manson-movie-poster.jpg“The MANSON MOVIE” a conversation with director Robert Hendrickson

Intro by: Terry Smith

Interview by Terry Smith with Dennis Lorence

In the last few days, there have been police combing for bodies at the remote ranch Charles Manson coined the “Devil’s Canyon hideout” while in use by cult leader four decades ago, it’s time to take another look at “The Manson Movie” with director Robert Henderickson. Now, forty-years after “The Family” went on a killing spree there are breaking developments from new evidence from grave sniffing dogs, earth samples and at least two-potential grave sites. The Death Valley hideout is busy once again and we are reminded of Charles Manson. Manson was a want-to-be musician, turned criminal, turned homicidal cult leader, who felt a race war was coming after listening to a Beatles song, named Helter Skelter. Manson ordered his followers to participate in a murder-spree that lasted over two nights in Los Angeles (killing seven people, including a pregnant Sharon Tate), to jump-start the impending race war. While the trail of the century was going on, a young filmmaker just back from the war was hired by Charles Manson to be the family filmmaker.

Hendrickson had to live, sleep, travel and document the activities of the infamous ‘family’ and in doing so he was allowed to film everything from weird, big floor-stained empty rooms with dirty mattresses to group protests. The film included everything from the start of the L.A riots, the ranch, protesting the trial in LA, group sing-a-long, and skinny dipping, to unseen footage of Charles Manson in the L.A superior courthouse. Hendrickson alludes to rumors of other-bodies at the ranch, and now officials are working with shovels, and instruments not available in the 1960s, which can detect human remains and that may add a new twist to the macabre story of the Manson Family.

I met Robert Hendrickson on the opening night of the New York International Independent film and video festival (2007) at the Cabana Club in Hollywood. I was allowed to interview him, and it turned into a conversation between Hendrickson, filmmaker Dennis Lorence and me. Hendrickson’s new film, his second Manson Documentary as the first was 1973’s Oscar nominated Manson. The conversation had been going for a few moments as we made introductions, and both Dennis and I told him of our admiration of his original MANSON documentary. I asked about the film, and its contents, and we started at the beginning of the LA riots, with the footage of Rubin Salazar.

*Edited and transcribed from taped interview

Terry Smith: “I read up, a little, on the press release and the film is not ‘just’ about Charlie…it’s the family and times?”

Robert Hendrickson: “Yes it is, and some of the leaders know about this (footage) and we’ve had college professors, begging for this footage. When they see this (speaking of LA riot footage), when they see him (shooting of Rubin Salazar), I mean, we don’t have the bullet entering him, but you can see the riot, how it starts, the whole nine years. So, what it’s (the film) gonna be, well who knows? Well the war is part of the Manson family, that’s part of the motive, and remember this is what press had, thirty-five years ago, and if you know anything about Hollywood, the real story is put under the table.”

Terry Smith: “Of course.”

Robert Hendrickson: “The people on the inside knew and in Hollywood you go like that (Claps hands into a ball) and no one knows. Today, you know, they offer you a hundred-thousand dollars to open you mouth. I’ll tell you this in advance, and no one (else) knows, but my mentor thirty-five years ago was Sharon Tate’s personal advisor. I almost worked on her movie, with Mark Rasbaum. We’re going to expose everything, but what happened was his business card was next to the telephone, and that’s the first thing the cops found when they went into (Tate’s) house, but Hollywood goes like this (Claps hands closed again) instantaneously, we’re talking about so much money, the cost of movies, you know, Hollywood runs this town.”

Terry Smith: “Yes, but you were personal friends with Charlie, right?”

Robert Hendrickson: “I did, but I didn’t, a lot of my information came from other people, you’ll see, it’s like six-degrees of separation.”

Terry Smith: “Yeah, I’m glad don’t to know too much.”

Robert Hendrickson: “You’ll see There’s Steve, there’s Sharon Tate, our advisor, it’s almost like I didn’t know anything, but I don’t want to ruin the movie “

Dennis Lorence: “Please don’t, because I’m REALLY looking forward to it.”

Robert Hendrickson: “Oh. (It’s) going to blow you’re mind, she was warned two days, more like two nights before, she (Tate) was warned to get out of the house “

Terry Smith: “That’s wild.”

