Saturday, February 24, 2007

THE MANSON MASSACRE

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1972/Directed by Kentucky Jones

The rarest of the exploitation films produced to cash in on the Manson killings, The Manson Massacre has long been considered a lost film, with endless searches through dusty old film vaults always failing to locate a print. The sense of mystery and intrigue surrounding the film was such that even the director's name caused debate - it is thought that Kentucky Jones was a pseudonym thought up by the director, who feared that his life might be in danger from Manson loyalists (although another rumour suggests that the film was actually funded by peripheral Manson Family members, and the director changed his name to avoid potential backlash from police or outraged relatives of the victims).

Amazingly, just when it looked like The Manson Massacre may have been lost forever, a print turned up in 2001 in the most unlikely location - on a German DVD released on the low-budget Astro label. Unfortunately, the print has been dubbed into German language and does not contain any English subtitles, but the quality of the transfer is fantastic, and even includes the original German theatrical trailer.

Despite the lack of subtitles, the film is easy to follow for anyone at all familiar to the Manson story, and is a quintessential piece of early-70s scuzz, dripping with sleaze and jam-packed with topless hippie chicks and psychedelia drenched violence. The film does seem to take great liberties with the facts behind the case, but does contain an interesting structure, with frequent black & white flashbacks filling us in on the background of Manson's girls, along with their first meeting with the Messiah (one of the girls falls for Charlie when he helps her steal a vibrator which her horrified father refuses to buy for her!). Other flashbacks depict Manson killing the husband of a woman he has been sleeping with (played by the lovely Uschi Digart - surely someone worth killing for) and being gang raped in the showers by a group of fellow inmates during his subsequent prison sentence.

Until an English language (or at least subtitled) print of this gem comes along, this German cut of The Manson Massacre is required viewing for all those with a fascination for cinema's exploitation of one of America's most notorious and enduring murder cases.

Copyright John Harrison 2007