A collection of Manson Family curiosities from the depths of the Reprobate archives.
As we dig through our archives of collated nonsense, slowly but surely digitising it for some sort of posterity, it seems only fair that we should share some of the odder and rarer moments with you, dear Reprobate reader. We have such sights to show you, both in still and moving images, alongside old news clippings that boggle the mind and weird, lost audio. Some of these will require in-depth articles, others less so. But all are intriguing items of flotsam and jetsam from days gone by – some weird, some wonderful, and some… well…
To begin with, here are a few Charles Manson-connected oddities that seem to have slipped the net over the years – while everything Manson seems to have been mined extensively over the years, some have been less shared than others – and one at least suggests a treasure-trove of content that is just waiting to be unearthed.
I speak, of course, of the advert that appeared in a late 1980s edition of Variety, bolding announcing ‘THE MANSON GANG FOR SALE’ – something certain to catch the eye. It wasn’t, of course, the actual Manson gang, because that would be all sorts of dubious. But it did offer ‘tens of thousands of feet’ of unseen footage of the Manson Family, filmed between 1969 and 1972. the clue as to just what this footage might be and where it might come from is in the inclusion of Robert Hendrickson and Laurence Merrick’s classic 1973 documentary film Manson as part of the deal. The unseen footage was, presumably, the unedited interviews with Squeaky Fromme and Sandra Good as well as the location shoots and the archive footage used in the film. This is the sort of thing that DVD and Blu-ray producers would kill for – extensive extra content as well as the movie itself would make quite the special edition. However, at the time DVD was still a good decade or so away from existing and the asking price of $3,500,000 seemed a tad ambitious, even for worldwide rights – you’d have to make a lot of deals for international sales to even come close to breaking even. Whether or not anyone ever did buy the footage – and at what price – is unknown; Manson remains an elusive documentary that has barely been released on home video despite the ongoing notoriety of Manson and the continual exploitation of the story. It is, however, available online and here it is for your delectation.
The past, as they say, is another country and nothing quite speaks to this more than the cult-like fascination that Manson had for alternative youth in the 1980s and – more specifically – the 1990s. These days, there is a rather hypocritical nose-holding over an interest in true crime of any sort – despite the fact that the sheer number of Netflix documentaries and endless Ted Bundy dramas and mini-series shows a deep fascination and despite the existence of ‘cosy crime’, a genre that makes murder all wholesome and cuddly. Back then, Manson was a pop-culture icon. T-shirts with his face on them were everywhere – I had one, of course (with glowing eyes, no less) and even Axl Rose could wear one without raising too many eyebrows. In the mid-1990s I once passed a girl on the street – in my not-remotely-radical home town – who was wearing a T-shirt featuring Manson’s fingerprints, an image that would pop up from time to time in mail-order catalogues and fanzines. It was, for various reasons, an arresting sight. Imagine that happening now?
Manson was a major obsession of The Archives of Aesthetic Nihilism, a work of obsessive passion from John Aes-Nihil, who made the unsettling Manson Family Movies, a ‘home-movie’ style recreation of the Family and its crimes that looked as though yes, it really could be something shot on the TV camera equipment that the family stole in a broadcast truck. Obviously, the people involved were actors and the special effects not all that special – but for those of us who saw it via a blurry NTSC to PAL transfer, filmed by camcorder off a TV screen, it was even more unsettlingly authentic because you could barely make out anything that was going on. The advertising poster for the film was a spectacular bit of hand-drawn, cut ‘n’ paste delirium that did nothing to dissuade viewers that this was the work of genuine madmen.
Aes-Nihil sold the film through his catalogue – a thick ream of photocopied pages of dot-matrix-printed lists of everything that would cause outrage now. Alongside everything Manson – including no end of quasi-legal VHS recordings of TV interviews, parole hearings and the rest – there were endless amounts of occultism, underground music, political extremism (of all persuasions), Beat literature, conspiracy theories and more, all listed in a stream of consciousness and interspersed with strange illustrations including odd Manson moments like the ones below.
The entire catalogue is a fascinating, unnerving delve into the other side of madness – and I suspect that we’ll be coming back to it at some point to take a deeper dive into the more nihilistic fixations of the Nineties underground. It seems impossible that something like this could exist today, but then again, Aes-Nihil Productions still has a website and it is every bit as dense and obsessive as the print catalogue.
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Charlie was framed! Just think, he could’ve been a cross between Rod McKuen and Richard bach, a staple of chat shows, and a pioneer of frugal eco-conscious living (and sponging). Rest assured i will presently be resuming His good works. his big mistake was involving disaffected middle-class kids – they have too musch to prove, and they don’t know when to quit (see also the 90s underground! Mia-flipping Ow!)
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