THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
The cult of Charles Manson is something of a mystery
to those of us who are, I don't know, sane.
Nikolas Schreck's strange little doco Charles Mason
Superstar looks to put a happy face on the
lecherous murderer whose ability to twist
impressionable minds amassed him a clan of groupies
eager to kill. The thing that makes Schreck' s
documentary unique is also the thing that sinks it.
Schreck has a little extra sympathy for Manson and
perhaps it's his less-than-critical approach that got
him the lengthy interview with the jailed killer on
which he built his film. Long sequences feature the
disheveled psycho expounding on all manner of
antiestablishment rhetoric, sometimes in an
interestingly animated way but more often in the
yammering blabbering style of a man who's had nothing
but his own self-serving thoughts to keep him company
all these years.
So pervasive are these interview clips that
everything else feels like an aside. Schreck, for
instance, might start to explore the mind of Manson
devotee Squeaky Fromme, but he quickly cuts back to
Manson himself for wordy, circular observations that
reveal nothing. His world-view is no more advanced
than a high school philosophy student just discovering
the dark side and his jittery style is more junkie
Schreck's mistake was in allowing Manson's monologues
to fill up so much of the film. If this was his
intention then he just should have released the
unedited interview as it was shot and called it a day.
Instead, he dressed it up as a documentary. Schreck's stilted, tone-deaf narration coupled with the low-grade stock footage and My-First-Computer video effects help make the piece nearly unwatchable, but it's the endless blabbering of the main subject that ultimately spells its fate. If there has ever been a pseudo-celebrity who doesn't need to tell his own story it's the insane, rambling Manson.
The video displays a crunchy overly-compressed quality along with the terrible condition of most of the source material. The image is full-frame.
The PCM audio track is murky and hard to understand at times. Manson's interview, however, is pretty clear. No subtitles are included.
Email Gil Jawetz at [email protected]
A muddled and confusing film, Charles Manson Superstar accomplishes nothing other than to display what an unbalanced mess the subject is. Definitely not the place to start in learning about the killer. For Manson junkies only.