Thursday, March 20, 2008

CHEAP-ASS REPORT: Manson (1972) Unauthorized Release

Running Time: 83 minutes MPAA Rating: R
Format: Standard Pan and Scan Audio: Mono
Languages: English Subtitles: None
Region: 0
MSRP: 4.99

Taking a note from my good buddies over at ATTACK OF THE 50 ft. DVD, I've decided to do a Cheap-Ass DVD review using their format. Actually, this was a review that I had submitted to them, but due to the nature of the DVD and it's slightly nefarious back-story, plus the fact that 50 ft. has made an effort throughout it's history to review and feature discs that are easily available through major retail outlets....well, you get the picture.

Seen by few (and often banned, according to Mike Weldon' of PSYCHOTRONIC VIDEO GUIDE fame), the 1972 documentary has had a cloud of controversy since it's limited theatrical release by AIP. Compiled of Manson "Family" hippy and free-love antics shot on the Spahn Ranch prior to infamous Sharon Tate murder of August 9, 1969, mixed with news footage of the following trial and interviews with prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and former Manson associate Jerry Rubin (amongst others), it paints an incredibly creepy picture of Charlie and his motley crew of outcasts and social misfits. Pre-Tate Slaying footage of rantings by his female followers is a high point, in which they practically map out events of things to come by way of their actions...and, even more fear-inducing...the hopes and beliefs of actions they never had a chance to carry out.
Seeing Lynette "Squeeky" Fromme brandishing a high powered rifle and a large knife is enough to give anyone the willies....hard to believe that film was actually nominated for an Oscar in 1972 in the category of Best Documentary category...
Then suddenly as the film vanished. Seeing only a limited VHS release at some point in the early 1980s, it seemed to be one of the films that get shuffled off to the side, only to be mentioned from time to time in reference guides and genre-devoted publications...that is, until the year 2000, and a little DVD outfit calling themselves BEVERLY WILSHIRE FILMWORKS.

And this, faithful reader, is where the trouble starts.....

It seems that Beverly Wilshire, in the beginning, was one of the first manufacturers to offer cheap, affordable discs in the days of DVD infancy. Several manufacturers have popped up in times since, but mostly following the example of similar companies from the now-ancient times of the VHS format, meaning that many of their catalogs are filled to the brim with films and other media that has fallen into the Public Domain, .films whose copyright had slipped and no one had renewed making them fair game for anyone with the assets and material to produce copies of them. But, it seems that Beverly Wilshire wasn't exactly on the up and up on such things, and in hindsight, some of their releases seem to have been a little on the illegal side. And MANSON definitely was one. The story goes as follows: Robert Hendrickson, one of the men credited as director of the documentary, still has the rights to the film, and after discovering the Beverly Wilshire Filmworks disc was for sale in such outlets as and eBay...wasn't exactly too happy about it. one had asked his permission for a DVD release, and he wasn't seeing a dime of any of the sales. So he sues the two online merchants (why he didn't go after the manufacturer of the discs is beyond me...but alot of what the guy does doesn't really make any sense, as evidenced by this site:

Immediately, Amazon and eBay pull any ads for the disc and stop offering it for sale, and as quickly as they sprang onto the scene, Beverly Wilshire disappears like a ghost....

Absolutely terrible. If this was a transfer from film negative, they must have used to worst print in existence. But, after viewing some of Beverly Wilshire's other discs, more than likely a transfer from one of the copies of an earlier VHS release. Incredibly murky picture, with tons of visible emulsion and base damage scratches and lines. The mono audio is filled to the brim with every imaginable hiss and pop capable from dirty 35mm reels. Watchable (I've seen worse transfers) and probably worth about half of the 4.99 SRP you'll have to dish out, but seeing as how this is the only place you can find the film on disc (yet), who'll complain?

Unless your way too thrilled by bad choices in a scene selection option than you should be, none at all.
Now, one may inquire...."How does this differ from your regular run of the mill pirate or bootleg DVD?". Well...glad you asked. Because of the simple fact that is was available for sale in several major retail outlets around the country, such as K-Mart and Sam Goody chainstores, as well as the online sources stated previously. And, more surprisingly, still available to those willing to make the hunt in several chain liquidation stores (in limited quantities) like Odd Lots! and Family Dollar stores. Most pirate discs live in the seedy underground venues of fleamarkets and conventions, bartered for by those amongst the fan community, but with a track record like that mentioned above, the MANSON disc may very well be the best distributed bootleg in the existence of the format.

Update: 3/20/2008-

It seems that according to Hendrickson's that at some point in late February of 2008, he will personally be offering a "limited promotional DVD release" of the film, but as the site says: "this Limited Edition offering is being made for promotional purposes only and may be terminated at anytime."

It looks as if his new documentary, "Inside the Manson Family" is just a rehash of footage from the earlier 1973 documentary, as seen in the trailer posted below:

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