Dennis Lorence: “Did you know that Robert (Bobby) Beausoleil has the longest prison sentence ever, for the crime he committed.”

Robert Hendrickson: “Really?”

Dennis Lorence: “No one has ever done life for what he did.”

Robert Hendrickson: “Are you serious?”

Dennis Lorence: “The guy that’ll be one of our guests tomorrow night, Bobby Beausoleil used to do the graphic design for his CD covers.”

Robert Hendrickson: “Oh he’s incredible I’ve seen his (Art) work.”

Dennis Lorence: “yeah, so, I’m sitting in Los Felix, waiting for my friend to get back, his phone rings, and could hear the answering machine, “Hi this is Robert Beausoleil from Blah-blah-blah prison. I was real tempted to pick up the phone you know “

Robert Hendrickson: “He had a whole recording studio in there (prison) “

Terry Smith: “Really?”

Dennis Lorence: “Oh, another friend on the day after the (Tate) LaBianca murder’s, found a bunch of bloody clothes. The night, no, the day after (the murders), he wasn’t sure, but in retrospect it never got to the police or anything. They didn’t know what they had.”

Robert Hendrickson: “I had a neighbor that was in the LAPD, and he explained to me that about ten-years ago he (the cop) said it made sense, but now he’s retired from the LAPD. He said that Homicide detective’s are the dumbest of all police officials, he said to think about it, who in the world would want to deal with murder every day. When the “O.J thing” was going on I started to realize, and to pay attention, that’s when I realized that he was right. I bet the things I know about the MANSON trial, like, Susan Aitkin’s not talking in jail, and other things might make this a unsolved crime because Hollywood did clam up.”

Terry Smith: “Why now, or is it just time to get it all out there, the work that nobody’s seen before?”

Robert Hendrickson: “What happened is that wanted to preserve the film, a lot of film is going bad (from time & decay) and the color goes pink, because they didn’t use the right chemicals. I realized it was time, about seven years ago, to save all the film onto video tape. So I went and found a professional, and we started having it transferred to beta sp tape, but what happened was we put it all together in chronological order, saw it for the first time, and realized this is a whole other movie. It took two-and a half years to make, and we were editing as we went along so no one has ever seen everything put together. It’s strange, but you know when you’re cutting your film you have a work print? We started cutting six-months after we started (video transfer) and when the whole thing got put together it was choppy, sound bites and shit like that, which is the way you make documentaries. This (Film) is from day one, all the way through–”

Dennis Lorence: “It’s linear???”

Robert Hendrickson: “Yes, you can’t get lost this time (Like in 1973′ MANSON) because it’s all the way through, with only about three-dissolves in the whole film. I made it so you can see, and know, if anything is being edited and (if someone) is trying to put one over on (you). The music is the original (Manson family) music in stereo, but I still have the original master’s, just digitized and enhanced a little bit. When I saw the whole thing together for the first time, we cut a five-hour mini-series, and I was going to put it on the internet as it was cost prohibitive. However, the question everybody’s asked over the years was “how’d ya get to do it?” It was that constant question being ask that made me realize, “that’s it, I’ll narrate, or walk you through it, as it’s being done (shot). It starts with the Vietnam war, as it’s widly know that Vietnam was whole motive (of the Manson Family) and tied it all together.”

Terry Smith: “What did you do then?”

Robert Hendrickson: “(that’s why) I tell you right in the beginning about the Vietnam war; there is a lot of stuff in there that is going to make a lot of people “

Terry Smith: “I can’t wait for people’s reaction “

Robert Hendrickson: “I’ll help you right now (with a hint), I’ve already spoke to Susan Atkins Attorney, they had, they could get her conviction thrown out a new trial, like that, the evidence is there.”

Dennis Lorence: “Really?”

Robert Hendrickson: “Just like that, a new trial, doesn’t mean she’s innocent, just means a new trial. Here’s the problem; the death-sentence, since then, has been reinstated so if she gets a new trial, and she’s convicted…she can get the death penalty. He’s (Atkin’s lawyer) discussed it with her, and there gonna let it stay like it is, this way she can spend the rest of her life in prison, but she could get a new trail. Just off of what you’re going to see and hear (in the Manson Movie).”

