As Promised... a review of Frank Howard's Movie
"Helter Skelter Murders"
(previously released as "The Other Side of Madness", 1971)
This is clearly a low-budget, "B movie". That's a given. Never-the-less... I watched this movie, with a completely open mind. Actually... I watched this film, with more than an open mind. I watched it with "hopeful anticipation". I combed all 81 minutes very closely, specifically looking for an original TLB motive to be presented.
The first 39 minutes (of the film), offer next to nothing... other than some pretty cool music, and a few short clips of the actual Spahn's ranch. Also of note... they do include Charlie's original "mechanical man" and "garbage dump" songs. There's very little in the way of plot development... except a few doses of classic "Helter Skelter" and "Charlie's in charge" build-up interspersed. These first 39 minutes move so SLOWLY however... you're literally tempted to put a bullet in your head. LOL Believe me friends... it's brutal.
The murders essentially start around 40 minutes in, and things pick-up just enough, to make it tolerable. The murders are a crude re-enactment, with the script taking some "interpretational liberties".
Bottom line, however:
There's no original motive presented. As always, "Helter Skelter" is the theme. They overdub audio of Charlie's voice, essentially "preaching HS" sporadically (in the background), throughout the entire film. This over-dubbing is included (almost like a backing-track) during scenes at the ranch... in the courtroom... while the killers prepare to leave for Cielo... while they drive to and from, the murder scenes, etc. (This of course is not Charlie's actual voice, but a simulation). The only portion (of the film) which vaguely hints at an alternative motive, is Tex asking for money, twice at Cielo.
Tex and the girls, each take one pill, before they leave for Cielo. That's the only inclusion of drugs, in the movie... other than some "partying" at the beginning of the film... which "suggests" possible drug use... but drugs aren't depicted explicitly (to my recollection). There's absolutely no dialogue on the topic of drugs included in this film.
In the very ending credits... there's a paragragh which reads:
"This picture is a grim warning. The use of drugs must be rigidly controlled, if there is to be any future for our society, or our country itself".
My interpretation: They're suggesting that "the family" would not have been mentally corrupted, and susceptible to Manson's mind control, without the help of drugs. There's no suggestion throughout the entire movie, that the victims had any association with drugs what-so-ever.
I personally, didn't see any reason at all, to run out and grab a copy of this movie... other than, from a "collectors" standpoint. If you're a person who wants to own every movie and book on this subject... grab it for your collection... and let it collect dust. Other than that... take a pass.
My biggest complaint: There's just WAY too many unnecessary scenes, that go nowhere. They could have easily lopped-off 35 minutes from this film, and it would have been much more tolerble. You just keep thinking: "Is this f#cking scene ever going anywhere, at all"?! LOL And usually...it's not. Plot-wise... the first half is brutally slow. One last bright point though... the woman starring as "Abigail Folger" was breath-takingly beautiful.
MattP, has provided a copy of the film (in it's entirety).
To view, "click" below. Thanks Matt!