Dec 31, 2013
Undoubtedly, if Jim Van Bebber’s The Manson Family (2003) is the greatest, most aesthetically ambitious, and psychedelic-driven Manson-themed movie ever made, Manson Family Movies (1984) directed by self-proclaimed ‘aesthetic nihilist’ John Aes-Nihil (The Goddess Bunny Channels Shakespeare, The Drift) is the most obsessive, gritty, pathologically tasteless, and historically accurate (anti)tribute to the dirty derelict deeds of the hillbilly hobo antichrist and his fucked family of fallen bourgeois degenerates. Indeed, while occult guru Nikolas Schreck’s documentary Charles Manson Superstar (1989) probably provides the best and most objective look at Manson Christ and his crazy gals, Manson Family Movies is the most aggressively visceral and vicious look at the sordid story and thus makes for singular viewing (dis)pleasure that simultaneously manages to both trivialize the bloody beatnik events and aesthetically terrorize the viewer in an uncompromising fashion that one would expect from a mad man. Inspired by the supposed urban legend that Manson and his acidfreak pseudo-family had actually filmed their aberrant activities and even went so far as creating the murders for posterity, Manson Family Movies is an innately morally retarded no-budget piece of pathetically provocative celluloid shit that was shot on consumer grade 8mm film stock so as to give it an audaciously authentic essence as if one of the family members was sober enough to keep a camera rolling as the rest of the gang partied homicidally hard. Indeed, shot silently and featuring not a single line of audible dialogue, Manson Family Movies certainly feels like a home movie from hyper-hedonistic hippie hell and a work that seems like it was filmed by a spastic speed addict for his own aimless brain dead amusement. Described by cine-magician Kenneth Anger, who was once a mentor of sorts to Manson associate/killer Bobby Beausoleil (who starred in Anger’s Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969) and scored Lucifer Rising (1972) while in prison), with the highly flattering compliment that it, “Looks like the real thing,” Manson Family Movies is undoubtedly the delightfully dubious expression of a fellow with a rather foul Manson obsession. Probably the most ambitious and oddly obsessive cinematic attempt to recreate an infamous true crime case, Manson Family Movies was shot at the actual locations of the events leading up to, and including, the flower-power-exterminating Tate-LaBianca murders (including the very spot where the hippie killer dropped the bloody clothing of Sharon Tate and her fellow victims). A mischievously merry and wantonly witchy Mansonite jamboree movie, Manson Family Movies features gay negro drag queen maids reading Nietzsche, three different (non)actresses playing Susan Atkins aka Sadie Mae Glutz, degenerate hippie bastards in Nazi helmets sieg heiling the police, and a hip and happening neo-völkisch hillbilly folk soundtrack by Mr. Alpha-Anti-Hippie himself; Charles Manson.
As anti-aesthetic auteur John Aes-Nihil revealed in the audio commentary for the Cult Epics dvd release of Manson Family Movies, Charles Manson was played by a strange fellow (‘Rick the Precious Dove’) who had the dignified distinction of being an ex-Green Beret, five foot two, half Mexican/half German by ancestry, and apparently being “rather psychotic.” Interestingly, it is rumored that the real Charles Manson was the bastard son of a mulatto, but I digress because whatever the real racial stock of Mr. Manson, micro Mestizo-Kraut ‘Rick the Precious Dove’ certainly can pass for the crazed cult leader, even if he is a slight bit more swarthy than the real man. Opening with Manson strumming his guitar and subsequently carnally manhandling Sadie Mae Glutz, Manson Family Movies ultimately takes an abridged fragmented approach to cinematically telling the torrid tale of the life and times of the Manson Family. Hanging out at Spahn ranch, one of the mad Manson girls receives cunnlingus (Aes-Nihil claims this scene was totally unsimulated) from the rather voracious ranch owner George Spahn (played by ‘Palmo’) in a less than pretty quasi-pornographic scene. Of course, Lucifer-like Manson associate Bobby Beausoleil (‘Porn Michael’) and a couple of the gals pay a visit to hippie teacher/dope Gary Hinman and torture him for a couple days because he purportedly sold them bad acid. Being a deluded Zen Buddhist, homo hippie Hinman does not even put up a fight and even goes so far as peacefully handing a weapon to one of his deranged torturers. Manson also pays a visit to the Hinman home and cuts the drug dealer’s ear with a sword. After Beausoleil wastes Hinman, the Manson girls write “Political piggy” on the wall to make it seem like the Black Panthers committed the murder. Meanwhile, a black tranny maid (The Cosmic Ray) religiously reads from Friedrich Nietzsche’s posthumously released tome The Will to Power and carefully dusts a LP soundtrack for Valley of the Dolls (1967) starring Sharon Tate. Indeed, the black tranny is Tate’s maid and the shemale spade also force-reads excerpts of The Will to Power to the bimbo-like babe as if her life depends on it. Of course, the Manson family eventually pays an unexpected visit to the Tate-Polanski home and they slaughter all the inhabitants of the house, but not before making macabre jokes about the fact the actress is pregnant and her baby will die a violent death as well. In what is easily the most artful and transcendental scene of Manson Family Movies, Charlie is lovingly crucified by his family in a scene rivaling the campy crucifixion from The Devils (1971) directed by Ken Russell. In the final scene of Manson Family Movies in a sardonic scenario auteur Aes-Nihil proudly described as “a moment of devout cynicism,” three members of the family throw away the gigantic crucifix that Charlie was previously hanging from into a park trashcan. Quite fittingly, Manson Family Movies concludes with the 1970 Charlie quote, “It wasn’t my children who came at you with guns and knives, it was your children,” thus demonstrating Aes-Nihil's sheer and utter contempt for the American mainstream.
