Helter Skelter (1976 film)

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Helter Skelter
Helter Skelter (1976 film).jpg
DVD cover of Helter Skelter
Written by Vincent Bugliosi
Curt Gentry
JP Miller
Directed by Tom Gries
Starring George DiCenzo
Steve Railsback
Nancy Wolfe
Marilyn Burns
Christina Hart
Cathey Paine
Alan Oppenheimer
Read Morgan
Theme music composer Billy Goldenberg
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 2
Producer(s) Philip Capice
Lee Rich
Running time 194 minutes
Production company(s) Lorimar Television
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original network CBS
Original release April 1 – April 2, 1976

Helter Skelter is a 1976 TV film based on the 1974 book by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. In the United States, it aired over two nights. In some countries it was shown in theaters with additional footage (nudity, language and more violence).

The movie is based upon the murders committed by the Charles Manson Family. The best-known victim was actress Sharon Tate. The title was taken from the Beatles' song of the same name. According to the theory put forward by the prosecution, Manson used the term for an anticipated race war, and "healter skelter" [sic] was scrawled in blood on the refrigerator door at the house of one of the victims. It recounts the murders Manson committed, the investigation, and the 1970-71 trial where prosecuting D.A. Bugliosi attempted to draw connections between the Manson family and his violent convictions.

The 1976 film, directed by Tom Gries, stars Steve Railsback as Manson and George DiCenzo as Bugliosi. Writer JP Miller received a 1977 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best TV Feature or MiniSeries Teleplay.

In 2004, the book was adapted for a second made-for-TV movie, written and directed by John Gray and featuring Jeremy Davies as Manson.




The film premiered with a household share of 36.5, ranking it the 16th highest rated movie to air on network television.[1] The film was also shown on TV stations in Los Angeles, although there were reservations about this and fears of bad memories for the film appeared seven years after the Manson murders.[citation needed]

Production notes[edit]

The LaBianca house sequence was filmed at the actual crime scene. Much of the dialogue from the courtroom scenes was taken from the court transcripts. The 1959 Ford driven by Linda Kasabian on both nights of the murders was loaned to the producers by the Los Angeles Police Department.[citation needed]


There was a cut and censored 2-hour version released on VHS by Key Video in 1985, and a uncut and uncensored version made for TV and Released on DVD in 2004. The 2-hour Key Video VHS is now out-of-print, and as of 2015, neither 20th Century Fox nor Warner Bros., the latter of whom has begun to acquire some of Lorimar's films, has announced any plans to release a new VHS or DVD of the 2-hour version. For these reasons, copies of the original Key Video 2-hour VHS can be found online being sold for very high prices.

Awards and nominations[edit]

1977 Emmy Awards[edit]

  • Nominated, Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Special (Dramatic Underscore) – Billy Goldenberg[2][unreliable source?]
  • Nominated, Outstanding Directing in a Special Program - Drama or Comedy – Tom Gries[2][unreliable source?]
  • Nominated, Outstanding Film Editing for a Special – Byron Brandt, Bud S. Isaacs[2][unreliable source?]

Directors Guild of America[edit]

  • Nominated, Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Specials/Movies for TV/Actuality – Daniel Petrie[2][unreliable source?]

Edgar Allan Poe Awards[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. p. 805. ISBN 0-345-45542-8. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Awards listing on imdb.com". imdb.com. Retrieved 4 April 2010.