[VIEWER WARNING: The following docu-drama is NOT suitable for children.]
It’s been 40 years since Charles Manson and his “Family” brought terror to Los Angeles. The gruesome and senseless murders of Sharon Tate and others continue to resonate with people all over the world. The brutality of the crimes and the mentality of those who committed them will be analyzed for decades to come.
This special from The History Channel is not a straightforward documentary like many shown on the channel. Instead it contains a lot of re-enactments of events that took place months before and after the Tate murders, and it does so rather well.
Thanks to first-hand accounts by two of Manson’s followers, moments that took place at the now-infamous Spahn Ranch, the night of the murders, and the eventual capture and prosecution of those involved are brought to life in vivid and disturbing detail. It’s no surprise that Manson had a strong emotional, psychological, and spiritual grip on his followers and this docu-drama details how he was able to achieve that control.
This is a well-done production mainly thanks to the stories from those who were actually present when these events took place. There is some stock footage utilized as well, but for the most part it plays as if it is a film. The prosecutor of the Manson case, Vincent Bugliosi, also chimes in with his thoughts and experiences with the trial and the players involved in these horrific acts.
It’s probably no surprise that this isn’t for children or those who have no interest in watching people engaged in depraved acts of brutality, sexuality, and drug use. It tries to be as graphic as possible without crossing the line. If you can handle CSI or Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, you should be fine. But still, there are moments that are disturbing to watch mainly because they aren’t rooted in fiction.
For fans of true crime, I recommend this documentary. To think that Charles Manson orchestrated these murders over 40 years ago and is up for parole once again in 2012 is chilling.