The Other Side of Madness (1971)

X | 80,85 or 91 mins | Drama | December 1971

Director:

Frank Howard

Producer:

Wade Williams

Cinematographer:

Frank Howard

Editor:

Frank Howard

Production Designer:

Melinda Wing

Production Company:

Auric, Ltd.
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HISTORY

The re-release title, as well as the title of the print viewed was The Helter Skelter Murders. A written prologue appears before the onscreen credits and reads in part: “In the late summer of 1969 an unknown band of hippie-styled characters committed the most bizarre crimes in history…All information utilized in the preparation, writing and filming of this motion picture was obtained entirely from published articles appearing in newspapers and magazines circulated nationally for public consumption, and from information released to various news and commentary programs for public viewing on television.” The closing credits include the following written epilogue: “Four of the defendants tried for these murders, were found guilty as charged and sentenced to the death penalty. This picture is a grim warning. The use of drugs must be rigidly controlled if there is to be any future for our society---or for our country itself.” The closing cast credits duplicate some information. Four actors are listed as “The Killers,” and three of the same actors are listed again under “The Trial” as “Defendants.” Additionally, Debbie Duff’s name appears as both a “Victim” and as “The Starlet.” Although there is a 1970 copyright statement on the film for Auric, Ltd., the film was not included in copyright records.
       According to a Sep 1970 Box item, The Other Side of Madness, a film portraying the brutal 1969 murders of movie actress Sharon Tate and four others by four young followers of career criminal Charles Manson, had already completed filming. The murders of actress Tate, wife of film director Roman Polanski, coffee heiress Abigail ...

