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Helter Skelter (1976) (DVD)
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The cops raid Manson and his family at Spahn's Ranch and have gathered them up in a circle, with Charlie in the center. The cops bring in a handcuffed Shorty, who claims he's not part of the family. He offers to tell the police what he knows, which brings out jeers of SNITCH from the famlily. Charlie looks up an says, "It's not nice to snitch, Shorty." Shorty promptly replies, "Go f*** yourself, Charlie. This DVD version has Shorty instead saying "Horse manure."
When Bugliosi is interviewing Paul Watkins (the man who first explains to Vince what Helter Skelter means), he says that people are "scared s***less." This is painfully dubbed over with a cough.
The biggest dissapointment was in that during the trail, when Linda Kasabian is testifiying about the Tate murders, the scenes of carnage (which had previously been seen clearly) are shown with Kasabian and Bugliosi super-imposed.
My question is, why? This DVD would have been an instant 5, but I felt as though I was watching a version of "Cannonball Run" on TV.
This DVD release does not do this film justice. You do not get the full impact of this powerful film due to the censorship. Very puzzling.
I watched this lengthy film in one-sitting one summer when I was living alone. I remember turning the light on at one point when the plot began to take a sinister turn. I was grateful for that light when the movie ended and it was dark outside. I seem to remember sitting quietly after the credits were over, and I contemplated what I had just seen.
If you read my review of the Bugliosi/Gentry book, you'll see how powerfully the story itself affected me. Well, this presentation captures both the essence and the emotion of the narrative. It is both chilling and compelling. The acting, driven along by the astonishing Railsback, is among the best I've seen in a true-crime drama.
I'm so glad the filmmakers didn't cut as many corners as they could have. They retain the essential story line and characters to assure that those who have seen the film know almost as much as those who have read the book. Frankly a litany of all the ways the police proved themselves to be incompetent was a tedium I would gladly forego.
Both well-crafted and powerfully presented, this is a keeper, worth watching and re-watching.
Features? Well, none, really, which is a shame, but what could you put on there? Geraldo's Manson special from over a decade ago? Pages and pages of court documents? The stupidest idea I heard was a "Where Are They Now?" bit -- honestly. Maybe the actors, yes, but the actuals? Please. The extra hour of footage, normally lopped off by TBS (who used to show it A LOT) and the other broadcasters is fine enough with me. Don't know what you could have added to this, as a director's commentary seems out of place, interviews with the cast -- well, memories tend to fade that far out. Footage of Manson speaking just adds to the bizarre aura he still has, and frankly I'm tired of hearing him speak what was once known as the English language (I don't know what to call what he does when he opens his mouth without offending many).
Nothing beats the book, but if you need visual, this is the best one. Not definitive; that's what books are for, remember? Not for the squeamish, for sure, as some of the material is very disturbing, but with the "extra" hour of material, the purchase is cheap and worth it. Besides, real life can be more distubring.
Almost 30 years later, it is still as close to the book as anyone will ever come. That's definitive enough for me.
Previously this film was released by Key video on VHS in it's edited down European theatrical release version. I say edited down because although an hour was cut there were also present a number of profane words that didn't make it to Tv and also the two murders they show snippets of were not over ghosted by Linda Kasabian (Marilyn Burns) sitting on the witness stand telling about the horror the night at Sharon Tate's house.
This new Dvd version is released just how CBS presented it back in 1976 for it's first airing. Steve Railsback still sends chills down your spine as Manson and George DiCenzo does admirable job as prosecutor Bugliosi as does the rest of supporting cast. I give the movie four stars but no kudos to Warner Home Video for releasing it rather plainly.
It will be interesting to see how the new CBS tele-movie also named "Helter Skelter" will hold up against this still frightening account of the Manson Family and subsequent murder spree that "scared the hell out of us all!"
Most recent customer reviews
Brought back lots of info forgotten, I was 18 at the time. I joined a website to vote to keep all Manson
people in jail forever. I was so horrific
To have even found this dvd and then to find it in mint condition, what else is there to say? It arrived in a timely fashion and I have seen things in this movie that I had... Read morePublished on Sept. 10 2011 by Hauckston
... because the subject is a gruesome one.... However. It is an electrifying experience watching this movie... I saw it in the 80s... Read morePublished on July 7 2004 by Henning Sebastian Jahre
THIS IS SO AWESOME THAT THEY ADDED OVER AN HOUR OF FOOTAGE THAT WAS NOT ON THE VHS TAPE. THE REMAKE THAT THEY MADE THIS YEAR 2004 WAS NOT AS GOOD. Read morePublished on May 28 2004 by Manic Obsession Music
After sitting through three hours of the horrible CBS remake of this movie (May 2004), I am pleased to see that the original is available on DVD. Read morePublished on May 19 2004 by Amazon Customer
When this first aired in 1976 on CBS-TV, it was the first made-for-TV film to really push the envelope in terms of graphic violence. Read morePublished on May 5 2004 by Matthew T. Mason