Movie-Lot Satan Portent Of Death
Sunday, December 28th, 1969
HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 28 – Two months before actress Sharon Tate and four others were murdered in her Hollywood Hills mansion, scenes for a motorcycle gang picture were being shot at the drab Spahn Movie Ranch a few miles away in the San Fernando Valley.
Among the hangers-on at that location site were slightly built and fully bearded Charles Manson and his frazzled family of hippie nomads.
At the time, there didn’t seem to be anything particularly ominous about either them or the production they were watching. It was just one of those run-of-the-movie-mill “B” bike operas which Hollywood is grinding out these days in place of the horse operas. Yet, in a matter of weeks, the theme of the movie and the terror of the Tate slayings’ reality were to be brought together in a grimly ironic study of fact more awesome than fiction.
Manson and five of his “slaves” would be accused of the Tate home carnage of Aug. 9 and the double murder at the LaBianca home Aug. 10. And in the aftermath of those charges, the film was to be exploited as a cinematic, sub-cultural anticipation of that all-too-real violence.
The film “Satan’s Sadists” is about a group calling themselves “The Satans,” sadists led by a bearded, bushy-haired, evil-eyed toughie who refers to himself as “Satan.” And just like Manson’s “Satan Slaves” cult, the film freak-outs also went out and committed barbaric acts of violence, sadistically, and for no other reason than the gratification they received from committing these acts.
Among the coincidences between fact and film fantasy is the movie’s theme song. It tells about the fictional Satan’s troubled childhood and of his mother, who was “everybody’s girl.” Following Manson’s arrest it was revealed that, as a boy, he went from home to home to reformatory, until he finally wound up in prison. Further, it was brought out that, like the film Satan, Manson’s mother also had abandoned her young son because she was too busy as a prostitute.
One of the actresses in the picture who mingled with Manson and his “slaves” during the filming was Regina Carrol, a sexy starlet whose credits go back to “The Children’s Hour.”
She recalls the first time she encountered Manson. “He was sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of one of those rickety broken-down buildings. He was playing his guitar and singing to about a dozen starry-eyed, dirty-looking young girls with long, straggly hair who were squatting in a circle around him on the scrubby ground.
“The thing that got me was the way the girls just stared at him as if they were mesmerized, you know, in a hypnotic trance. It reminded me of the way teenboppers used to go ape over Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley.” The blonde costar, in only her early 20’s, the “Freak-Out Girl,” said that during a break in the filming last June she chatted with Manson. “He wasn’t much of a talker, but he did tell me that he ‘loved to sing’ those far-out philosophical songs.
“ ‘I’ve got to be me’ Manson kept singing over and over again ‘I’ve got to be myself. I’ve got to what I have to do…’
“I asked him why he sang that tune.
“‘What do you mean?’ he asked
“And I said, ‘Well, the words are so far out’
“He stared at me for the longest while, then he suddenly looked maniacal, as if he were the devil. “I just have to sing what I have to sing and say what I have to say,’ he told me.”
Manson confided to Regina that he wrote all his songs, which the young starlet described as having a “lovely spiritual rock sound”
Manson wandered around the movie set, Regina remembers, “and I could feel that he was performing for us, almost as if he were trying to audition for the stage ”
“After a while, I tried talking with a couple of his girls. I asked them what they did around the ranch. They just stared at me as if I were some kind of freak. They were completely incoherent. I couldn’t have a normal conversation with them. Finally, one of the Manson girls spoke up and said incisively: ‘Oh, were just kind of here…alive…’
“It was the weirdest thing I’d ever come across and I’ve met plenty of kooks out here,” Regina said.
What was even weirder to Regina, who admits to being an establishment hippie — you just dress the part after sundown — was the scene at sun-up when she’d arrive at the ranch for work.
“When I’d get on the set,” continued Regina, “the crew would have coffee and doughnuts waiting for me. I’d be standing around discussing the day’s shooting when, almost as if an alarm had sounded, these sloppy looking weirdos would come crawling out of barns and popping up out of mattresses like spiders. They’d inch their way slowly over to the table where we had the food.
“‘Oh look, there’s some people here,’ I heard one of them say as she rubbed her sleepy eyes. There was an innocence about her and your first instinct was that you wanted to sister her.
“They were all bare-footed. Their hair was in need of combing. They didn’t wear makeup, even later in the day. They didn’t even wear any of the colorful costumes generally warn by hippies. They’d just sort of wander around the ranch aimlessly. To me, they appeared to be in a very sad state of life. And when they’d come toward you, they moved as if we were controlling them and had hypnotized them to come closer. Frankly, it gave me the creeps,”
Creepy as the girls appealed to her, Regina does not recall — nor do any of her production company co-workers remember — any instances of the girls appearing nude or bare-bosumed as has been widely reported.
Approaching one of the girls one day, Regina asked it she could help her. Instead of a direct reply, the “slave” girl said: ‘We love animals. We love any dog. We don’t have much to eat but we feed the dogs what we have.’
“And there wasn’t even a dog in sight at the time she said this to me,” observed Regina.
Back in June, Manson and his cult “didn’t seem like killers” to Regina, she said.
Nor did Manson seem like a killer at the time the production’s dune buggy broke down and the self-styled Satan volunteered to fix it and did. “Judging from what we’ve since read about his background as an accomplished auto thief,” recalls producer Al Adamson, “he was an expert on motors and was the perfect one to fix our dune buggy.”
Another character hanging around the movie set at the Spahn Ranch, wearing a black cowboy outfit and who, according to the producer; had .45 caliber pistols stuck under his belt, was Charles “Tex” Watson. It was Watson who would be accused of leading the ‘family” on the Tate-LaBianca death raids.
“Watson began bothering some of the female members of our cast so we had to kick him off the set, guns and all,” Adamson says. “These were literally little people. Dirty types. You see them all around Southern California and you don’t think much about it.”
Adamson, a second-generation film maker who has grown up with the hard-headed realities of what sells at the box-office, got the idea for his film from an executive at a major film studio who suggested that he go out and produce “a sick, crazy picture.” What he did, Adamson says, was to take a lot of ideas and observations he has made over the past five years and come up with a script based on those antisocial behavioral patterns.
“I didn’t invent these things. They are actually happening,” insists Adamson, who admits that prior to the arrest of Manson and his “family,” he had encountered a good deal of resistance from motion picture exhibitors when they viewed his finished product.
Bothering Adamson in a spooky kind of way are these two coincidences:
— The Russian roulette sequence. In the film, a member of the gang kills himself playing Russian roulette just as it occured in real life on Nov. 5 when “Satan Slave” Christopher Jesus, known in the Manson cult as “Zero,” did himself in.
— Look-a-like featured player William Bonner is a dead-ringer for guru Manson, right down to the accused slayer’s satanic stare.
“The big-shot exhibitors kept telling me I was mad to release such a picture. They told me it wouldn’t sell because, they said, nobody would, believe such an incredible story,” said Adamson.
By JEANNE KING