EDITORS NOTE: Hey, Liam here. This is our man Evan Vellela, who you may know from multiple guest appearances on Cinepunx, or from the many flyers and shirts he has designed for us. Evan recently made a huge move across the country from his native PA to that haven of weirdness in the west, Portland. This was no easy feat in a pandemic, but one of his many comforts out there has been the hallowed MOVIE MADNESS. This CINE-WEEN Evan is taking us on a journey each week as he explored the weird and the wild at one of America’s remaining video stores.
1) Naked Massacre (a.k.a. Born For Hell) – 1976
Based loosely on the 1966 murders of 8 student nurses by Richard Speck, this movie follows Cain Adamson, a soldier on his way back from the Vietnam war. He finds himself docked in Belfast embroiled in the middle of the Troubles. He drifts around the city while he waits for another boat to take him back to the states, spending much of his time in a boarding house or behind a sexually explicit pinball machine at the local pub. It is here that he discovers the home for local nurses across the street and develops his dangerous obsession. He lurks around and even gets caught inside the house but plays it off by acting like a down and out man looking for something to eat.
This all culminates in his vicious act of murder, spending much of the night stalking the house and terrorizing these nurses. The aftermath shows him stalking the streets again, showing little to no remorse for his senseless act. It finally comes to a head when he attempts suicide in the bathroom of the boarding house, using the same switchblade that ended the lives of 8 innocent women no more than 24 hours before. The film ends with him being discovered by the doctor cleaning his self-inflicted wound and finding the ‘Born For Hell’ tattoo on his arm (a reference to Speck’s ‘Born To Raise Hell’ tattoo), and then fades out to a photo of each of his victims.
The dvd version of the film I watched looked like a low budget transfer of a VHS tape, so the quality was spotty at best throughout. That poor quality just seemed to add to the overall bleakness of the film however, leaving the viewer with a slight feeling of unease right from the start. Effective in it’s use of location and content, this is a relatively competent film, reminding me, at times of films like Schizo (1976) and 10 To Midnight (1983). Worth checking out if it’s readily available, but not worth the trouble of seeking it out.
2) Helter Skelter – 1976
If you haven’t lived under a rock the past 40 or so years, when you hear the words Helter Skelter, you immediately think of one person: Charles Manson. This 1976 TV mini-series is based on the aftermath of the 1969 Tate – LaBianca slayings. This mini-series follows (almost to a fault) the book that Vincent Bugliosi wrote about the murders and the ensuing public circus of trials, but the bulk of this film is spent on the investigation and the trial. For a TV mini-series from the 70’s they admittedly get into some of the gory details on the crime scene, even going as far as to shoot on location at the actual LaBianca house.
I’m not going to go into a lot of the story details, as they are readily available elsewhere, but I will say that if procedurals and legal dramas are your thing, then you would probably enjoy this. I honestly found it to drag quite a bit, which made the 3-hour run time feel almost double that. My other big gripe with this film was with the acting, a lot of it felt a little bit *too* dramatic (especially the scene with Roman Polanski’s business manager at the crime scene, you’d think that fool was trying out for Broadway or some shit). With that said, Steve Railsback’s portrayal of Charles Manson was truly one of the better ones that I have seen. He really sells the wild eyes and can wear the hell out of a fringed leather jacket.
As far as TV movies go, this one is shot better than most and despite a few factual errors, really sticks to the facts. While that is usually something that I want in a movie like this, I think that they could have been a little more concise with the material to reel in the run time a little and make the actual film more engaging. Overall, if you have the time to kill and are interested in the Manson Family story you might as well give it a watch, but if you ask me I would say you should just read the book and call it a day.