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Helter Skelter (Director's Cut)
Helter Skelter
Director's Cut
Actors: Jeremy Davies, Clea DuVall, Allison Smith, Frank Zieger, Eric Dane
Director: John Gray
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Horror, Music Video & Concerts, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Mystery & Suspense
UR     2004     2hr 17min

Jeremy Davies stars as convicted killer Charles Manson in this new television movie based on the true story of the August 1969 Tate/LaBianca murders, as chronicled in the bestselling book Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Jeremy Davies, Clea DuVall, Allison Smith, Frank Zieger, Eric Dane
Director: John Gray
Creators: Don E. FauntLeRoy, John Gray, Mark Wolper, Peter Miller, Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Horror, Music Video & Concerts, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Crime, Drama, Horror, Music Artists, Classic Rock, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/19/2004
Original Release Date: 05/16/2004
Theatrical Release Date: 05/16/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 2hr 17min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

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Member Movie Reviews

Kristie G. from FERGUSON, KY
Reviewed on 10/12/2012...
It was a great movie.Worth watching
2 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Tracy B. (MooVeeFreak) from CARTHAGE, TN
Reviewed on 12/17/2010...
It was awesome....
0 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Sandra F. (Sami) from ST PETERSBURG, FL
Reviewed on 4/14/2009...
I watched this movie because I remember when this horrible event happened. This is a horrifying movie. I find it deeply disturbing that these people were so evil and unrepentent. Unfortunately they could not get the death penalty. The movie is pretty graphic and sickening. It is very scary that eventually they might actually get out of prison to kill again.
5 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
Bridgett A. (Anya) from BALTIMORE, MD
Reviewed on 3/30/2008...
Personally, I enjoyed the original much more.

Oh, and Charles Manson is NOT dead as another reviewer noted.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Which one: Helter Skelter, or Helter Skelter?
Thomas Bailey | Seattle, WA United States | 01/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Most of you know - as it is mentioned in several of the reviews - that there are two Helter Skelters: One Made in 1976, and the other made in 2004.

Is one better than the other? Is either even worth watching or buying?

As is true, much of the time, when it comes to a remake - some will say the original is the best, and the new one is terrible (should have been left well enough alone); at least one says the actor playing Charles Manson is absolutely horrible.

The truth is that they are both very different movies. Similarities: Both were made for TV. Differences: 1. The 1976 version is told more from the side of solving the case, putting the pieces together, the trial, and the attorneys (more a story about Vincent Bugliosi and his challenges in dealing with this ordeal). Manson seems to be almost stuck in there as if some sort of collage or montage. In some ways, the actor playing Manson doesn't have much to do but just be there - I never really got where I could understand how he was able to control or manipulate his so-called family into doing those demented things he got them to do. There are moments though he does shine. The killings are presented in more of a telling by Linda, a member of the family, in a surrealistic-style blended in a sort-of-montage into her crying face. This entire TV movie, in some ways, is like watching an old Dragnet TV episode: The following is a dramatization, and the names have been protected to change the innocent; so you are being told the story, with a narrative introducing different parts. To me, it seems very flat in many ways. The acting is very flat-but there are some good moments, and some very good performances. There are places where the Helter Skelter Philosophy is explained much more clearly and thoroughly than in the new one. 2. The 2004 version is told more as an actual experience, and from the side of Manson. This was done deliberately-as is explained in the commentary-to show more from the side of Manson and his Family than what the 1976 version did. The actor playing Manson is quite good and disturbing at times; I could feel the power and control he had more than in the older version; the commentary helped explain this as well. He comes across as being more intelligent and capable of leading and controlling than he does in the older one. No denying that he is loony in both of them-but in the new one he is loony and powerful and dangerous and completely out of touch, but in touch in a way as well (he is able to see into people. He is able to use that. This is explained in the commentary). There is a surrealistic approach in the way the killings are shown here as well - but here it is more like being an observer of these strange, bizarre acts, than an observer of one remembering and telling of these strange, bizarre acts. I found myself questioning, at times, the actor playing Manson's performance: Did Manson really talk like that? Talking in a breathy, eerie manner? Talk as if he is putting on a constant performance? This could be a shortcoming of the actor, or a shortcoming of Manson. I remember seeing, a long time ago, a documentary (and reading it as well) that Manson would practice facial expressions (it was as if there was nothing beneath the surface of expression, just an emptiness), and in the documentary you could see him, while he was on trial, walking down the hall, and his face going through the changes of different expressions without any reason for them to be there at all. So, it's possible that in those moments that the actor might seem bad - he isn't really bad at all. I haven't gotten all the way through the commentary, so I don't know whether or not that is mentioned.

