“Charles Manson: Superstar,” starring America’s favorite bogeyman & “hieratic emblem of evil”

By on November 6, 2017

One of the more fascinating and controversial titles you’ll find streaming in our newly-added “Horror Month on Night Flight Plus” section over on Night Flight Plus is Nikolas Schreck’s 1989 documentary Charles Manson: Superstar.

The film features a lengthy, unfiltered interview with America’s favorite bogeyman from San Quentin State Penitentiary, interspersed with rare archival footage provided by the LAPD, as well as media coverage of Manson’s arrest, information about his “family” members and the murders too, of course.

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Schreck — once a member of the Church of Satan, as well as a Tantric Buddhist meditation teacher, author/editor (particularly the first edition of The Manson File, published in 1988), and founder & frontman of the shapeshifting musical ensemble Radio Werewolf — offers no real pretense of objectivity here, telling us in his sparse and rather dryly-intoned narration how the national media has treated Manson as evil incarnate, before manipulating the truth and turning him into demonized “property of the corporation, a consumer product.”

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His 1989 interview with Manson at San Quentin — one of the many prisons Manson has been in, ever since his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment — was one the first times Manson was allowed to speak without being censored or sanitized for squeamish primetime sensibilities.

He walks around freely, right up to Schreck and his camera numerous times.

Schreck’s film would like us to try to understand that Manson’s twisted worldview — formed in the reform schools, jails and prisons (including solitary confinement) — is the result of being apart from the “straight society” nearly all his life.

Schreck believes Manson he should be judged solely on what he says in his prison interviews, rather than relying on an image fostered solely by a national media who primarily needed to create a “monster” in order for us to wrap our minds around what happened (an early case of “fake news” perhaps?).

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In the beginning of the film, Schreck sets the overall tone and theme by presenting Manson as a political prisoner, and a misunderstood victim:

“Charles Manson has been transmogrified by the electronic thaumaturgy of mass media into a mythic creation, a larger-than-life hieratic emblem of evil.

Manson has become the favored brand name for murder and madness, the very archetype of everything the popular mind understands as anti-social, crazy and criminal. He is one of the last true heretics of our time.”

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“Is it possible to peer behind the monumental edifice of this Manson myth, that fiction forever frozen in time by the famous LIFE magazine cover of December 19, 1969.”

“Throughout the world, this image has become an icon, as well-known as the logo of Coca Cola or McDonalds, and indeed Manson has become the property of the corporation, a consumer product designed to satisfy an audience that loves nothing more than to be frightened to regard its own death.”

Read more about Charles Manson: Superstar below.

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Nikolas Schreck — who has been interested in the Occult, black magick and mysticism since his childhood during the late 1960s — married his wife Zeena, Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey’s daughter, in 1988 (they’ve both since left the Church of Satan, disavowing LeVey and forming their own “Left Hand Path” Satanic group, the Sethian Liberation Movement, or SLM).

That same year, Schreck edited The Manson File, one of the first collections of Manson’s writings — letters, courtroom testimony, etc. — and artwork, with song lyrics supplied by some of his supporters, including Adam Parfrey (best known perhaps as the publisher of Feral House books).

The book was re-released in 2011 by World Operations as The Manson File: Myth and Reality of an Outlaw Shaman with additional new material).

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At the time, Scheck and his wife were hearing oft-repeated stories about Manson and his family members belonging to the Church of Satan, or how they conducted satanic rituals, and they were keen to dispel the rumors and coincidences associated with the murders, like the fact that Sharon Tate’s husband Roman Polanski had directed the Hollywood blockbuster Rosemary’s Baby a few years before.

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Charles Manson: Superstar is, in some ways, a video presentation of that same material, which may be why it shocked, angered and also likely entertained many viewers who saw it when it was first released on VHS in 1989.

There were some who heard Manson’s emotionally-charged, punctuation-free, stream-of-consciousness, acid-casualty psycho-babble and thought they were the ravings of a self-aggrandizing lunatic.

However, others who watched this same interview came away with the belief that Manson was speaking his own truth, unfiltered and uncensored, and by the end of it, you can see how Manson was able to convince his circle of followers to do his bidding.

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The film also features footage shot at Spahn Ranch locations and visits to pertinent sites in Death Valley, as well showing us a short clip of neo-Nazi James M. Mason (author of Siege, which lauds Hitler as one of the greatest men in history and exhorts Manson and other mass murderers as defiers of a corrupt political system) being interviewed about the Universal Order and Manson.

Schreck — a veteran of the ’70s Hollywood art-punk scene, formerly with The Creeping Unknown and Skull Kulture — has compiled an eclectic soundtrack which features Olivier Messiaen’s “Death and Resurrection,” Bobby Beausoleil’s “Lucifer Rising,” Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Apocalypsis,” Biff Rose’s “Fill Your Heart” (Tiny Tim’s version) and Anton LaVey’s “The Satanic Mass,” in addition to Manson’s own songs “Clang Bang Clang” and “Mechanical Man” from the album Lie: The Love and Terror Cult.

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The original VHS cover art was by notorious apocalyptic artist Joe Coleman.

Watch Charles Manson: Superstar and other newly-added titles in our “Horror Month on Night Flight Plus” section over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.
  • https://itsmyurls.com/msowolf Aaron Frost

    Schreck is an idiot,Manson is about as much a “victim”,as Hitler was.