Jim VanBebber’s The Manson Family is a mirror, actually – a reflection of yourself.
“The Manson Family has an undeniable power and effect… It exists in a category of one film – this film.” wrote Roger Ebert, and he’s right. Buy the 2 disc unrated version, please. The second disc of the unrated version contains one of the best making-of documentaries, where Jim VanBebber tells us he’s guilty of selling murder (as any journalist or prosecutor) and admits that at the end of his film, through one of the murderers, Patty: “As long as Charlie is locked away in his asylum, prison, grave you can say anything you want about him. You can make more bogus books and movies about his life. You can joke about him, you can say and do anything you want but the truth is, you don’t have the soul to face him.”
The Manson Family is unique in the sphere of crime films. It is the most experimental film I have seen. Jim VanBebber truly lures you inside the story of these gorgeous absent-minded babes who tag along with this guy he calls himself ‘Charlie’.
Early in the film, a gorgeous young female, Sadie lures an aggressive ex-football player to join Charlie’s family, her family. Sadie tells Tex: “There’s a lot of acid at the ranch.” He goes and meets Charlie “You can have anything I have. Are you ready to die?” Tex says that he is. Charlie puts an acid tab in his mouth, embraces him and yells: “Then live forever!”
The events depicted in this film actually happened and this makes The Manson Family even more a disturbing, ugly piece of art. “People will react very differently to it” says VanBebber and they did and do and always will.
When the film was finally released by Dark Sky Films in 2005 most critics (not all) were shocked by the rank vulgarity of the crimes depicted – particularly at the end of the film, the Tate-La Bianca brutal murderers committed mostly by Sadie, Patty and Leslie along with Tex.
“Vulgar? My God, it is! It’s freaking horrible! No one has the right to to that to another person, invade your home and commit stupidity. I have no respect for someone who takes a human life.” says VanBebber in the insightful bonus documentary.
VanBebber also plays Bobby, another moronic criminal of ‘the family’, captured by the police before the media’s outrageous Tate-La Bianca crime show. If it wasn’t for Roman Polanski’s 8-month boy-pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, Jim VanBebber doubts that this particular case would be even remembered today. VanBebber deliberately does not show Sharon Tate’s murder in graphic detail, as the other crimes.
Out of respect for her husband, Roman Polanski. His film mirrors Polanski’s furious masterpiece The Tragedy Of MacBeth.
The Manson Family is one hell of a wild ride that taps into your own anger. A true art film trip.
We become aware that some characters’ perception of the events differ from what we actually see on-screen and that makes most people angry. Those pitiful criminals (with the possible exception of Tex) lie to us, straight to our faces, changing theirs stories, spicing them up etc. It makes you think about it.
The film has a lot of hard sex and violence, yes. Those degenerates have to assume responsability for their own wretched actions and not blame poor Charlie, their rock star. Did the events really happen the way they’re portrayed by VanBebber in his film? Who can say? Charlie did not kill anybody, though and that is where the public’s morbid fascination lies, mostly.
Charles Manson is not depicted as a monster in this awesome film. He does not have special powers, he’s not the Messiah-come-again “He is God! Why do you think they’re sending him to the gas chamber?”
Charlie’s this guru-guy who loves The Beatles and lives in the now. Spending most of his life in prison, he knew what human beings are capable of. All he did was give the order to his disciples to commit stupidity and they did.
Why? How did Charlie know so much about other social animals? When you’re caged you get the chance to meet other social animals. Charlie loves animals. He learned a lot from them before and after The Manson Family murders were commited. He just wanted to get to the desert and get away from a society who refuse to see the monster they created. But that’s just my theory and I could be wrong.
The Manson Family is Jim VanBebber’s perception of those tragic crimes that unfortunately happen everyday. Does VanBebber’s The Manson Family try to preach you the difference between right and wrong? Nope. Most people think about murder in everyday life and some go with their animalistic impulse and commit this cowardly act.
The film challenges you to think about it before freaking-out and lashing out at somebody.
The Manson Family allows you to project your own fear, anger and hatred at the mirror, sorry, I mean at the film.
Also, the actress who plays Patty, Leslie Orr, gives us the best reason to see The Manson Family: “Hollywood makes violence approachable. This film makes violence look raw and real and something to be afraid of.” Think about it.