Home Television Drama Helter Skelter

Helter Skelter

1 9 7 6 (USA)
2 x 97 minute episodes

This two-part made-for-television miniseries – telling the shocking story of the Manson “family”, their ritualistic murders and the aftermath – aired on various CBS affiliates on 1 and 2 April 1976.

Helter Skelter provided a painstakingly detailed dramatisation of the savage and senseless murders of actress Sharon Tate and seven other innocent victims in Los Angeles in 1969 by a commune of freeloading hippies disturbingly devoted to extreme ex-convict Charles Manson.

With his gaunt frame, quavering voice, and relentless intensity, Steve Railsback captured the real Manson’s disturbing mixture of messianic charisma and psychopathic menace.

Even though he was onscreen for only one hour of the three-hour-and-twenty-minute running time, watching Railsback-as-Manson preach about the beauty of an impending race war and the glory of rattling the establishment by committing mass murder felt very much like looking into the eyes of pure madness.

Helter Skelter gave equal weight to the activities of law-enforcement personnel and to the macabre exploits of the killers and showing the occasional ineptitude of people investigating the murders, and the twisted joy Manson’s people took from following a man they considered to be a reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

The investigative stuff is compelling because of how many near-misses occurred before the Manson Family was finally incarcerated, and the courtroom stuff – with much of the dialogue used in the courtroom scenes taken directly from court transcripts – is dynamite.

Vincent Bugliosi, who successfully prosecuted the Manson family and wrote the book upon which the miniseries was based, initially served as a consultant on set. However, he continuously micromanaged George DiCenzo’s portrayal of him and interfered with filming so much that director Tom Gries had Bugliosi removed from the set.

The Beatles denied permission to use their song recordings for the miniseries. Portions of the songs Helter Skelter, Piggies and Revolution are played at various points but they were performed by a Beatles sound-alike band named Silverspoon.

Vincent Bugliosi
George DiCenzo
Charles Manson
Steve Railsback
Susan Atkins
Nancy Wolfe
Linda Kasabian
Marilyn Burns
Patricia Krenwinkel
Christina Hart
Leslie Van Houten
Cathey Paine
Aaron Stovitz
Alan Oppenheimer
Lt. Brenner
Vic Werber
Phil Cohen
Marc Alaimo
Tex Watson
Bill Durkin
Sgt. Manuel Gris
Phillip R. Allen
Harry Jones
David Clennon
Mr Quint
James Brodhead
J. Miller Leavy
Linden Chiles
Sgt. White
Larry Pennell
Steve ‘Clem’ Grogan
Steve Gries
Mrs Quint
Anne Newman Bacal
Everett Scoville
Howard Caine
Danny DeCarlo
Rudy Ramos
Ronnie Howard
Sondra Blake
Paul Watkins
Jason Ronard
George Garro
Judge Older
Skip Homeier
William Garretson
Jon Gries
Sgt. Hank Kruger
Edward Michael Bell
Roy Jenson
Terrence Milik
Adam Williams
Hank Charter
Jonathan Goldsmith
Sgt. O’Neal
Paul Mantee
Gail Bugliosi
Joyce Easton
Mr Spahn
Ray Middleton
Leno La Bianca
Al Checco
Sgt. Brown
Raphael Baker
Judge Keene
Bert Conway
Bill Sorrells
Judge Dell
John Furlong
Drees Darrin
Robert Ito
Bart Listen
Rod Arrants
Andy Cookley
Guy Remsen
Cal Haynes
Susan Struthers
Louise Caire Clark
Shorty Shea
Johnny Fain
Rosemary La Bianca
Toni Moss
Dennis Ranson
Paul Kent
Steve Quint
Will Brodhead
Sgt. Smith
Anthony Herrera
Sgt. Franklin
Bob Hoy
Sgt. Ross
Stanley Ralph Ross
Sgt. Broom
Katherine Pass
Laura Ash
Big Sal
Carole White
Jim Boles
Joe Dorgan
Jack Miller
Josh Albee
John Evans
Ronald Gold
Blair Aaronson
Le Page
Fay Martin
Family Girls
Asta Hansen
Kathleen Devlin
Deborah Parsons
Mary Jo Thatcher
Deanne Gwinn
Lindsay V. Jones
Barbara Mallory
Tracy Tracton
Melody Hinkle
Eileen Dietz
Patricia Post
Leila Davis
Sondra Lowell