Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jay's Review: The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter

I I got a foursome of reviews up at Check 'em out, why don't you?


The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter
is a hauntingly unique retelling of the notorious Manson Family Murders. With original Mason Family music recordings, rare vintage photos of the story's major players, and never-before-seen autopsy reports, viewers are taken on an insightful exploration of over 40 key locations associated with the spree that rocked Los Angeles - and shocked the world - in August 1969.


The story of seven murdered people, one a glamorous movie star, and the cult who killed them is well known to most people whether you were to seek it out or not. For those who were alive in 1969 and everyone who came after, the Manson family “Helter Skelter” murders are a sad, fascinating cultural touchstone.

This documentary is a pile of scraps, skirting the periphery of the events that made up "Helter Skelter." The narrator and host, Scott Michaels, is the owner of and Dearly Departed Tours, and is a celebrity death aficionado. This should give you an idea of the caliber of this documentary. He calls living in LA being in the "Set" of where it all took place. That's not a healthy point of view. This documentary is practically a Dearly Departed Tour - be it the Ranch or stops by the homes of Patty Duke and Mama Cass. Morbid and bland. There's meanderings into Dennis Wilson's encounters with The Family, a visit to Jay Sebring’s house that’s apropos of nothing, and a trip to the Spahn ranch so we can be shown hubcaps laying on the ground. There's something sad about visiting a rock because it was the location of a Mason follower photograph. It’s the groupie behavior of morbid Fanboys.

The ghoulish pouring over of autopsy files and death scene photos make this is especially lurid and exploitive. Big, full-color blow-up photos of the naked, bloody Sharon Tate and Leno LaBianca's carved torso shown repeatedly aren't educational in this context. An aside about a gas station also being where James Dean last gassed up only makes you think "you're really reaching now." It’s also somewhat dull as it covers the events up to the arrests of The Family through field-trips and free-association.

This ground has been covered a million times before, and half of those were on television and narrated by Bill Kurtis. If you’ve seen those, you’ve pretty much seen this.

None, beyond chapter selection. Presented in widescreen and Not Rated but obviously not for kids.

Tacky, reprehensible in places, and not that engaging, Six Degrees of Helter Skelter is a collection of dross around the sidelines of the tragedies of 1969 and only informative to those who new to these events. But you have to wonder, must every little ephemeral connection be examined and belabored? I think not. If you want to learn about some trivia surrounding the crimes, feel free. But if you don't wind up alienated or bored, you'll want to wash the sleaze off afterwards.


El Stinkero!

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