Sunday, March 22, 2009

Warner has director's cut of "Helter Skelter"; nihilism at its worst


Warner Brothers offers a “Director’s Cut” (quasi theatrical) version of the CBS TV film “Helter Skelter”, aired in 2004, directed by John Gray, itself a remake of an earlier 1976 version directed by Tom Gries. The DVD film is long (about 140 minutes) and set up as a standard 1.85:1 film aspect and adds much more of the savage violence (often with ghosting) than could be viewed on standard broadcast network television (hence it corresponds to an R rating). The original book is by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.

The film is considered remarkable because it tells the story of the Charles Manson cult and the slayings and the Spahn ranch on 1969 from the viewpoint of Manson himself. Jeremy Davies is quite chilling as Manson, and they say it takes a great actor to make you dislike him. (Think about all the “hero” shows on television now, where the male lead’s job is to make the audience feel good.) Most of the narrative of the film concentrates on the latter crime spree and sentencing. The visitor can look at Wikipedia for an excruciating account of the details of Manson’s life of crime. The problem for me with a film like this is that there is really nobody to like.

The nihilism of Manson and his followers previews the mentality of a terrorist, and it makes one wonder about what a film about the inside of an Al Qaeda cell would be like. (Magnolia Pictures's “The War Within” (dir. Joseph Castelo) from 2005 may be a glimpse). There are some rants where Manson vents his own version of class warfare and forceful action against his “enemies” leading to a social Armageddon that he calls “Helter Skelter”. Yet, he personally disliked the underprivileged people be preached that revolution would help. In the film, women join in with the savagery, and my own experience with the radical Left in the early 1970s was that the women were the most “moralistic” of all.

The is an interesting scene in London where director Roman Polanski (Marek Probosz) gets a phone call about the brutal death of his wife Sharon Tate (Whitney Dylan).

Picture: from Herington, KS, where McVeigh stored wares in 1995 (picture taken by me in 2006).

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