• The Other Side Of Madness (The Film Detective) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: The Film Detective
    Released on: November 24th, 2020.
    Director: Frank Howard
    Cast: Brian Klinknett, Erica Bigelow, Paula Shannon, Debbie Duff
    Year: 1971
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Other Side Of Madness – Movie Review:

    Made in 1971, when the Manson Murder trials were still going on and making headlines across America, The Other Side Of Madness, directed by Frank Howard and produced by Wade Williams (the same Wade Williams who owns the rights to quite a few of Ed Wood’s better known films), was made to cash in on the notoriety of the crimes that inspired it.

    Over the span of eighty-one-minutes, the film opens with some footage of people we can safely assume are by Tex Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel planning what would become known as the Tate-LaBianca Murders in a dimly lit room with Manson himself watching from the corner. From here, we get some footage of a hippie party out in the brush where a pretty solid psych-rock band plays to a large crowd of drug ingesting, and sometimes naked, flower children types. As the film moves on, we head into the courtroom itself where witnesses talk about Sharon Tate, allowing Howard and Williams to insert a couple of minutes’ worth of color footage into the film showing off Debbie Duff, the actress who played her in the picture.

    At this point, the film starts to get remarkably dark as the events that took place on the night between August 9th and10th in 1969 at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles (where Trent Reznor somewhat infamously recorded most of Nine Inch Nails’ Downward Spiral album!) are reenacted in fairly intense and effectively grim detail, culminating with the death of Tate, Atkins then writing the word ‘PIG’ in Tate’s blood on the door of the home.

    The movie opens with a disclaimer stating that 'all information utilized in the preparation, writing and filming of this motion picture was obtained entirely from published articles appearing in newspapers and magazines... and from information released to various news and commentary programs.' It then goes on to say 'the producers of his film do not intend to defame or prejudice any person or persons living or dead.' This essentially means that the movie was made based on the facts that were available at the time, but that because the trial was still ongoing, obviously it might not be 100% accurate, giving Williams and company a little bit of legal wiggle room should anyone try to sue him. It’s for this same reason – covering their collective asses from a legal perspective – that none of the killers, cult members or victims are ever referred to by name during the feature or in the credits. The film also ends with a text piece warning viewers against the dangers of drug use, which was likely put there to make the picture feel less like exploitation and more like something that might have some redeeming social value, making it a cautionary tale of sorts.

    Either way, the film is an interesting mix of the obvious, and pretty crass, exploitation of what was then a modern day tragedy and a genuinely artistically impressive work of dark art. Frank Howard not only directed the picture but served as its editor and cinematographer as well and he does a fantastic job with the visuals, using shadow and light very effectively, at times giving the picture what would seem to be a pretty obvious film noir inspired look with a bit of a documentary feel to it (it is, at times, reminiscent of The Honeymoon Killers). There’s very little dialogue in the film, it was all shot without sound and dubbed in post-production, and its cast with a bunch of actors from the Kansas City area where it was shot, none of whom went on to any real stardom in front of the camera at all and all of whom were cast because they share strong resemblances to their real-life counterparts.

    The film pretty much sticks to the facts, which is a good thing. Howard uses flashbacks effectively to build the film, really only ever deviating from the established ‘reality’ the movie was based on to show a scene which creates the future Manson was warring against, showing militant Black Panther types invading a white woman’s home and robbing a store.

    The film features, in addition to its strong and somewhat trippy visuals, a pretty solid soundtrack as well. Thomas Sean Bonniwell, who scored Night Of The Witches a year earlier, contributes four original tracks that work really well here, and Manson himself appears on the soundtrack, his song ‘Mechanical Man’ used prominently in the feature.

    The Other Side Of Madness – Blu-ray Review:

    The Film Detective brings The Other Side Of Madness to Blu-ray taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative. The MPEG-2 encoded 1080p high definition transfer is framed at 1.37.1, and the compositions look good in that aspect ratio, taking up 16.3GBs of space on the 25GB disc. There are a definitely spots where some minor compression artifacts pop up as does some banding but otherwise this looks quite good. The black and white image (there is a very brief color sequence in here as well) shows nice contrast and some surprisingly nice detail and depth at times. There are no problems with any noise reduction or edge enhancement, it always look filmic, and there’s only mild print damage here to note. Overall, this looks solid.

    A 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track is the main audio option on the disc. A Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix is also included, as are optional English and Spanish subtitles. The lossless mix is a good one, really giving the soundtrack a nice boost in terms of depth and clarity. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion, everything sounds quite clean, and the levels are nicely balanced from start to finish.

    The Other Side of Manson: An Interview with Producer Wade Williams is a sixteen-minute audio interview with the film’s producer who speaks about He speaks about making the film in Kansas City, how he connected with Frank Howard and how he came to direct the picture, why they decided to make a movie about the Manson murders to cash in on their notoriety at the time, using newspapers as research materials, concerns about potential liability over using the names of the real life players that inspired the movie, casting the picture, why the film is so light on dialogue, locations that were used for the shoot including his own fifty-five room mansion (which is where the murder scenes were shot), shooting a few pick up shots in Los Angeles to make things more authentic including some of the last footage shot at the Spahn Movie Ranch, the deliberate look of the film, the opening credits sequence, the film's distribution history, releasing the film as The Helter Skelter Murders, how the film was received and more. It’s interesting stuff and a nice addition to the disc.

    Also included on the disc is a four-minute audio interview with Williams entitled The Mechanical Man: Wad Williams Meets Manson. In this piece, Williams talks about how he came to be able to use Manson’s song ‘Mechanical Man’ in the film and, after securing the rights, having to travel to the prison where he was being kept to meet with him and pay him $1500 in cash for the music. He also got the rights to the track ‘Garbage Dump’ which isn’t used in the movie.

    Rounding out the extras are the film’s original theatrical trailer, the Helter Skelter Murders re-release trailer, menus and chapter selection options.

    The Film Detective also include, with this release, an insert booklet that contains an essay on the film written by Alexander Tuschinski that covers the history of the film and offers some insight into what works about the film.

    On top of that, a limited edition of 2,000 copies of this release include a bonus CD that contains the tracks ‘Mechanical Man’ and ‘Garbage Dump’ written and performed by Manson and recorded back in 1968. It comes in a cardboard sleeve that replicates the original Auric Ltd. release art from the original 45 release that came out in 1971.

    The Other Side Of Madness – The Final Word:

    The Other Side Of Madness is a surprisingly moody and effective film, clearly made with a low budget but making the most of it and really impressing with the quality of its cinematography. The Film Detective gives the picture a solid Blu-ray release with a nice presentation and a few choice extra features as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Other Side Of Madness Blu-ray screen caps!