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Enter the demented mind of Charles Manson.
The 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders have been examined in numerous books, movies and documentaries. The massacre has come to symbolize the end of the American Hippie movement while also haunting L.A. residents to this very day. The new indie doc The Six Degrees Of Helter Skelter is hardly the most riveting retelling of this brutal crime. Still, for those who know little about Manson, his "family," and all of their victims, the film provides an adequate overview.
This is not your run-of-the-mill doc in that its narrator, Scott Michaels, specializes in celebrity death tours. He takes us around to over 40 key locations in Los Angeles, ranging from the apartment where Manson owned topless dancers to where his "family" got together and lived. The tour culminates in Michaels driving out to Death Valley, going to the middle-of-nowhere ranch where Manson holed up after the murders before he arrested within weeks.
Michaels and director Mike Dorsey go out of their way to debunk cropped-up myths, rumors and urban legends on the case. And, with the inclusion of never-before-seen autopsy reports and shots, it should have enough pull for Manson-philes. Still, The Six Degrees Of Helter Skelter does get bogged down by too many unnecessary details and trivia bits. Note to researchers: when your investigations get to former roommates and housekeepers, you're going way off your thesis.
In addition, there are too many reels of the Cielo residence taken by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails who rented the house in the early 1990s. (It was demolished right after he left.) Outside footage is particularly repetitive, taking up a good 15 minutes or so. Finally, the extended periods spent on the autopsies and injection of grisly color photos snapped at the actual crime scene will no doubt sicken many viewers.
The documentary is watchable, but Echo Bridge doesn't give it a flattering presentation. The full frame image is clean for the most part, with much of the vintage elements show their age. Audio is an average 2.0 stereo track; no subtitles or closed captioning. Extras are nil.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
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