Helter Skelter (1976)   Leave a comment

aahelpos

On July 20, 1969, engineers at NASA realized a decades-old dream and landed the first manned mission to the lunar surface.  As 500 million people watched, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.  Less than three weeks later, on August 9, another group realized their dream when they broke into the home being rented by Roman Polanski and his wife, Sharon Tate,  and massacred five people.

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Outside the scene of the Tate murders, 10500 Cielo Drive, Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles.

The reasons for those murders and two more on August 11 were not typical ones.  Sharon Tate and Voityck Frykowski didn’t welch on a bet.  Abigail Folger and Jay Sebring didn’t steal from the wrong people.  Steven Parent wasn’t running around with the wife of a jealous man.  Rosemary and Leno LaBianca didn’t get caught in a drug deal gone bad.  Their killers didn’t get caught mid-burglary and decide to off the witnesses.  No, what keeps us talking about the murders in Los Angeles that August is the bizarre motive and the even more bizarre people who thought it up.

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Spelling counts.

Vincent Bugliosi, the District Attorney of Los Angeles County at the time, prosecuted members of the Manson family for the seven murders and wrote, along with Curt Gentry, the brilliant true crime book, Helter Skelter about his experienceThe made-for-television movie of the same name doesn’t stray far from the book and that’s a good thing.  The book is a marvel of true crime/legal reporting.  The film leaves out some details.  It would have to or it would be ten hours long.  In his book, Bugliosi spends a lot of time discussing his methods and the legal particulars of the case.

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George DiCenzo and Vincent Bugliosi

Director Tom Gries (WILL PENNY) keeps the story moving forward and makes you want to learn more.  George DiCenzo has the authority to play Bugliosi and I when I think of Charles Manson, I picture Steve Railsback.  He IS Manson.  It’s–if you’ll pardon the expression–witchy.

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“I said no olives!”

I remember seeing this on TV when it first aired.  This was the time when everyone watched whatever big TV movie was on that week.  Everybody talked about it.  I know I couldn’t look away.  Hearing Charles Manson’s theory for the first time was chilling.  It was almost as frightening to realize that this scary little man could convince a group of lost people to kill total strangers for no reason.  Highly recommended.

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One man’s family.

haunty

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