Savior of cult classic cinema The Film Detective chooses wisely in opting for separate 50th Anniversary DVD and BD versions of "The Other Side of Madness" (nee "The Helter Skelter Murders") to kick off a series of releases on Wade Williams films.
"Madness" is available for pre-order ahead of the November 24, 2020 releases. The incredible video and audio quality of the BD release (complete with a CD of the Charlie Manson album also titled "The Other Side of Madness") make that one worth buying the upgrade. The Manson opus "Mechanical Boy" may not have a good beat and you may not be able to dance to it, but the lyrics of this essential beat poem will stick with you.
Speaking as one who has seen all of Tate murders films (and LOATHES "Once Upon A Time in America"), it should be undisputed that Williams puts the others to shame. This film that does not seem to deviate from its court documents and interviews provides a solid "you are there" sense. A Ballyhoo Motion Pictures MUST-SEE bonus feature that consists of an audio interview with Williams over "Madness" footage provides an awesome perspective regarding both the demand for authenticity and the emphasis of art over commerce.
Detective goes directly to the source by using the original theatrical trailer for "Madness" to promote the releases. This promo. PERFECTLY highlights the black-and-white photography that successfully conveys the mixed styles of newsreel and low-budget horror film that makes "Madness" so compelling.
The aforementioned interview validates the authenticity of the opening scenes of the Manson family at work and play at the movie ranch that operates under a Charles in charge system. This leads to the first of many courtroom scenes of the murder trial for the killing of Sharon Tate and of her friends who can be considering collateral damage. The testimony in that proceeding provides the exposition method for the re-enactment of that massacre and for explaining the philosophy of Manson. One of the most visually striking scenes transitions to color in a manner that aptly shows the audience that we no longer are in Kansas.
Very timely modern relevance relates to the underlying message of the impact of a cult figure that the general public considers deluded but followers see as charismatic and literally or figurative the word of God.
One of the more powerful non-Tate scenes shows two family members who clearly want to project a militant image burst into the home of a middle-class middle-aged woman and hold a gun on her as they carry off her not-so-valuable possessions. The mastery of Williams is very apparent in one segment in which it is clear that a pet bird either is going to get killed or carted off. The manner in which this is filmed will elicit sympathy in all of us who have not partaken of the Kool-Aid.
The black-and-white photography is especially effective in the oft-depicted scene in which a female family member ghostlike strides back-and-forth in front of a bedroom door at Chez Polanski/Tate. The Williams take on this outshines that of the other productions. Blatant departures from other films about that night show that many of us have been fooled for years.
"Madness" ending with intertitles on the evils of illicit substances provides a bad end to an otherwise excellent film. Drug use is not to be celebrated and can have a high cost, but it seems that (even in the late '60s) very few folks who inhale end up in a cult and even fewer go on a killing spree.
The personal perspective this time is having "Father Knows Best" star Billy Gray, who pays a high professional cost for a "seeds and stems" arrest, once laugh and tell your not-so-humble reviewer "you don't do drugs do you."
For the record, a handful of personal college-era experiences include incidents such as once finding the kitchen witch at the home a friend hilarious and another time cleaning the kitchen at the home of my mother at 11:00 p.m. to provide an excuse to not go upstairs to talk to her after an evening out.
Returning from our Blogland detour, Detective supplements "Madness" and the aforementioned Williams interview with another Williams interview that includes how he gets to visit Manson in jail. We also get the theatrical trailers for "Madness" and "Helter Skelter Murders."
ALL of this shows that ANYONE who does not buy "Madness" genuinely does not know what he or she is missing.