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The re-release title, as well as the title of the print viewed was The Helter Skelter Murders. A written prologue appears before the onscreen credits and reads in part: “In the late summer of 1969 an unknown band of hippie-styled characters committed the most bizarre crimes in history…All information utilized in the preparation, writing and filming of this motion picture was obtained entirely from published articles appearing in newspapers and magazines circulated nationally for public consumption, and from information released to various news and commentary programs for public viewing on television.” The closing credits include the following written epilogue: “Four of the defendants tried for these murders, were found guilty as charged and sentenced to the death penalty. This picture is a grim warning. The use of drugs must be rigidly controlled if there is to be any future for our society---or for our country itself.” The closing cast credits duplicate some information. Four actors are listed as “The Killers,” and three of the same actors are listed again under “The Trial” as “Defendants.” Additionally, Debbie Duff’s name appears as both a “Victim” and as “The Starlet.” Although there is a 1970 copyright statement on the film for Auric, Ltd., the film was not included in copyright records.
       According to a Sep 1970 Box item, The Other Side of Madness, a film portraying the brutal 1969 murders of movie actress Sharon Tate and four others by four young followers of career criminal Charles Manson, had already completed filming. The murders of actress Tate, wife of film director Roman Polanski, coffee heiress Abigail Folger; her boyfriend, Voytek Frykowski; a close friend of Tate, hairstylist Jay Sebring; and teenager Steven Parent, occurred in the early morning hours of 9 Aug 1969.
       As mentioned in the Box article, producer Wade Williams had stated that The Other Side of Madness was in post-production with a scheduled release of Nov 1970. The item added that the film’s production company, Auric, Ltd., had announced that The Other Side of Madness would utilize a new film technique known as “Auramation.” The process was described as a “special cellular film treatment designed to heighten or depress the emotions of the viewer by subliminal monochromatic suggestion.” The film was in black-and-white with a brief color sequence, showing the Starlet on a movie set filming a period sequence.
       In Nov 1970 Box related that Manson, the central figure in the Tate murder trial in progress in Los Angeles, had signed an agreement to allow Williams to use Manson’s voice and previously recorded songs in the film. A Jan 1971 Box article added that editing was continuing on The Other Side of Madness in addition to scoring, with the final mix to occur at M-G-M Studios. The item related that the film was partially shot at the Spahn Movie Ranch in the Simi Hills outside Los Angeles, where Manson and his followers resided from 1968 through 1969. The item noted that, shortly after filming there, numerous buildings on the ranch burned down after a wildfire. The item listed the film’s running time as 91 minutes. A Jun 1971 Var article noted that The Other Side of Madness, described as “nearly-completed,” was privately shown in Cannes by distributor John Nasht, who claimed that he had obtained world rights for the production. There is no further information on Nasht’s involvement with the film.
       In Oct 1971, Var reported that The Other Side of Madness had received an “X” rating from the MPAA. In Dec 1971, HR stated that director Frank Howard charged the MPAA with “defaulting on the delivery of a promised R rating in exchange for specifically directed cuts in the film.” A Mar 1972 DV news item stated that a re-cut version of the film was awarded an R rating, but it is unclear if the prior X rating had already affected the film’s initial distribution. The print viewed displayed an R rating.
       In its Jan 1972 review of The Other Side of Madness, Box noted that legal problems had prevented the film’s use of real names and resulted in the alteration of a few actual events. In the film, only the name “Charlie” is used repeatedly. None of the other participants or victims are mentioned by name. The review indicated that two tunes, written and performed by Manson, were used in the film, but in the print viewed only one is heard and credited onscreen. The Box review also indicated that in addition to the Los Angeles locations, portions of the film were shot in Kansas City, and listed a running time of 85 minutes. In 1976 the production, re-titled The Helter Skelter Murders and trimmed to 80 minutes, went into wide release.
       A Jul 1976 Box article related the change of title and quoted Williams explaining that legal difficulties had restricted the film in its initial late 1971 release. Williams went on to state: “Overt moves to block exhibition of the film were made. One group attempted to purchase the negative for the express purpose of destroying it.” The producer suggested that the cause for this was the film’s startling accuracy of the depicted events. The article indicted that the principal actors spent time at the actual location where events occurred. Williams further disclosed that interviews with Manson’s followers were conducted, as well as with neighbors of the victims. Williams also described interviewing Manson himself to obtain waivers and verify the “accuracy of details.” Williams claimed that he had screened the murder sequence from the film for attorneys during the Manson trial and that they were amazed by its accuracy. The article noted that footage taken at the Hall of Justice shows the actual trial attorneys and Manson family members. Two people shown in one brief sequence shot at Spahn Ranch are identified in the article as ranch owner George Spahn and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a Manson “family” member convicted of the attempted murder of President Gerald Ford in 1975. Modern sources add Arthur Altringer and Carol Van Compernolle to the cast.
