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Helter Skelter (1976)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | TV Movie 1 April 1976
2:47 | Trailer

On Disc

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The investigation and trial of the horrific Tate-LaBianca mass murders orchestrated by the psychotic pseudo-hippie cult leader, Charles Manson.


Tom Gries


Vincent Bugliosi (based on the book by), Curt Gentry (based on the book by) | 1 more credit »
3,958 ( 891)
Nominated for 3 Primetime Emmys. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
George DiCenzo ... Vincent Bugliosi
Steve Railsback ... Charles Manson
Nancy Wolfe Nancy Wolfe ... Susan Atkins
Marilyn Burns ... Linda Kasabian
Christina Hart ... Patricia Krenwinkel
Cathey Paine Cathey Paine ... Leslie Van Houten
Alan Oppenheimer ... Aaron Stovitz
Rudy Ramos ... Danny DeCarlo
Sondra Blake ... Ronnie Howard
George Garro George Garro ... Rosner
Vic Werber Vic Werber ... Lt. Brenner
Wright King ... Friend
Jon Gries ... William Garretson
Edward Michael Bell Edward Michael Bell ... Sgt. Hank Kruger (as Edward Bell)
Roy Jenson ... Punchy


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


Murder is their religion. And everything you see is true! See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

1 April 1976 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Massacre in Hollywood See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Lorimar Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(original broadcast) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


While the LaBianca house was used in the movie, the Tate house was not. See more »


The rope used as evidence in the courtroom is made of yellow hemp, but moments later, in the flashback scenes, it is made of white cotton fiber. See more »


Dist. Atty. Vincent Bugliosi: [narrating] It was so quiet, one of the killers would later say, you could almost hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers in the homes way down the canyon.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Shorty Shea's responce to Manson's comment, "It ain't nice to snitch, Shorty!" differs between the two-part TV movie and the home video release. In the TV film, Shorty says "Horse manure!". In the home video release, he says "Go fuck yourself, Charlie!" See more »


Referenced in The Simpsons: Helter Shelter (2002) 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

ground breaking
5 April 2002 | by AjtlawyerSee all my reviews

This TV movie was very controversial when it came out. The local affiliate where I lived declined to show it during the normal 8 p.m. prime time slot and instead showed it at 10:30 p.m. on two consecutive nights. I had to plead with my mother to let me stay up to watch it and she had refused to let me until she found out that I'd already read the book it was based on. So she stayed up to provide parental guidance during the movie (and fell asleep!). Years later I taped the show when it was shown on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon so it is perhaps a sad commentary that what affiliates almost refused to broadcast in 1976 is now afternoon family fare!

The movie is well done and Steve Railsback is excellent as Manson although I suspect that the role almost ruined his career. It was simply impossible for the movie to recreate the murders but what little is shown about them is chilling, veiled images being shown while Linda Kasabian tearfully testifies.

I've heard that Johnny Depp recently turned down a chance to play Manson in a new movie--the TV "Helter Skelter" was scary enough with all the limitations that TV required on the story so I cannot imagine how graphic a theater release about Manson could be. If you can find it, there was an Oscar-nominated documentary called "Manson" which is well worth watching and which jumps back and forth between the seemingly serene life at Spahn Ranch and the murder trial.

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