First and foremost, Happy 78th Birthday to the America's most misunderstood man/myth/cult phenomenon; Charles Manson. It's been several years since I first dove into the world of researching Charlie and his curiously intriguing Family, however my lust of knowledge and insight remains steadfast and loyal. At this point, I can honestly say that I've seen nearly every documentary, film, and news piece, as well as read every legitimate book covering the Manson Family, including Vincent Bugliosi's epic Helter Skelter and Susan Atkin's own Child of Satan, Child of God. In regards to documentaries though, there is only one that always sticks out among the rest and it's 1973's gritty Manson, produced by Robert Hendrickson and Laurence Merrick.
Thirty-four years later, in 2007, a follow-up film, if you will, was released by Robert Hendrickson and distributed directly from his website. When I first heard about this film, I was deep within my research, and at that particular point, I was obsessing over the Family, and since Inside The Manson Gang seemed to be just what I needed, and despite the questionably high $35.00 price tag, I took a gander. I'm sure I could have easily found this online, but the fact that Robert Hendrickson signs each copy and addresses it directly to the buyer somewhat validated the purchase. Not to mention, since 1973's Manson, is probably thee best documentary on the subject of Charlie and the Family, the follow-up should be comparably close, right?
I will preface by saying that unless you have somewhat of an understanding or interest in the Manson Family, not specifically Charles Manson, but rather Squeaky, Brenda, Gypsy, Clem, Juan, Bruce, Sandy, et al.; Inside the Manson Gang will probably bore and confuse the hell out of you. The film, and rightfully so, assumes that you already know the family, the trial, the outcome, as well as the general back story to most of the characters. Again, unless you've got a definitive interest in the Family aspect of the Manson story, Inside the Manson Gang will likely not appeal to you.
In a nutshell, Inside the Manson Gang looks like it was composed with leftover 16mm footage and extended scenes from the 1973 film Manson, with Robert Hendrickson providing the monotone narration. There's not too much of a story, as it is a collection of scenes, mostly from Spahn's Ranch, presumably filmed between 1970 and 1971 as the trial was underway. From their garbage runs, to trips to the courthouse, and to their stoned sing-alongs at the Ranch, you get a genuine glimpse into the day to day life of the family. Although Gypsy (Catherine Share) tends to steal the show, the nearly five minute, tearful profession of love and allegiance from a rifle toting Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme at the end of the film is as beautiful, as it is unsettling. Overall, and taking into consideration the circumstances, it's a pretty surreal film, and for that alone, we're going to give Inside the Manson Gang an 8 out of 10 for the fact that it does contain some incredible footage which has never been seen, but at the same time, the quantity of new footage, in my opinion, does not justify the producer's current asking price, despite the DVD being personalized. On the flip side, if you try to look up clips from Inside the Manson Gang on YouTube, you'll probably not find anything as The Executive Film Network (presumably Robert Hendrickson's company) keeps a very tight leash on their footage and will get videos removed if they contain any scenes or stills from the film. Luckily, you can check out the trailer and order the DVD directly from their website here.