, since you asked, I lost my virginity 27 years ago at the age of 15. I was the last of my circle of four friends, though the youngest. The first, but oldest, was the two-years older friend who bonked his gorgeous cousin but kept it a secret. I eventually slept with her, too, and I still have tingly memories of her that don't involve STDs. And don't even ask about that Rainbow Girl* I still feel guilty about, even though she was more willing than I was. Ah, yes, davy, I was a teen having sex with pretty girls during your pre-adolescent years when you were apparently having thoughts about mass murder.

Though this all has some relationship together because, frankly, I find all those pictures of Fromme to be pretty hot. She was way cute.

* The local college hosted all sorts of statewide conventions of teenagers and such. My friends and I had a habit of infiltrating such gatherings, looking for girls. One summer it was a statewide gathering of Rainbow Girls, which is something related to the Masonic Order. They're supposed to be virtuous. Whoowee! Girls were hanging out of the dorm room windows and catcalling us. We hung around till after dark and they smuggled us in. Also, girls in drama competitions are pretty hot, too. Which reminds me of Michelle, the runner-up Miss Teen New Mexico, who was a lovely and chaste Mormon girl with whom I was smitten and who was moderately smitten with me. But her stupid religion interfered. No, I didn't have sex with her. But I kissed her, which was better than the sex I'd had with some other girls. *sigh*
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:24 PM on August 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


Wow, melodramatic article which redeemed itself with hilarious/sympathetic portrayal of historic sad old man, hilarious melodramatic discussion/derail, Ethereal Bligh I salute your candor and righteousness in the face of asshatery. Great thread!
posted by kaspen at 11:59 PM on August 3, 2007


I find all those pictures of Fromme to be pretty hot. She was way cute.

I'll, uh, second that. Squeaky pretty much epitomizes the murder-cult-hippie varietal of the spacey/spooky willowy redhead, and cheese louise who can resist that?
posted by Kinbote at 2:20 AM on August 4, 2007


Serious question: What happened to all the babies? I looked around wikipedia and such and couldn't find much.

Their's are the story I'd like to know more about.
posted by bardic at 2:52 AM on August 4, 2007


I watched it up to the point where the guy said Manson was Christ. 22:40. Then my attention span snapped. I have never been able to follow the logic showing Manson guilty of murder. Gullibility hardly equates to loss of free will. To prove Manson guilty, don't you have to prove the family members void of their free will? How could you ever prove that? It's like a real life example of Russell's Paradox.
posted by bukvich at 4:27 AM on August 4, 2007


What happened to all the babies?

Valentine Michael Manson (Pooh Bear), son of Mary Brunner and Charles Manson, was given to Mary's parents in Wisconsin to be raised when she went to prison. Years later he said that he considers his grandparents to be his parents, and that Mary feels like an older sister to him.
posted by Oriole Adams at 6:15 AM on August 4, 2007


[a few comments removed, call each other morons in metatalk, not here]
posted by jessamyn at 7:08 AM on August 4, 2007


NoMich, what do you think of Bugliosi's book?

I liked Helter Skelter just fine, but I think that The Family is much better. Ed Sanders isn't afraid to dig a bit deeper into alternative theories of what Manson was possibly up to. I also liked how Sanders was sympathetic to the Family at first, believing that the mainstream press was smearing a nice, peace-loving hippie group. However, as Sanders hangs out with the Family during the trial, his sympathy quickly turns to disgust. Sanders is a great writer and quite funny, too.
I have also read Tex Watson's and Susan Atkins' autobiographies. They're pretty entertaining, but not worth hunting down.
posted by NoMich at 8:11 AM on August 4, 2007


"I have never been able to follow the logic showing Manson guilty of murder."

Me neither, and I read Bugliosi's book 3 or 4 times. Manson's probably guilty of all kinds of things but not murder. If I tell you I'm God and so you should shoplift a can o' beans and shove it up your ass and you do it it's your problem.

---
And Bligh had trouble deciphering my comment “I confess, I actually thought Charlie was a cool hero when I was a young teen. Then I lost my virginity and fantasies of mass murder lost their importance.”