       As depicted in the film, the murders occurred at a Cielo Drive estate, which Polanski and Tate had rented. As Polanski was in Europe, Folger and Frykowski were staying with Tate, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her death. The property had previously been rented by record producer and son of actress Doris Day, Terry Melcher. During the trial, testimony revealed that Manson had auditioned for and been rejected by Melcher and the selection of the house was intentional, although Manson knew Melcher no longer lived there.
       Although the trial sequence in the film addresses the murders at Cielo Drive specifically, the actual trial, which ran from 15 Jun 1970 to 29 Mar 1971, at the time the longest and most expensive trial in America, was known as the Tate-LaBianca trial. The film ends with Manson taking family members to another house the night after the Tate murders. In the early hours of 10 Aug 1969, Manson led six “family” members to a Los Angeles neighborhood on Waverly Drive in Los Feliz, where three of Manson’s followers murdered supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. Sentenced to death for the Tate-LaBianca murders were Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten. These four are the “killers” depicted in the film’s trial sequence.
       A major difficulty for the prosecution, led by chief prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, was convincing jurors that Manson, who did not actively participate in the murders, was nevertheless responsible for their planning and thus deserving of the death penalty. The fourth major participant in the murders, Charles “Tex” Watson, had fled to Texas after the killings. Upon extradition to California, he was tried separately, found guilty and sentenced to death.
       Not depicted in the film was Manson follower Linda Kasabian, who accompanied Atkins, Krenwinkel and Watson to the Tate murders. Kasabian witnessed Watson’s murder of Parent, accurately depicted in the film, but while the others entered the house, she remained outside “on watch” until she heard screams from the attack. Running to the house, Kasabian literally ran into the terrified, wounded Frykowski attempting to flee his attackers and witnessed his brutal slaying on the lawn. Kasabian testified against Manson and the others, providing crucial details of the gruesome murders that secured their convictions. Kasabian also accompanied Manson and the others to the LaBianca residence the next night, but Manson assigned the murders to Watson, Krenwinkel and Van Houten. Kasabian received immunity from prosecution for her testimony.
       As well as reflecting the accuracy of the Cielo Drive slayings, The Other Side of Madness portrayed Manson’s conception of a racial uprising that would transform American society, which he called “Helter Skelter” based on the title of a song by The Beatles on their White Album. The Tate-LaBianca murders were meant to instigate the “revolution.” In 1972 a California Supreme court ruling found the state’s death penalty unconstitutional. The death sentences of Manson and his four followers were commuted to life in prison, where, as of 2006, all five remain.
       In 1976 an adaptation of Bugliosi’s 1974 book on the trial, Helter Skelter, was adapted for a CBS television drama, starring Steve Railsback and directed by Tom Gries. In 2004 a docudrama, also titled Helter-Skelter starring Jeremy Davis, was directed by John Gray and aired on CBS.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
28 Sep 1970
---
Box Office
9 Nov 1970
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Box Office
11 Jan 1971
---
Box Office
10 Jan 1972
p. 4453
Box Office
26 Jul 1976
pp. 11-12
Daily Variety
8 Mar 1972
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 1971
---
Sunday Mirror (London)
31 Jan 1971
p. 9
Variety
2 Jun 1971
---
Variety
20 Oct 1971
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Wade Williams-Frank Howard Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Story research
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Asst cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Negative cutter
COSTUMES
Formal wear
Miss Duff's gown created by
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus supv
SOUND
Sd rec
Prime sd mixer
Sd mixer
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Eff consultant
Eff ed
DANCE
Choreographer
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Unit mgr
SOURCES
SONGS
"Mechanical Man," written and sung by Charles Manson; "Dark White," "The Eagle Never Hunts the Fly," "Soul Love," and "Where Am I To Go?," music and lyrics by Thomas Sean Bonniwell.
PERFORMED BY
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Helter Skelter Murders
Release Date:
December 1971
Production Date:
Jun 1970--Spring 1971 in Kansas City and Los Angeles
Physical Properties:
Sound
Cinesound
Black & white with color sequences
Duration(in mins):
80,85 or 91
MPAA Rating:
X
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, three young women and a bearded, long-haired man known as Charlie sit in separate prison cells. As they each contemplate their futures, they also reflect upon the recent past: The young women and several young men reside commune-style on a run-down ranch formerly used as a movie set. When not helping run the ranch, the young people are in the thrall of a bizarre guru, Charlie, who harangues them about his messianic purpose and their spiritual connections with him. In the present, the girls and Charlie are led to a courtroom where they are to stand trial for murder. As the court artists sketch each witness, the girls who lived on the ranch staunchly defend Charlie, insisting that they cannot recall the past and that only the present has meaning. Testimony from a woman and a man who lived on the ranch describe the life of those under Charlie’s influence: One day, just outside of the ranch, an impromptu rock concert occurs, attended by numerous hippies who want to “hang out.” Drugs flow freely at the outdoor concert and many of Charlie’s supporters grow enthused under their influence and strip off their clothes to go skinny dipping. As the music and party atmosphere continue into the night, several young people cavort naked and paint their faces to dance before a giant bonfire. At the ranch, heavy drug use is the norm. Charlie’s acquaintances are called part of his “family,” and although the women “belong” to Charlie, he encourages group orgies. In the present in the courtroom, a middle-aged ...

