Last September in Los Angeles, the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival took place at the Sunset 5 Theater in Hollywood. The festival was sponsored by Independent Film Quarterly, Independent Movie Channel – both owned by festival founder Stuart Alson – and Moli.com. The festival boasts showcasing the next generation of voices in independent film and video, wrong! I went there was to watch the one good film in the festival; “The Manson Movie” was the opening night headliner in the documentary category. “The Manson Movie” is fascinating, just for the access he was granted with the notorious Manson Family.
Hendrickson is the only person alive that can boast being Manson the family filmmaker.During the two-year period around Manson’s trial Hendrickson lived, played, traveled, and got high with the Manson family while rolling 35mm film the whole time. The documentary takes us from Viet Nam, and all the footage was shot by Hendrickson himself; the L.A riots, trail and life with the Manson family, as he lived with them at the Spahn Movie Ranch. Hendrickson films infamous family members Paul Watkins, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Steve “Clem” Grogan, and more in the late 60’s, and early 70’s. In “The Manson movie,” the kids are doing anything from acting, playing, and singing at the Spahn ranch, to protesting, hiding out, and monologing for the camera in this eighty-five minute long film.
It’s like a Manson family reality show, as the footage takes us through the start of the Los Angeles riots that took the life of activist Rubin Salazar and Squeaky Fromme outside the Los Angeles courthouse as the Manson trial took place. Hendrickson and Sharon Tate had the same spiritual advisor, and his working in Hollywood gave him an insider’s view. He spoke-freely of the investigation of Tate/LaBianca murders, Hollywood, Roman Polanski and the LAPD detectives covering the case.Hendrickson said The (Lacy) Peterson case is the classic example, the husbands always the first suspect. I talked to a woman, a friend of Sharon Tate’s that said it wasn’t his (Roman Polanski) baby, and that they had an open ended marriage.
In “The Manson Movie” we see the family skinny-dipping, singing, cooking, smoking weed, dumpster-diving, but the tone often drifts to the dark side; its fear, suspicion, and psychotic-devotion to their beloved Charlie. He narrates the film as, telling us about how the girls make dumpster casserole (laced with pot) one-minute, and jump to jaw-dropping footage of the family’s secret Devil’s Canyon retreat, and Death Valley ranch, interviews and protesting Charlie’s trial.One of the more fascinating things is that Hendrickson went to the L.A jailhouse to meet with Manson to talk about the filming of his movie. Another interesting incident where he was told “in a few days” he’d go to the courthouse and film, and that Manson himself was expecting to be filmed. The end result for us, the viewer is a lot of new Manson footage in the film. We hear from the Hendrickson, the cameraman, about how it felt being there, living through being the one pointing the camera at Charles Manson.
The footage alone is enough for the movie to be released. I asked him why he would make this film, and speak out now. Hendrickson said the difference is he is 63 and he doesn’t give a ****. You know, what I really had to, what I’ve really done is for my Grandchildren, because years ago somebody said, and I had the idea then to make a film, make it like you’d make a home movie for your grandchildren.”
Hendrickson doesn’t leave out anything, or play to one-side or another in “The Manson Movie” he just uses this film-footage to document the times. The film is a fantastic documentary and a time capsule from the death of the sixties.