There’s an article about Charles Manson in the current edition of Esquire that mentions the movies about Manson, but it fails to mention one of the best movies about him, which was the excellent TV movie Helter Skelter starring Steve Railsback, directed by Tom Gries and based on the nonfiction book of the same name written by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. Extreme oversight if you ask me. Instead of mentioning the movie version of Helter Skelter, the Esquire author mentions The Haunting of Sharon Tate and Bad Times at the El Royale as movies about Charles Manson. How can you leave out Helter Skelter? It was one of the most popular programs on network TV during the year it premiered in 1976.
I was attending UCLA as a freshman in 1969, the year the Manson Family murdered the actress Sharon Tate and her wealthy friends. The campus is right next door to Benedict Canyon where Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate were renting a house on Cielo Drive, the site of her murder, and I harbored the fear in the back of my mind in those days that members of Manson’s family might sneak onto campus and commit more murders in the name of Charlie and the race war he was trying to incite. Instead of a race war, he precipitated the beginning of the end of the hippie movement, opening everyone’s eyes to the dark side of the flower people, their psychedelics, and their drug-fueled free-love orgies.