Dennis Lorence: “I’ve been suspicious ever since my friend pointed out to me that Robert Beausoleil is serving the longest prison term for “

Robert Hendrickson: “He’ll never get out; none of them will ever get out.”

Dennis Lorence: ” for a drug deal gone bad where someone got killed, but there was political stuff too, I feel this was the death of the sixties.

Robert Hendrickson: “I’ve heard it put that way, but then on the other hand well, people wanted the sixties to end.”

Dennis Lorence: “That’s what I meant.”

Robert Hendrickson: “Yeah, well there’s a lot more to it.”

Dennis Lorence: “So, if you’re the conservative edge (political) and you want to put the Kibosh on the merry-maker, pranksters, and all of the other stuff that’s going on, particularly, political-descent, and you’ve got to end the hippie culture “

Robert Hendrickson: “Oh it was, you couldn’t, you couldn’t “

Dennis Lorence: ” it was handed to you on a plate.”

Robert Hendrickson: “Well, here comes another problem, if your a good homicide detective, that’s half-way decent, you just get all the facts and didn’t give him the name. (You’d be surprised) about how many people would have a motive to have done what they did, at least a half a dozen and that’s not even in the government. You got to make up your own mind. Did you know that Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate were getting a divorce?”

Dennis / Terry: “Yeah.”

Robert Hendrickson: “When did you find that out?”

Dennis Lorence: “With in the last five-years.”

Robert Hendrickson: “So now, if you were a homicide detective, and knew that (Polanski’s divorce) the day after the murder, would he (Polanski) not have been a suspect? The (Lacy/Scott) Peterson case is the classic example, the husbands always the first suspect, however I spoke to a friend of Sharon Tate’s that said it wasn’t his (Polanski’s) baby, and that they had an open ended marriage.”

Dennis Lorence: “Really?”

Robert Hendrickson: “Oh that, everybody knows that.”

Dennis Lorence: “Now did you come across a, a friend of mine, I never met him, said he was in a rock band with Zi Zo Zo Zi Zadfrack “

Robert Hendrickson: “Oh man, yeah, that was the name of someone in the family.”

Dennis Lorence: “Yeah, it was the name of the child of Susan Atkins and Charles Manson, supposedly, and my friend Alice knew him because he lived out in the desert by Palm Springs and he said he’d taken so much LSD that he was “

Robert Hendrickson: “well that’s how you come up with it (the family names)? You garble your words and oh that’s your new name, but some kids never got new names, things just sort out one way or another. They also used the reverse, you know, like pig Latin, reverse the letter of the first and last, and they would pronounce it that way you know.”

Robert Hendrickson: ” well some people are going to want to burn the theater down, there’s a whole battle of Armageddon thing is going to come out (in movie).”

Terry Smith: “I hope you get attention for the film, because you are a true documentary film maker. Not like other people that are every popular making documentaries these days, leaving out key facts.”

Robert Hendrickson: “Thanks, but there’s a difference, I’m 63 I don’t give a fuck no more. You know, what I’ve done is for my Grandchildren, because years ago I had the idea to make a film, a home movie for my grandchildren.”

Terry Smith: “Like a memorial you leave behind for your family?”

Robert Hendrickson: “Well if I filled it with bullshit like the first film was.”

Dennis Lorence: “I have a question, wasn’t one of your producer’s “

Robert Hendrickson: “Killed, we’re going to talk about that.”

Dennis Lorence: “I’ve got a lot of the Geraldo interviews that never made it to the air on DVD.

At this point we concluded our questions, and got a few pictures with him.

Terry Smith: “Thank you for your time Mr. Hendrickson.”

*This concluded of talk of Manson, and the film, but continued to talk about other topics.


That was a year ago, and as of today the film “The Manson Movie” has not had a theatrical, DVD, History channel, or even a cable release, and may go unseen unless it gets distribution. The afterlife of the new Manson Movie may to go with the (possible) second MANSON trial, depending on what they dig up in that Death Valley, California desert. Who knows, this movie might be subpoenaed as evidence in any upcoming trial in the cases of Charles Manson, the Manson Girls, or the family at all.

Director Robert Hendrickson