Featuring nil dialogue, upwards of three amateur actors playing a single character (thus making it nearly impossible to discern who is who during various scenes), a horribly homely and overweight Sharon Tate smiling as she is violently stabbed in her fetus-filled stomach, unsexy unsimulated sex featuring elderly men on LSD, a sassy negro tranny with a nasty Nietzsche obsession, bargain bin blasphemy of the culture-less American sort, and happy-go-lucky ultra-violence of the totally unbelievable variety, Manson Family Movies is certainly a film that epitomizes the phrase “trash cinema,” so it should be so no surprise that the ‘Pope of Trash’ himself, John Waters, stated of the film: “Manson Family Movies is a primitive, obsessional, fetishistic tribute to mayhem, murder and madness. Enough to appall even the most jaded VCR junkie... The home movie effect really added to it. Attention to fetishy detail was really astounding—Abigail’s scarf, Tex's gun, plus Sadie, Tex and G. Spahn looked more like the originals than Helter Skelter. Very rude—all the rumors, MDA deal, Leno the bookie, Tate S&M... I liked the Valley of the Dolls and Nico touch. The most obscure was Leno's vacation—I had never even imagined those sights.” Indeed, for those with little knowledge and/or interest in the Manson Family and their macabre misadventures, Manson Family Movies will probably prove to be the most brazenly banal, badly directed, and patently pointless film ever made, but for the already initiated, Aes-Nihil’s Mansonite fetish flick is a tastelessly tasty treasure trove of serial killer-like pathological obsession and homicidal hillbilly aesthetic majesty.
For those familiar with Manson’s oftentimes dark and intensely idiosyncratic folk music, Manson Family Movies plays like a genuine Mansonite musical. Also featuring music by director Aes-Nihil’s band Beyond Joy and Evil, The Beatles (namely “Helter Skelter”), Patty Duke’s theme from Valley of the Dolls, Richard Wagner’s “Liebestod,” and a couple random punk tracks, Manson Family Movies—a whimsical work erratically synthesizing cultural ingredients from both high and low culture—is certainly a putrid piece of celluloid ‘aesthetic nihilism’ directed by an auteur who personifies being a ‘degenerate’ in the truest Nordau-esque meaning of the word. In addition to receiving critical acclaim from such great queer auteur filmmakers as Kenneth Anger and John Waters, Manson Family Movies also received perverse praise from unhinged underground filmmaker George Kuchar, who stated personally to director Aes-Nihil, “I remember your film very well and it looked SCARY! It had an authentic feel to it that made us squirm. Well, it looked gritty and homespun and made me NERVOUS. Keep up the original and disturbing atmosphere.” A sort of misbegotten movie marriage between Roger Watkin’s Manson-inspired flick The Last House on Dead End Street (1977) meets the audaciously amateurish art-trash of Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers (2009), Manson Family Movies certainly makes for a great, if not one-sided, date with the celluloid gutter. For those that enjoyed Manson Family Movies, contemporary punk artist Raymond Pettibon’s somewhat inferior shot-on-VHS epic of lo-fi video-art-filth The Book of Manson (1989) also makes for mandatory viewing. A sub-cult classic of the crazed campy sort, Manson Family Movies—in its outstanding aesthetic ineptitude, innate immorality, and general narrative incoherence—is ultimately a reminder why there will probably never be a definitive Manson family movie as Hollywood will never touch the subject in a serious and sincere manner and those genuine underground auteur filmmakers that are willing to dive deep in the world of Helter Skelter lack the sanity, budget, and production values to execute it properly.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 11:53 PM
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