Charles Manson and everything that comes with him has always been an American fascination. His mark on pop culture started back during the origins of hippie culture and has developed a huge following since. What makes his story that much more scary is how he is sometimes viewed as a martyr. I assume it may be do to his promotion of free love, but ironically he was also attempting to start a race war with the murders. There’s plenty of material to dive into when researching Manson, including many recent fictional narratives popularized by pop star Hilary Duff and Quentin Tarantino. Fans of Rob Zombie can see the Manson influence in his work, especially with the Firefly family he created. It’s both entertaining and divisive to read the responses to these versions of real horrific events, but director John Aes-Nihil gives an unapologetic look at what a day in the life of the Manson family might have been like without any dialogue.
Yes, MANSON FAMILY MOVIES is a silent film, but the emptiness is filled with real recordings of Manson as well as the family music they made. Scenarios are mimed and the audience gets to feel like they found some tapes in the basement no one was ever supposed to watch. Several clips feel like a head trip has we witness moments of affection and love that can make it easy to understand how one could be seduced into this cult. Other times, we watch exploitative footage of violence and sex where that essence of free love disappears.
Originally released in 1984, MANSON FAMILY MOVIES is finding a new life on DVD thanks to Cult Epics with a two disc set that makes even the most mainstream of releases envious. Aes-Nihil provides a commentary essential for those unfamiliar with the events portrayed. Since much of the film is without context, it can be confusing as to what is actually happening unless you’re a Manson expert. Aes-Nihil works more as a narrator than commenter, giving us insight as to what particular moment in history we are watching. He plays it straight forward for the most part, not providing any kind of controversial commentary as that would be too easy for this kind of material.
Along with the commentary, the Manson completist will appreciate the never before released music along with his artwork that was popularized during his trial and prison sentence. There’s a thirty minute Manson interview which is described as his last. I far from admire the man so it wasn’t hard for me to see how completely insane he was. His tone shifts, but it’s clear that he is a passionate man. However, that passion is placed in the darkest of places.
A very odd extra feature here sits on a second disc and is labeled as “Sharon Tate Home Movies.” For an hour, you watch Tate on her own day to day basis. I’m not finding too much information online, but it’s safe to assume this is also staged. The reason I’m pointing that out is that the actress playing Tate deserves some recognition as legit being her doppelgänger in both looks and physicality. The Tate movies are completely silent, no music, dialogue, or ambient sound. I turned my volume up just to make sure, but I was an idiot to not check the back of the slipcover that labeled it as “silent.”
While MANSON FAMILY MOVIES isn’t exactly the type of DVD I’m going to invite friends over to watch, it belongs in an exploitative exhibit/museum focusing on the Manson murders. I can easily see it being projected on walls as visitors inspect pieces inspired by that era while being engulfed in the experience. While available at your typical outlets, www.cultepics.com is selling limited copies autographed by Aes-Nihil and is a great way to support smaller distributors.