I basically think that both TV movies compliment each other. The new one is like a prequel to the other. It sure wouldn't hurt to own both. There are some differences that may make you wonder what the real truth is. Since we all see through our own mind filters and perceptions, we might wonder how true the original book both of these are based on is.

Neither of the two is flawless. Both have their negatives and positives. If you can afford both, buy both. You want only one: Buy the 2004 version; at least you have an insightful commentary. I own both.
Surprisingly good version of this crime
Chris Wilson | Dallas, TX | 07/14/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The 2004 made-for-TV version of "Helter Skelter" certainly received harsh treatment from both professional and amateur critics alike. This is not particularly surprising, considering the ghoulish subject manner and the intense sensibilities in relation to this legendary crime. Going into this film my expectations were low. While watching the DVD version, which included a variety of violent scenes not shown during its original TV broadcast, I was surprised to discover this was a quality production.

This new perspective of "Helter Skelter" is probably the best film ever made about this lurid tale, and Jeremy Davies' thoughtful performance as Charles Manson comes about as close to the truth as we are ever going to get. For the most part, the filmmakers had their facts straight. I rolled my eyes throughout several miscalculations, most notably the elimination of the murder of Spahn Ranch employee Shorty Shea. Granted, there's only a certain amount of information this film could pack into its busy two-plus hours running time, but Shorty was a known victim of this hippie-creepy cult - a human being murdered in the dead of night. If you're going to tell this story yet again (and the question as to whether it was necessary would require an entirely new post), don't eliminate victims simply to create a prime time package for mass consumption.

In addition, the meeting of Charles Manson and Sharon Tate is disputed to this day. While Manson most definitely visited the Tate property prior to the murders, the filmmakers' choice to have them meet eye-to-eye was tacky. That being said, there was an honest attempt by the filmmakers to portray the conditions that led this family of psychotic youths to commit such horrible murders in 1969.

"Helter Skelter" was not gritty enough for my taste, as the Spahn Ranch commune was far more picturesque than the horse fly-covered, greasy-haired reality. Manson and his clan are portrayed as humans rather than demons, and I suppose if we are going to understand this subject matter, this difficult truth should be emphasized.

Casting Clea DuVall as the controversial Linda Kasabian was an excellent move. Not only is DuVall one of the finest actresses of her generation (and her performance rivals Davies'), but Kasabian was just about the only member of Manson's Family to show remorse following the murders. If you are going to find a single glimmer of hope in this tawdry epic, Kasabian is about as close as you are going to get to sunshine.

"Helter Skelter" essentially follows her journey as a member of Manson's Family, from introduction to drug-induced indoctrination, eventually leading to the nights of murder. Historically, Kasabian left the Manson clan soon after the crimes, was arrested and became one of the few members to give testimony during the grueling trials.

The original "Helter Skelter" (1976) has always been a bit overrated, with Steve Railsback giving an over-the-top, circus-like performance as Manson. The film emphasized the investigation and devoted a couple of hours to the trial itself. This new version is a companion film, if you will, detailing the year leading up to the arrests and trial, abruptly ending about the time Kasabian decides she will testify, thus insuring the killers will be convicted.

The Tate and LaBianca murders are portrayed more-or-less realistically. There's really nothing shown TV viewers do not witness on the "CSI" and "Criminal Minds" programs. But these atrocities actually took place, and perhaps that haunting fact makes for uncomfortable viewing. I certainly wanted to turn my eyes away, and was disturbed by the amount of blood shown. This is absolutely R-rated subject matter, but prime time crime produces high ratings. So who am I to question modern-day TV sensibilities?

When reading about the Manson crimes - books which are equal parts fascinating and repulsive - one almost always asks "Why?" This new film version of "Helter Skelter," factually close to the truth, with better performances and production values than this subject deserves, attempts to answer nagging questions. It succeeds far better than one would expect."
It doesn`t surpass the 1976 outing, but...
Henning Sebastian Jahre | Oslo, Norway | 09/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"still this product shows us the brutality of Manson first hand. In 1976, the tv-film gave us a chilling insight into intelligent madness - yup who can deny that the brain of Manson in not unlike Hitler; mad, but with vision and control of the environment.....

In this version we get to know the victims... they`re no longer just names and figures... The last scene in which Sharon whispers "Cut the baby" to Susan Atkins never happened, but she d i d try to negotiate with her killers; "take me with you, let me have my baby and then kill me" and "can you remove the baby from the womb" when she realised there was no hope...

This is a trashy account of the story and it SUCCEEDS in showing us that the kilings were not some sort of great ritualistic thing as been presented over the years.... But this was a total senseless massacre and THAT`s why this film succeeds; it speaks volumes why not the killers should ever be released."