The Commune (lost Manson family-inspired film; 1970)
The Commune was a 1970 film directed by Monroe Beehler based on the crimes of the Manson family. Released on March 11th, 1970 just 7-months after the Tate–LaBianca murders, the film holds the title of being quite possibly the first film based on the crimes. Very little is known about the film, other than it apparently had its premiere at the Eros Theatre (now New Beverly Cinema) in Los Angeles, California on March 11th, 1970. The film later played at the Nob Hill Theatre in San Francisco.
Monroe Beehler was known for directing gay pornographic films and showing them at theaters in the San Franciso area. Possibly wanting to cash in on the recent murders, Beehler filmed and released The Commune in 1970. Although Beehler was known primarilly for directing pornography, it's been stated that the film may not have been pornographic in nature, and rather that it was "basically just a straight exploitation feature" that only played at the porn-centric Nob Hill Theatre due to the fact that Beehler owned the theatre at the time.
While it is known that the film premiered on March 11th, 1970 at the Eros Theatre in Los Angeles, and played later the same month at the Nob Hill Theatre in San Francisco. Due to the obscure release, it is unknown how long the run time was or if it was a critical success. There was an advertisement for The Commune taken out in The Los Angeles Times. An AD for the film was also taken out in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in April 1970.
Listings for a film titled Love in the Commune appeared in The San Francisco Examiner and Los Angeles Times in March 1970. Love in the Commune played at the Nob Hill Theatre on the 20th and 21st, just days after The Commune was confirmed as playing there. The L.A. Times listings state that the film played at the Eros Theatre in late March (the same theatre where The Commune premiered), and the Paris Theatre in late March and Early April.
While it is uncertain if Love in the Commune and The Commune are one and the same, a Rolling Stone article from June 25, 1970 stated that "A skin flick based weakly on popular assumptions about Manson and his family, Love in the Commune, closed after two days in San Francisco, only mustered two old men on a Saturday night in Los Angeles. Normally, one wouldn’t expect skin flick buffs to be that discriminating, although certainly the few scenes in the film of a Manson-type balling a headless chicken probably had little mass prurient appeal."
Based on this, it seems likely that Love in the Commune the same film. The 15 March advertisement for The Commune from The San Francisco Examiner append 'Love and Murder in' to the start of the title, meaning it is possible that the full title of the film is actually Love and Murder in the Commune. This would go some way to explaining the Love in the Commune listings, as papers may have been hesitant to print the word 'murder'. A similar example of this can be seen with the infamous adult film Bat Pussy, existing advertisements for which print the title as Bat Woman or Bat Broad among others. It's also worth noting that both the March 6th L.A. Times AD and the Honolulu AD simply print the title as The Commune.
While the cast is known, it is unknown who they played in the film:
- Eric Berne
- John Chavez
- Nancy Gold
- Robert Harvey (former bass player for Jefferson Airplane, credited as Robert Harry)
- Nancy Kinberg
- Ronald McTash
- Joann Nelson
- Sherli Nixon
- Enrico Rizini
- Candy Rodgers
- Joan Stormer
- Larry Watts
Like many other low-budget films of that era, The Commune was not widely known outside of certain communities in California. Due to this, it is unknown if The Commune saw any home releases or local theatrical re-releases. As of the writing of this article, no footage from the film has surfaced.
The release of The Commune started a trend in the film industry from 1971 until 1979 of films based on the Manson Family murders. These films were all locally released in various regions of the United States from local releases like The Commune. While most were obscure, others such as Snuff garnered huge attention and is now considered a cult classic.
- Article about Monroe Beehler. Retrieved 10 Dec '20
- Reddit post about the film featuring some original research by an unnamed filmmaker. Retrieved 11 Dec '20
- Rolling Stone article that mentions a Manson-based film titled Love in the Commune playing in March of 1970
- Website listing the cast for The Commune. Retrieved 10 Dec '20
- Article about the uptick in Manson Family based movies in the 1970s. Retrieved 10 Dec '20