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In Los Angeles, three young women and a bearded, long-haired man known as Charlie sit in separate prison cells. As they each contemplate their futures, they also reflect upon the recent past: The young women and several young men reside commune-style on a run-down ranch formerly used as a movie set. When not helping run the ranch, the young people are in the thrall of a bizarre guru, Charlie, who harangues them about his messianic purpose and their spiritual connections with him. In the present, the girls and Charlie are led to a courtroom where they are to stand trial for murder. As the court artists sketch each witness, the girls who lived on the ranch staunchly defend Charlie, insisting that they cannot recall the past and that only the present has meaning. Testimony from a woman and a man who lived on the ranch describe the life of those under Charlie’s influence: One day, just outside of the ranch, an impromptu rock concert occurs, attended by numerous hippies who want to “hang out.” Drugs flow freely at the outdoor concert and many of Charlie’s supporters grow enthused under their influence and strip off their clothes to go skinny dipping. As the music and party atmosphere continue into the night, several young people cavort naked and paint their faces to dance before a giant bonfire. At the ranch, heavy drug use is the norm. Charlie’s acquaintances are called part of his “family,” and although the women “belong” to Charlie, he encourages group orgies. In the present in the courtroom, a middle-aged character actress testifies, identifying a photo of a beautiful, young blonde woman as a former model whom the woman met at a casting agency. The woman testifies that the blonde’s striking beauty brought her to the immediate attention of casting directors and she became popular quickly, making a stunning debut in a glamorous period film. The next witness is a young man who describes Charlie’s weird belief in a coming social revolution he dubbed “Helter Skelter.” In this vision, Charlie believed that blacks would rise up and revolt against their long social oppression by killing whites. Once the violent uprising came to an end, Charlie and his followers, who would be hiding in the desert, would offer their leadership to the survivors. In these scenarios, Charlie frequently associates himself with Jesus, describing himself as both God and Satan, as well as the world’s savior. On the night of the crime, in a dingy hut on the ranch, Charlie meets with three girls and one young man. He presents them all with pills and knives, and, in addition, gives the young man a pistol. He then provides the young man with a slip of paper that contains an address of a house in the canyon. Encouraging the group to conduct their upcoming action not for him, but for themselves, Charlie sends them off. The quartet drives high into the hills and stops just outside of a large estate with a high fence. The young man climbs the barrier, cuts the telephone line, then cuts the power to the electric security gate, thus allowing the three girls to enter the grounds. The group proceeds cautiously up the driveway. Upon hearing voices, they hide in the hedges and watch a young man wearing heavy glasses wave goodbye to someone in a nearby guesthouse. The young man walks to his car, but looks around suspiciously after hearing movement in the bushes. As the young man begins pulling away in his car, the male member of the group steps out of the hedges, stopping the driver before shooting him numerous times. As nearby dogs begin barking in response, the group continues up the driveway. The young man peers into the window and sends the girls around the large main house. After breaking in through a window, the young man finds a man dozing on the living room sofa and sends the girls to find others in the house. The girls return to the living room with two women in nightgowns and another man. The frightened women, one of whom is the blonde actress who is heavily pregnant, are tied together with rope brought by the group, and the man on the sofa is bound with a towel. When the man brought from the bedroom protests against the treatment of the women, he is shot, terrifying the other victims. The man bound with the towel attempts to untie himself and flee, but is stabbed numerous times in the legs. Screaming with pain, the victim stumbles across the room calling for help and rushes outside onto the lawn where he is brutally attacked by the man and one of the girls. Meanwhile, inside, the tied-up women struggle to free themselves. One woman escapes and engages in a furious struggle with a girl attacker who slashes her viciously with her knife. The victim rushes outside screaming, but is chased down and stabbed repeatedly. Inside the horrified, pregnant blonde pleads for mercy, but in another traumatic struggle is callously slain by a girl attacker. After using the victims’ blood to write the word “pig” on the door, the family group return to the car and calmly drive away. Partially down the hill, the young man spots a garden hose watering a lawn and stops to wash the blood off his clothes. A woman comes out of the house followed by her husband and they demand an explanation. The family members ignore the couple and return to the car and the angry man follows. When the man attempts to reach inside to grab the key, the family starts the car and drives away dragging the man along to the horror of his wife. Several yards away as the man rolls away in pain, the young man gets out of the car and is about to shoot him, but seeing an approaching car, flings the gun into the surrounding overgrowth. The following day, the newspapers are full of the horrifying killings. As night falls, Charlie and four other family members head off to another house in the Los Angeles hills.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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