Sex, Drugs & Charlie Manson: “The Manson Family” comes back to theaters and arrives on Blu-Ray

Part serial killer horror flick, psychadelic freak out and mockumentary, The Manson Family is back to stuff you full of acid, rip your clothes off, and make love to you dripping with still warm blood. Severin Films is releasing a brand new, feature loaded, blu-ray of Jim Van Bebber’s “The Manson Family” (As well as a theatrical tour.) so it’s time to turn on, tune in, drop out…and kill!

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 The Manson Family is the kind of movie Rob Zombie wishes he made but couldn’t because his budgets are too big. Like the best Grindhouse pictures, it’s sleazy in the most watchable kind of way. In production beginning in 1988 and finally finished in 2003, it’s a film out of time. It’s like Mondo Cane and The Trip had a serial killing baby. What the film does so well is emulate the style of a psychedelic film from the 1960s and smash it up against, pretty convincing, mock-interviews with the members of Manson’s “family.” It’s unlike anything you’re likely to ever see anywhere else.

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Director Jim Van Bebber starts the tale  in a less familiar place, well before the murders. Everything is done from the perspective of the family. We see them all living the hippie dream on a ranch owned by a pervy blind guy, who is apparently paid in sex to allow Manson and friends to stay on the land. Nobody seems to mind except for one ranch hand, Shorty. At this point, Manson is freshly out of prison and little more than your garden variety acid-fueled megalomaniac musician. The kind of guy who would talk your ear off about how he would never “sell out” because it’s “all about the music man!” Life on the ranch consists of drugs and group sex. So, you know, idyllic. For many of these scenes, VanBebber reportedly directed naked to make the cast feel more comfortable. That’s nice I guess, but he would have been only one of about 10 naked people on set, and all the other ones were rolling around on top of each other. Some people have all the fun.

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Of course, things take a dark turn. It becomes increasingly clear that Manson’s music career is doomed. Something which does not sit well with his delusions of grandeur. The hangers-on at the ranch are concerned for him because at this point some of them are almost worshiping him as their God. Comparisons to Jesus are frequently made. Manson becomes increasingly concerned about the family’s finances and begins sending them on “creepy crawls” or, what is more commonly called, robbery. However, even though the end purpose amounts to petty theft, there is just a hint of a suggestion that these criminal acts are also acts of devotion to Manson and to the family at large. The family becomes increasingly willing to commit criminal acts that escalating into violence and sadism. Finally, Bobby is arrested for murder and Manson hatches his plan to both prove Bobby’s innocence and springboard what he believed to be the coming race war. At this point the Manson family has gone from dropping acid in a field of flowers to full-on blood orgy territory.

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What follows are the more familiar parts of story of the Manson family. You’ve never seen them depicted like this though. Trust me. The film is punctuated with mock-interviews with the various participants in the crimes. The interviewees are mostly unrepentant and often wild-eyed with devotion, these scenes are some of the most chilling. The wrap-around for the entire film is the producer of a fake true crime TV show, Jack Wilson. The film often shifts back to him in the studio putting together an upcoming special about the Manson family murders. Simultaneously we also watch a group of coked out, extremely 90s looking, goth/punk/whatever kids who seem to be in full on drug/fuck/kill mode. Whenever you see Jack Wilson, they are sure to be nearby, leaving the viewer to infer that these weirdos are planning something. Something Mr. Wilson might not enjoy.

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I’m from Texas, and in Texas we like our psychedelia with a little bloody mayhem on the side. If  you’ve ever been to a Butthole Surfers show, you know what I mean. So, I love shit like this. There are scenes in this film that you could practically get a contact high off of. Earlier in this review I compared it to “The Trip” and coming from a Texan connoisseur of psychedelia that’s high praise. (If you haven’t seen The Trip, go see it man!) This film is just so incredibly different, it feels like an exploitation film that was made in the heyday of 42nd street. It feels authentic, not at all like a throwback. If you’ve been bored with new horror always trying to up the ante on you, then you need to go back and check this one out. It’s going to blow your fucking mind.

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Now on to the great news about the new release. Severin Films is putting out an awesome new Blu-Ray of “The Manson Family.” Not only will you get Jim VanBebber’s brand new short “Gator Green” and the uncut, uncensored version of the documentary “The VanBebber Family”, the film itself is re-mastered in HD for the first time in America. As if that wasn’t enough the film got a new poster, featured at the top of this blog post, and the film is embarking on a multi-city theatrical tour!

If you ever want to see this film in the theater in your lifetime, this is your chance! Here are the dates:

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2013 Theatrical Screenings

March 22 & 23 – Clay Theatre, San Francisco
March 22 & 23 – Esquire Theatre, Denver
March 27 – Boston Underground Film Festival – Brattle Theatre, Cambridge MA
March 29 & 30 – Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema, New York City
March 29 & 30 – Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park, Houston
March 29 – Plaza Theatre, Atlanta
April 3 – Granoff Center for the Arts, Providence RI
April 5 – Ritz Bourse, Philadelphia
April 5 & 6 – Egyptian Theatre, Seattle
April 12 – Logan Theatre, Chicago
April 12 & 13 – Hi-Pointe Theatre, St. Louis
April 13 – Cedar Lee Theatre, Cleveland
April 19 & 20 – E Street Theatre, Washington DC
April 19 & 20 – Inwood Theatre, Dallas
April 21 – Screenland Crossroads, Kansas City MO
April 23 – New Beverly Cinema, Los Angeles

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So, get out there you sick fucks! See the movie in the theater, meet your fellow sick fucks, go forth, have blood orgies and just leave it at that. Be cool man. Groovy.

 

Jonathan Watson

About Jonathan Watson

Father, husband, horror fan. I fell in love with the genre around age 5 when I began watching, the Rankin/Bass classic, Mad Monster Party on repeat. Now that I have little monsters of my own, I'm looking forward to training them in a couple of years. For the time being, I'll be satisfied to entertain you fine folks. Now, go make me look good and buy some shirts already.