Saturday, December 12, 2009

A little less "drama", a little more emphasis on the "docu", please...

So, I'm sitting here watching a so-called "docudrama" on History. It's called "Manson" and is, of course, about the murders of Sharon Tate and others by followers of Charles Manson.

It's a new take on the whole mess and includes an extensive interview with Linda Kasabian, the hippie girl who lived with Charlie and his "family" for all of a month, was taken along on both nights of carnage but never entered either house, then turned state's witness and was one of the main reasons (I think) that Charlie and the others were convicted.

I know the theory behind docudramas and all, that sometimes characters are composites and small details might be changed. But this is more like a documentary with re-creations of the events being examined. The re-creations are interspersed with interviews with some of the individuals involved, including not only Ms. Kasabian, but also prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and other surviors of Manson's group. Under these circumstances, I sort of expected that the filmmakers (the film is a joint UK/Canadian production) to be able to get the details correct.


Near the beginning of the film, a title is shown to indicate that the location being shown was the Spahn Ranch. Well, it had to be a re-creation of the ranch; the buildings at the actual location were burned in a brush fire in, I think, 1970 or so. But that doesn't mean that it's okay that the title identified the ranch and then gave it's location as "Benedict Canyon".

The Spahn Ranch was not in Benedict Canyon. Benedict Canyon is in the Santa Monica Mountains. Spahn was in Chatsworth, in the Santa Susana Mountains, a whole different location, miles north of Benedict Canyon. I know this to be so, because I lived not more than 8 miles or so from Spahn during the time the events portrayed in the film were happening. I passed by there on a fairly regular basis. I knew people who hung out there on occasion.

Which is, perhaps, why I'm just a little disappointed that the filmmakers couldn't manage to get such an easy-to-check detail correct.

Other than that, it's a fairly interesting film, even to someone who is farily familiar with the whole story. It really is notable that Linda Kasabian finally consented to tell her story, 40 years on. Apparently, she has been living under an assumed name and had only spoken for the record about her experience once or twice before, which is remarkable considering the enduring fascination Manson and his exploits seem to hold for so many people.

It's also interesting to read some of the reasons why prosecutor Bugliosi thinks the story still holds such interest, which he spoke about in an article for The Guardian at the time, in August, that the film was first shown on television in the UK. Click here to read that article.