It’s such a beautiful day outside, so I think I’ll stay in and watch HELTER SKELTER. Lunatic Charles Manson seems to be popping up everywhere lately thanks at least partly to Damon Herriman’s recent duo performances of the cult leader in the Netflix series MINDHUNTER (great show) and Quentin Tarantino’s latest flick ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (Maybe I’ll borrow it from the library someday?) Herriman has some big old giant shoes to fill because the incredible STEVE RAILSBACK truly brought an intense A-game to his unnerving take in the 1976 two-night event television miniseries. You’d think that what scared the hell out of me when I watched it as a kid would’ve involved one of the two savage home break-in multiple murders (the first so depraved it involves an eight-month pregnant Sharon Tate) but
I have no idea why my parents would think that HELTER SKELTER was an appropriate thing for me to watch. Truth is though; I was already well aware of the appalling crime thanks to a visit to my cousin’s house where I had stumbled across the book and the gruesome photos inside. Still, I suppose nothing could prepare me for STEVE RAILSBACK’s hyper-convincing delirium and the way he almost seemed to look through the TV screen at me. In typical beat you over the head seventies-style subtly, the monstrous visage freeze frames for even more of an unsettling impact that nearly branded itself inside my head. Watching the movie again as an adult it becomes clear how much the musical score guided by mounting hysteria. It’s something I’m sure I wouldn’t even notice at the time but looking back I recognize so many of the era’s prerequisite musical jabs, nudges
Note: When I finally did venture outside I stopped by my favorite thrift shop and randomly procured an album by The Brady Bunch entitled “Meet The Brady Bunch”. The record is mostly an assortment of covers of then (1972) popular mellow seventies songs; one of them being Don McLean’s “American Pie”. For some reason known only to them, the Brady kids jump ahead with the lyrics and start their version with “Helter Skelter in the summer swelter…” Yes, the Brady kids actually sing about the Manson murders (Somehow this is even more inappropriate than their cover of Bread’s “Baby I’m-a Want You”)! It’s crazy, right? It just goes to show you how ubiquitous and inescapable the Manson murders were (and apparently still are). Also, I would be remiss if I did not also point out that HELTER SKELTER sports an impressive performance by the late great horror icon MARILYN BURNS ( THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE ) as key witness Linda Kasabian. How she and RAILSBACK eluded Emmy awards is a mystery for the ages.