FYI, I lost my virginity in March of 1977 when I was 14. My point was that (going by my own experience at least) once a teenage guy has sex his other, ego-compensatory fantasies usually get sidelined. Even those perfectly understandable stemming from being picked on for being "weird" and/or wearing the "wrong" sneakers, which you of course would know nothing about as you were always in with the in-crowd. I was thinking of Harris & Klebold, that maybe they should had focused more on sex than shooting; what that had to do with the Manson Family I can't tell now, by all accounts they were having lots of hot sex, but it made some sense to me somehow late last night.

In a way I feel sorry for you that you've had such a rather limited range of experiences, thoughts, capabilities and fantasies; if someone can victimized daily for two months and NOT have fantasies of killing the bullies there's clearly something wrong with him.
posted by davy at 8:29 AM on August 4, 2007


Charles Manson learned guitar in prison from '30s gangster and Public Enemy #1 Al Karpis:
This kid approaches me to request music lessons. He wants to learn guitar and become a music star. 'Little Charlie' is so lazy and shiftless, I doubt if he'll put the time required to learn. The youngster has been in institutions all of his life--first orphanages, then reformatories, and finally federal prison. His mother, a prostitute, was never around to look after him. I decide it's time someone did something for him, and to my surprise, he learns quickly. He has a pleasant voice and a pleasing personality, although he's unusually meek and mild for a convict. He never has a harsh word to say and is never involved in even an argument.
Manson credited The Beatles with predicting racial strife on The White Album. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April 1968, sparking riots in 125 cities in April and May 1968. The White Album was released in November 1968.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:33 AM on August 4, 2007


I've never quite understood how or why Charlie was convicted of murder, either. Breaking and entering, maybe, since he creepy-crawled the LaBianca home and tied up the couple. But he never actually killed anyone by his own hand. But the jailhouse has been his home for most of his life, and I get the impression that he continually plays the crazy to get protective custody while he's also getting three hots and a cot.
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:55 AM on August 4, 2007


Ah, yes, davy, I was a teen having sex with pretty girls during your pre-adolescent years when you were apparently having thoughts about mass murder.

I don't want to get in the middle of a pissing match, but I think there's something to be said for how lack of nookie can make angry young teenager that much angrier. We didn't have these school shooters before abstinence-only education and Just Say No! I remember how a news broadcast said an autopsy of the Columbine shooters detected no traces of drugs in their system. I almost want to say, "No shit, Sherlock!" If the Harris and Klebold or Cho Seung Hui or Kip Kinkel had been smoking weed every day, I wonder whether their rampages ever would have happened.
posted by jonp72 at 8:56 AM on August 4, 2007


I also think Squeaky was hot, but not as hot as Susan Atkins. The Squeaky biog is actually very good, insofar as it does the best job of all the books in making the incomprehensible slightly more comprehensible. But the Ed Sanders book is definitely the canonical work.

As a teenager, I was also enamoured of Manson, but less for his mass murdering tendencies, and more for his pimp like qualities. In emulation of Charlie, whenever I'd meet a teenage girl who seemed attracted to me, I'd greet them with the command to 'Go to Rio and fetch me a cocoanut', a test that Charlie would use on his latest female acolytes.

Unlike Charlie though, none of the girls I met ever set off immediately for the airport.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:11 AM on August 4, 2007


Very strange. Good post.
posted by jouke at 9:38 AM on August 4, 2007


Nth Squeaky's hawtness. I didn't want be the first to say that but yeah, she was hummanaw hummanaw fer sure.

A more recent version of the tale I'd highly recommend.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:51 AM on August 4, 2007


Some of Manson's songs are pretty good. "I'll Never Say Never to Always" was covered by the legendary Gary Floyd. I had no idea it was a Manson song.
posted by Sailormom at 9:54 AM on August 4, 2007


I also think Squeaky was hot, but not as hot as Susan Atkins.

And I didn't actually mean Susan Atkins, I meant Sandra Good.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:25 AM on August 4, 2007


"if someone can victimized daily for two months and NOT have fantasies of killing the bullies there's clearly something wrong with him."

Of course. But you said "mass murderer", which is different.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:27 AM on August 4, 2007


I'm God and so you should shoplift a can o' beans and shove it up your ass

Thine will be done O Lord. What dost thou commandest this loyal subject do next?
posted by squalor at 10:37 AM on August 4, 2007


"I think there's something to be said for how lack of nookie can make angry young teenager that much angrier. We didn't have these school shooters before abstinence-only education and Just Say No!

Interesting conjecture.

However, I was an angry teenager even though I was getting laid. I had an abusive father and my home life was very rocky. Getting laid didn't really help that.

