A New Charles Manson Documentary Promises Never-Before-Seen Footage & An Unexpected Narrator
If you like your true crime documentaries with as much detail as possible, Fox has some good news for you. A Charles Manson documentary narrated by Liev Schreiber is happening, and it's promising to be the most incisive, insightful, and spooky yet. Deadline described the project as "a retelling of the Manson story," comprised of footage discovered in the late Robert Hendrickson's archives. (Hendrickson created the documentary Manson, which was nominated for an Oscar in 1974.) Deadline's description continued:
"'The two-parter goes inside Spahn’s Ranch, where the Manson cult lived, to offer an intimate and terrifying look into America’s most murderous group."
It will apparently include unique, never-before-seen archival footage initially shot on 16mm film in the 1970s, so tell all of your true crime-loving, film-enthusiast pals. Per Deadline, Fox promises that the Schreiber-narrated documentary will also "feature rare photos and new and archival interviews with former Manson cult members," including Catherine “Gypsy” Share and Dianne “Snake” Lake. Stephen Kay, who prosecuted the Manson case, and FBI criminal profiler John Douglas are reportedly involved as well.
The primary goal of the documentary is to establish how the peaceful, SoCal hippie crew evolved into a violent, murderous cult inside of a decade. Spoiler alert: It was because of cult leader Charles Manson.
According to Deadline, the movie will also explore how he "orchestrated the murders and encouraged a group of mostly young, middle class women to carry out the killings, which he hoped would be blamed on the Black Panthers and lead to a race war." A premiere date has not been announced yet, but in case you're thinking you've heard this one before, you haven't. It's just one of many projects getting off the ground in Hollywood to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Manson family's most infamous murders.
Honestly, the most unexpected part of this announcement is the Liev Schreiber of it all. Why is he narrating this particular documentary? It feels like a curious choice, since one might expect a more experienced documentarian to take the reins, but it's entirely possible that Fox would rather rely on the actor's star power to get people to tune in. After all, it's not like Ken Burns is helming the new Manson documentary; it seems to be purely for entertainment value. Whatever the reason, it hopefully won't conflict with Season 6 of Ray Donovan.
In addition to this unnamed, two-part docu-series, there's the upcoming Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, for instance. While Tarantino is hesitant to say how much Manson will be involved, the fact that he's cast Dakota Fanning as Manson Family member (and would-be President Ford assassin) Squeaky Fromme and Margot Robbie as Manson Family victim Sharon Tate certainly points to "some Manson."
For those not in the know, Tate was a young Hollywood star who was murdered by the Manson family — along with three others — in her home in August 1969. She was 26 years old at the time, and eight and a half months pregnant with her first child. (Her husband, the now-controversial filmmaker Roman Polanski, was not present at the time.)
Charles Manson died in prison in November 2017. Fromme was paroled several years ago, and keeps a low profile today. Several other Manson family members remain in jail today. In terms of true crime, the Manson Family really does have everything: hippies, cults, murder, Hollywood, the swingin' '60s, brainwashing, Beatles references, and filmmakers that have since fled American soil.
While the crimes are real and strange and disturbing, there's just enough distance between then and now to pique a morbid fascination in people. Just enough. Ideally, Fox will handle the documentary series with sensitivity appropriate for the topic.