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Posts Tagged ‘exploitation films

 

“Manson was happy his voice and music would be on the sound track”

 

blog manson

 

An old friend, Wade Williams, well known vintage sci-fi movie impresario, and gatekeeper to such fan favorites, as “Rocketship X-M,” “Plan 9 from Outer Space” and the original “Invaders from Mars,” is a successful exhibitor, director and producer. Sometimes being a producer can put you face to face with…well, let Wade tell the story:

 

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The passing of Charlie Manson, the mastermind of the murderous Manson Clan that terrorized and murdered Sharon Tate and others in Los Angeles on August 9, 1969, brought back vivid memories of meeting him – face to face!

 

Days went by after the murders until a break in the case led the police to this group of “drugged out” hippies who lived in a deserted old-time movie ranch.

 

Manson and the rest of the clan were arrested and went to trial on what must stand as the most notorious murder rampage of its time. The trial lasted weeks and the news media from all over the world covered it.

 

Living in Kansas City and wanting to get into the movie business was hard. I was midway between Hollywood and New York.  I had made an amateur science fiction film “Terror from the Stars” several years before, but it never got distribution because it was, frankly, not well made, and we did not know what we were doing or how to do it right.

 

Frank Howard was a director/cinematographer/film-friend worked for an industrial film company in Minnesota who I had met thru my film collecting hobby.   Frank was brilliant; he knew lighting, how to tell a story, and was a fan of the 30’s-40’s studio films and directors like Capra, Henry King and the Selznick films. He was in his late 30’s at the time and I am not sure he is still living.  We lost track of each other decades ago.

 

During dinner at Winstead’s in Kansas City, the people in the table behind us were talking about the Manson murder trial and how horrible it was.

 

Frank said – Why don’t we make a “quickie” film in black and white based on the Manson Murders since the trial will probably go on awhile. It could play the drive-in circuits.  We talked about the possibilities for several hours and the next day started on the pre-production planning.

 

I did not want to make this film. I was not into drugs or that lifestyle and I had little or no interest. I wanted to remake science fiction films like “The Man from Planet X,” “Rocketship XM,” etc. It was Frank Howard’s and my dream to make a cheap and highly profitable film, and use the money to make something worthwhile.

 

We scripted daily as more information was revealed at the trial. I named it “The Other Side of Madness” on its first release. They changed the name to “Helter Skelter Murders” after the book “Helter Skelter’ became a best seller.

 

The film was to be shot in Kansas City and Los Angeles. The substantiating footage in L.A. and the murder sequences at various locations in Kansas City, Missouri, Leawood, Kansas and a rock concert near Lawrence, Kansas, all subbing for LA.

 

There was an announcement in the trade papers, and I received a call from Charles Manson’s attorney who was representing him for free, and getting a lot of flak. He wanted to sell me the rights to two songs recorded and sung by Charlie Manson, “Mechanical Man” and “Garbage Dump.”

 

The deal was $2000 for the rights and a three-hour face-to-face meeting with Charlie Manson in the jail during the trial. Manson could have no visitors except witnesses necessary for his defense. I was listed by his attorney as one of those witnesses.

 

Manson was happy his voice and music would be on the sound track. I actually had not heard the music at that time.

 

It was arranged the following Friday. I flew to LA with cash. I was given the recording masters and taken to the jail house to meet with Manson.

 

The master he gave me was an LP he made to promote the songs. He knew Terry Melcher, a record producer and son of Doris Day. Manson was angry because apparently Melcher would not release his music, so sent the clan up to terrorize the occupants thinking Melcher would be there.

 

I was told by Manson’s attorney to not question him about the murders, especially not discuss the actuality of what happened at the murder scene because Manson was not at the Tate house, and anything he said might be used against him.

 

I expected to see a sinister Rasputin monster of a man depicted on the cover of Life Magazine instead, I was seated at a table across from Charlie in a regular room. A guard stood by the door.

 

In was a small man, maybe 140 pounds in blue jailhouse garb. I introduced myself. He said, “You’re the man that’s making my movie?” There was nothing sinister about him other than wild hair. I realized the news media and Life magazine had re-touched his picture to make him look like the Devil in order to sell magazines.

 

He talked about the people at the 500 acre Spahn Movie Ranch. (Eighty-year-old George Spahn allowed him and his family to stay there). One of his followers was the granddaughter of the Mitchell Camera fortune. She and other Manson family followers were in our film at the ranch. The ranch burned down not long after.

 

Manson talked about him giving shelter to the homeless and downtrodden, most of which were druggies and acid users. He also was into group sex and would get his “family” all drugged up beforehand and in the barn loft would have all-night sex with both males and females.

 

(We shot a sequence in the loft of the barn and on the property after his description and some of his “family” was in the film.)

 

He used the “N” word several time, despising blacks having been in prison with them. He and his family wanted a “race war” to exterminate them, and was gathering weapons out in the desert to eliminate them. His attorney changed the subject after a few comments.

 

We cast the film with unknown look-a-likes from Kansas City: family members, friends, several actors and my secretary with sequences on the Plaza subbing for Century City.

 

Getting it finished and released in theaters is a completely other story, however the film was distributed world-wide, got a front page story in Variety and in London. It had many good reviews, and made news in tabloids worldwide. We did a sneak Preview in Excelsior Springs MO to a sold out theater.

 

Frank Howard’s efforts and talent made this a unique “arthouse” film noir that has a moody black and white feel and a Technicolor sequence, with Debbie Duff and Kelly Cap, who played Sharon Tate and the Prince in a dream sequence.

 

It played the drive-in theater circuits and the home use VHS and DVD markets.

 

Looking back at the box office reports, the film out grossed many studio films at the drive-in theaters, and did extremely well on VHS and DVD for various distributors. They all made a lot of money. I was happy to get my investment back.

 

I plan to re-release it when the Quentin Tarantino film on the Manson murders comes out in 2019.

 

Charlie Manson was not unique, not sinister, just a small time thug on acid who ordered his hippie clan to go terrorize some people.

 

 

–Wade Williams

 

www.thewadewilliamscollection.com

 

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