What did help was having very good friends who were a lot more emotionally stable than me.

"I remember how a news broadcast said an autopsy of the Columbine shooters detected no traces of drugs in their system. I almost want to say, 'No shit, Sherlock!' If the Harris and Klebold or Cho Seung Hui or Kip Kinkel had been smoking weed every day, I wonder whether their rampages ever would have happened."

I didn't get high as a teen. I tried it and didn't like it in junior high and just never tried it again, though all my friends later got high at least occasionally. But our drug of choice back then was simply binge drinking. And alcohol isn't a peace-loving drug.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:46 AM on August 4, 2007


A more recent version of the tale I'd highly recommend.

I haven't seen this film yet, but just looking at the IMdB entry makes me skeptical as to its historical accuracy....they have a character listed as "Patty." Patricia Krenwinkel was known either as "Pat" or "Katie," never "Patty."
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:05 AM on August 4, 2007


I'll also confess that when I was a young teenguy I thought "Laurie Partridge" was way hotter than any Mansonette.
posted by davy at 11:21 AM on August 4, 2007


Some of Manson's songs are pretty good.

Guns 'n' Roses caused a stir a while back, when they included Manson's Look at Your Game, Girl as a bonus track on the Spaghetti Incident CD. The Beach Boys also recorded Never Learn Not to Love, which was based on Manson's melody and lyrics for "Cease to Exist," although Manson was given a one-time payment instead of writing credit or royalties on the song.
posted by jonp72 at 11:55 AM on August 4, 2007


Oriole Adams: I wouldn't say Jim Van Bebber's "The Manson Family" makes any claims of being the History channel or anything. It's simultaneously more accurate and yet more fantastic than the average Manson treatment.

That's really not where it's energy is focused. It's more of an underground acid-freak-out-type picture, and the story of its creation - shot over fifteen years, 16mm, the lead gradually losing all interest - is pretty unusual and interesting in its own right.

But yeah, it's a real 'love it or hate it' sort of film, with a rare kind of energy that most IMDB viewers obviously were not feeling at all (it's rated 5.2/10 and this is due to the majority of voters giving it a 1/10), so YMMV.

It also examines aspects of the case that aren't generally dealt with (such as the murder of Gary Hinman), and it focuses more on the family than on Manson persay. It's also extremely volent and sexually explicit. You probably know by this point whether you're likely to enjoy it or not.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:14 PM on August 4, 2007


I'm not sure why people don't understand why Manson was convicted of murder, it's the same legal principles that get mob bosses convicted of murder by ordering hits. It was just a matter of showing his control and leadership over them, as well as that he gave specific orders for them to kill.
posted by Snyder at 1:17 PM on August 4, 2007


"do something witchy"
posted by nimsey lou at 2:17 PM on August 4, 2007


Manson's control, and Helter Skelter may well have been figments of Bugliosi's imagination. I have read the book several times, and I don't see how any reasonable person could not have reasonable doubt that Manson was innocent of the crime of murder.

Brainwashing does exist. But the best historical record of it (American POW's in Korea and Vietnam) imply trauma and mortal threat are requirements for it to work. Is there any documented case of one man by himself brainwashing a tribe? Scientology, People's Temple, Osho are examples of organizations with resources. Charles Manson was an ex-con fake hippie.
posted by bukvich at 3:56 PM on August 4, 2007


Control doesn't need to be brainwashing, I'm not sure why you emphasize that point. Mob bosses don't hypnotize their underlings, and Manson didn't need to do that either. Manson had more than a bit of con-artist in him, and many who were the hardcore of the Family, like many others, were inclined to believe his little philosophies, were almost fatally credulous, (usually with backgrounds that contributed to that,) quite probably a little afraid of Manson, and felt that Manson provided them with something they could not otherwise get. Brainwashing doesn't enter into it. I too have read "Helter Skelter," as well as "The Family" by Sanders (including the original, unexpurgated version,) and it seems straightforward to me that Manson was just as criminally responsible for the Murders as those that performed the physical act.
posted by Snyder at 5:24 PM on August 4, 2007


You probably know by this point whether you're likely to enjoy it or not.

I'm on my way to Blockbuster.... ;>

I try to read/watch anything available on the Manson Family, so I will definitely try to find a copy of this film.
posted by Oriole Adams at 6:09 PM on August 4, 2007


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