The Last of the Manson Girls film review

★★★★

Directed by #LonnieMartin

Starring #ElliottKashner, #JenBevan, #CindyMarieMartin, #SarahTaurchini

Film Review by #JackBottomley




Charles Manson and “the Tate murders” is a culturally significant event in history. This brutal and abhorrent occurrence not only acted as a nail in the coffin of the ‘60s and its hippie movement, it arguably spurred on an era of fear, paranoia and mistrust in figures of authority that has followed and intensified ever since. This year (in fact nearly to the day at time of writing) marks the 50th anniversary of the tragic event and all these decades later, the true face of the events and the people involved are still being questioned. Add to this the huge hype, praise and - yes - controversy surrounding #QuentinTarantino’s latest film set amidst the Tate murders #OnceUponATimeinHollywood and the timing could not be any better for writer/director #LonnieMartin’s #TheLastoftheMansonGirls.


Based on The Realist magazine editor/founder/contributor #PaulKrassner’s (who passed away in July) “My Acid Trip with Squeaky Fromme”, The Last of the Manson Girls makes no mistake about it’s revisionist approach to areas of its subject. The opening epitaph even makes light of this very fact and what follows is not so much a true telling (which is practically impossible) as an interpretation of a violent, confusing and hallucinogenic moment in time.


The film stars a brilliant, witty and charismatic #ElliottKashner as Krassner, as he meets with Mae Brussell (#RobinReck), a woman who strongly believes that Manson was a patsy for the murders and that there was a CIA-aided conspiracy at work to fuel a disbelief in the increasing counter culture at the time and help bring about the institutional power of Nixon and his ilk (shockingly to me, this is an actual theory). As a result of her encouragement, Krassner meets with “Manson girls” Squeaky Fromme (#JenBevan), Sandy Good (#CindyMarieMartin) and Brenda McCann (#SarahTaurchini) to get a wider sense of the truth...if possible?


Inter-cut with black and white on-stage satire/comedy routines (with lots to say about past, present and future of our world) and with trippy moments of drug-fuelled animated effects and kaleidoscopic sequences, Martin’s film is very entertaining and also quite thought-provoking. Never being swallowed up by the crazy conspiracy at the core of the story, the writing instead makes a comment on how insane it is that, 5 decades later, we are all still talking about this and are all still unsure of the true unclouded reality.


Contrary to films like #WolvesAtTheDoor, this film does not glorify or manipulate the brutality of its true story underpinnings, in fact there is a deep respect of the lives lost literally and metaphorically by the Manson phenomenon and a jab at the events that have followed this violent turmoil. #RobertYoho and #StephanieAmsterYoho’s great make-up work, alongside some fantastic cinematography by #AaronShirley and a well placed score by #JesseRayErnster, capture the era in a number of ways and the themes and acid-trip sequences really combine uncomfortably well to show just how mind-melting, frightening and uncertain this all was/remains to be.


The performances are really good with everyone on strong form, Kashner and Jen Bevan especially, as they all harness an unknown story from a troubling time and equally perplexing real-life characters all surrounding a false god figure. By the end of this intriguing - if niche - twisting of a real story and theories, and re-writing of history, we are left with lingering questions as to where the 100% truth lies. Realistically we know a good portion of the sad story but with the way the world was then and has become since, who the hell knows anymore? And that’s precisely what The Last of the Manson Girls is saying.