#209 – Manson!

(1973, US, 156 min) Dir Heinz Bohnen.

Tasteless and epic Brechtian musical about the eponymous Charlie and his Family produced by the North Californian experimental theatre company Evlove as headed by the by then octogenarian Austrian-born artist and agitator Heinz Bohnen. It is essentially a filmed performance in the blank space of Smallwater High School’s football ground at night, the arc lights strong enough to bleach out the faces of the participants and, depending on their positioning, cast long black shadows across the pitch like dark fingers threading the grass. The acoustics are also terrible in such a big venue, especially with their basic sound system, but this too turns out to be a distinct advantage with the music leaking out into the night around them, making the proceedings sound as though the troupe were performing in a void or while pitching off into deep space. Despite all of this eeriness of presentation and the uncomfortable subject matter, Bohnen positioned Manson! as an old-fashioned comedy extravaganza complete with trousers falling down to the accompaniment of a slide whistle sound effect, slapstick accidents and the grisly murders for which the Family are famed recast as prolonged Keystone Kops style farce. Bohnen is ploughing the same furrow he’d been working his whole career here and his followers knew what he was getting at but, perhaps to his surprise, the outcry that greeted the film’s release reached places the plays themselves couldn’t reach and some say it helped ease him into his grave a year later when he died following a dinner of ninety-seven oysters and a whole cooked hen.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

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