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Helter Skelter

A movie directed by Tom Gries

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  • Jul 27, 2010
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Helter Skelter (Director's Cut)


Every one knows what happened with the whole Manson family thing and every one knows the story, so why would you see this film? The answer is with out a doubt for the lead performance by Jeremy Davies, he deserved an Oscar in my opinion TV movie or not. For those who do not remember there was a film of the same name done much earlier but it focused more on the trial as this one focuses more on the family. This is actually a really good movie with some outstanding performances by the whole cast. When this was released on DVD as the director's cut I scooped it right up and put it in.

Unlike the first film this one focuses more on the actual family and follows them as they go from pulling pranks to killing people. I really don't have to say much because every one knows what happened back then. Manson really was good at manipulating people and got all these people to follow. So the story goes that after a chance meeting in which Manson did not find the beach boy he was looking for, he found "some movie stars". So in his words to jump start some race war that was supposedly going based on a Beatles song he sent his flunkies over to kill those stars. The most famous of the victims from the Tate/ LaBianca murders being Sharon Tate, the wife of legendary film maker Roman Polanski.

I am sure you all know the story so there really is no need to go into that whole deal, I am sure you all know. What you may not know is that Jeremy Davies gives a very Oscar worthy performance at least to me, he is very much this character. It is the little things that he does that you may not even notice the first time you watch it but look closely and watch this master in his craft. In the special features it shows footage of him rehearsing the character and he is insane, excellent performance. If there ever was a guy that looked and acted like Manson it is this guy here, masterful performance.

Writer/director John Gray did an excellent job on this film and really made it feel real, even with the restrictions of being a made for TV movie. When you watch this film you will not be thinking of this as such, it feels like a real theatrical flick. All of the actors in this are excellent from the Manson girls to the detectives that brought them down. This really is a well put together film and that may be one of the best TV flicks of all time in my opinion. There are some other good ones out there but as far as TV standards go this is a classic in my opinion. I would have loved to see this same exact team go all out on a theatrical no holds barred version, now that would be interesting.

This DVD comes with some excellent footage of Davis rehearsing the Manson character and one of the best commentaries I have listened to. This is definitely worth the purchase at least in my opinion, go buy not rent. In fact buy both films because the original made for TV version that focused mainly on the trial was really good as well. I know people who like that version better so I recommend both versions. Much like Davis in this film Steve Railsback is excellent as Manson in that film.

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July 28, 2010
At first I thought you were going to be reviewing the 1976 Steve Railsback version since I was unaware that CBS had done an updated version of HELTER SKELTER. Having since checked it out I have to see that Davies is very good although I think that physically Railsback looks the part a bit more, ditto with the actor playing Bugliosi. The best part of the DVD is definitely the rehearsal footage. It's not often that we get to see stuff like that and I would love to see more of it in the future. One piece of trivia from the 70s version is that the actress playing Linda Kasabian is none other than Marilyn Burns best known for TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE!
July 28, 2010
I didn't even realize that
July 28, 2010
I didn't for the longest time either!
July 27, 2010
I'm fascinated by the story and have read the book, but have never seen any documentaries or portrayals on this. I'll have to hunt it down. Great review, Alex!
July 27, 2010
Dude, you are friggin' quick...quicker than me! I haven't seen this series yet, but have you heard the WALKING DEAD is coming out as a series in AMC? woo-hoo!!
July 27, 2010
Yeah man I am insanely excited about it, I can't wait to see it.
More Helter Skelter reviews
review by . May 27, 2000
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: They caught and captured the snake     Cons: Manson is still alive     Murder, mayhem, sex, drugs, madness .... some of the words I grew up with. As a young bride I was never touched by these incarnate ideals, later I would become familiar with all of them.      In the far distant lands of California an insect crept into the minds of the young. Often idealized and often feared, he nevertheless became God and savior to those looking …
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About this movie


This made-for-television, graphic docu-drama of the grisly Tate-La Bianca murders in Hollywood, California was based on Vince Bugliosi's novel. Over the course of the film's three hours, it chronicles the events that led a group of impressionable young women to become cold-blooded killers under the authority of notorious maniac Charles Manson.
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Director: Tom Gries
Release Date: 1976
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: Warner Home Video (April 20, 2004)
Runtime: 1hr 59min
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