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Helter Skelter (1976)

Unrated | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | TV Movie 1 April 1976
The investigation and trial of the horrific Tate-LaBianca mass murders orchestrated by the psychotic pseudo-hippie cult leader, Charles Manson.



(based on the book by), (based on the book by) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 3 Primetime Emmys. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Christina Hart ...
Cathey Paine ...
Aaron Stovitz
Ronnie Howard
George Garro ...
Vic Werber ...
Lt. Brenner
Wright King ...
William Garretson
Edward Bell ...
Sgt. Hank Kruger


Chilling story of the investigation and trial of Charles Manson, leader of a strange cult which under his direction and 'control' committed numerous murders. Written by Jerry Milani <jmilani@ix.netcom.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


His name is Charles Manson. His disciples call him God. HE PREACHED DEATH!


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Unrated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1 April 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Massacre in Hollywood  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (original) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film almost was not shown in Los Angeles because network executives were afraid that it would stir up bad memories, especially since it had been only seven years since the murders. See more »


One detective shows others how The Beatles' "White Album" has a song called "Helter Skelter". As he tells them this, he points to the Apple Records label on the record. The problem is, the label he's pointing to is the "sliced" label, which appeared on the even numbered sides of that (and any) Apple album. Since the song "Helter Skelter" appears on Side 3, the label should be of a green apple's body. See more »


Ronnie Howard: What's your name, honey?
Susan Atkins: Sadie. Sexy Sadie.
See more »


I'm Scratching Peace Symbols on Your Tombstone
(a.k.a. "First They Made Me Sleep in the Closet")
Written by Charles Manson
Performed by Steve Railsback and assorted "Family" members
See more »

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User Reviews

A Remake...WHY???
25 January 2004 | by (usa) – See all my reviews

It's not bad enough that Hollywood is so addlepated as to think that they can improve upon the quirky genius of Willy Wonka with special effects, or the cinematic perfection of 1967's In Cold Blood, now they are remaking what is still an effective frightener of a movie as Helter Skelter? I weep for Hollywood sometimes...but I digress...

TV movies have not really come very far in this generation when compared to the movies of the 70's or very early 80's. Sure, they can get away with some language that they couldn't before, and maybe a little more skin. But there lacks the explorative nature of storytelling the miniseries of that bygone era once gave us. Case in point, the 1976 TV movie, Helter Skelter. The chronological point of view takes the viewer through the important milestones of prosecutor Bugliosi (very accurately portrayed by Geo. DiCenzo) and his search for answers in what seems to be a motiveless crime. But as most people should know by now, there is no such thing as murder without motivation--every killer has his/her reasons. It just depends on whether or not the evidence shows that motive. And that evidence can be something as overt as a letter, or something as minute as an object placed upon a victim or even how the victim is left...The motive is always there; and in recent years, maybe the last 20 or so, profiling experts have proved this. But in the late 1960's, profiling was unknown, and the search for a motive was dependent upon good old fashioned legwork and long hours staring at notes. The book Bugliosi wrote of course goes into far more detail about how formidable a task this was for such a notorious and violent crime as the one depicted. But for the 3-plus hours of this film, we get a lot of information indeed, and it only serves the viewer to get as complete an education as possible about Manson, his vagabond followers, and the collective insanity that ensued. Actually, I suppose with our rash of reality shows, we are seeing more of that 'collective insanity' when people are thrown together without many means of escape...again, I digress...Overall, the acting was formidable, effective, and quite fearless for its time period--I can't recall another TV movie where the actors swallowed their roles with as much gusto without going way over the top, to the point of caricaturizing. Truly, this is a small but bizarre chapter in criminology, and everyone involved in this movie had their work cut out for them. They did not disappoint, and they don't disappoint us. Neither did the film-makers by dumming up the story to be more acceptible to the masses, which is the hallmark of its era, and sadly is ALL too common in the television fare as of late. This is a horrible and weird story that deserves to be told in toto. Kudos to the film-makers and actors who did not insult the viewers' intelligence levels, and told as much of the truth as they could cram in to the alloted time.

One more interesting note: Much has been said about Manson's subsequent interviews and parole hearings displaying his "madness". I'm going to throw a thought out here--did it ever occur to anyone that this is the image he WANTS us to have? If you've done your homework, you know the famous tale of how he has repeatedly asked not to be released. Maybe, just maybe, do you suppose that his disconnected ramblings, fits of anger, bizarre diatribes about ninjas and wildlife--perhaps even the motive for such overly gruesome and notorious crimes--are his way of guaranteeing that he will indeed never get out of prison again? That this is all an act so that the prison and the public will think he's a looney and keep him locked up? He has been tested with an above-average intelligence with the footnote, 'master manipulator who can seemingly talk anyone into anything', after all. And not so impossible...Now THERE'S something to think about!!

22 of 26 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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