Reviews

Manson Massacre, The (1971)

I know nothing about the facts surrounding Charles Manson and his crimes. But I do know that The Manson Massacre has a scene where a baby gets thrown into a dumpster. And that’s good enough for me.

In the first half of the 1970s, times were changing. A handful of independent, no-budget exploitation filmmakers sought inspiration beyond supernatural possession and vampires. They wanted realism! Hard-hitting shocks! Insights on the degradation of hippie culture! But they also wanted to get rich. So these filmmakers used current headlines as catalysts for making movies. That’s how we got Tom Hanson’s The Zodiac Killer, which “revealed” that the Zodiac Killer wore a Groucho Marx disguise and attacked people with a handsaw. That’s also how we got Dave A. Adams’ Another Son Of Sam, which had nothing to do with Son Of Sam, let alone ANOTHER Son of Sam, but everything to do with breaking into the school treasury and stealing money for an abortion.

The Manson Massacre follows the same plan of attack as The Zodiac Killer and Another Son Of Sam — it uses reality as a jumping-off point to create a movie that has little in common with any reality known to human beings. Unless we’re talking about the reality of boobs.

“Invar”/Charles Manson, who looks like a young Jeff Goldblum if he was Turkish, lives in a house with five women. He wears a monk’s robe and a bicycle chain around his neck. The girls are used as human pillows and blankets. Everyone is usually naked. Between bouts of chanting and tongue-kissing, we meet other random people in other random locations who are also tongue-kissing, hanging out by a pool, and talking on the phone in their underwear. Meanwhile, black and white flashbacks explain the history of each member of Invar’s group. As a teen, Invar had a lot of sex with his mom, Uschi Digard. But then Uschi had sex with Invar’s dad and Invar didn’t like that. So he killed his father with a chair. In another flashback, one of the girls was discouraged from buying a vibrator. Invar shows her how to shoplift the vibrator and she gives her dad the finger. Those are the two most exciting flashbacks. There is also one that features rape. And by “rape,” I mean that a girl pushes her crotch into another girl’s face a couple of times.

Eventually, the group drives their van to a mortuary. Once there, they remove a body from a hearse. They place the body in their van and steal the hearse. Invar sleeps in the coffin and we see more flashbacks. Soon, they arrive at the house of the random people from the beginning of the movie. The girls take their shirts off. Everyone sits in a circle and chants. There is an orgy, which is followed by gore, death, and a surprisingly shocking flashback. However, Invar isn’t part of any of that because he is still sleeping in the coffin.

Writer-director “Kentucky Jones” never made another movie, and really, he didn’t need to. Manson Massacre is a perfect culmination of imperfect nonsense. Jones, or whoever really directed this, comes from the Jerry Warren school of photography — set up the camera, point it at something, and expose the film. The shots are totally devoid of creativity and/or insanity. Typically, that would be a problem. But here, the straight-forward visual approach leaves us wide open to absorb what we’re seeing. And what we’re seeing is 69 minutes of non-narrative vignettes that say nothing. They’re just stupid. And hilarious. Everything about the film is spot-off in terms of tone. The soundtrack is mod freak-beat with lots of “boing” sound effects. The typography used for the opening and closing credits looks more suited to a Dr. Pepper commercial than a smut-filled expose. There’s no method of attack to the flashbacks and at one point, Invar accidentally looks into the camera. This is exploitation in its barest, most ideal form. Even when it’s boring. It’s just humping, stabbing, and a final scene of the gang driving the hearse down the street. Backwards.

By the way, this movie is dubbed in German with no English subtitles.

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