This weirded me out a bit, in a number of ways. I have this flaking paperback called The Secret Life of a Satanist, The authorised biography of Anton Lavey, by Blanche Barton. It is by no means terrific. But it’s an interesting thing to have.
First, this creepy photograph.
Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, enjoys a drink with Robert Fuest, director of his favourite film, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES. You will notice that despite styling himself like a Hollywood baddie, with the full “upside-down head” look, old Anton is much less frightening than Fuest, who looks a bit like Hugh Griffith in TOM JONES, i.e. a ruddy-faced maniac. Recent pics of Fuest are much easier on the mind — that kind of appearance is less alarming in an older gent.
Fuest’s films consitute a unique and remarkable body of work — unlike practically every other British horror film director, Fuest utilised the conventions of the genre to create exercises in pure style, like Bava or Argento in Italy. Never very interested in making points, or even in narrative, Fuest’s films are strings of glorious set-pieces, beautifully designed and stuffed to the gills with scintillating walk-ons.
Back to this book: a page or two later, I was startled by this image:
Well, not the image, as such. They’re called breasts, and all ladies have them. No, it was the text beneath that flipped what’s left of my lid. I’ve read and heard quite a bit about the Manson murders, but never knew that much about the various “family members”. I had heard the story that LaVey was a technical advisor on ROSEMARY’S BABY and played the role of devil in it. So I was be-goggled to find this other connection between LaVey and Polanski. But of course, as Wikipedia tells me, LaVey was notinvolved in ROSEMARY’S BABY at all, so the story that he was probably came out of media speculation/invention from the time of the Manson trial. LaVey was happy to hype himself up at all times, but appears never to have claimed any role in the production.
The Manson killings do have a weird network of movie connections, though. Victim Sharon Tate was a movie star and wife of Polanski, of course, and appeared in J. Lee Thompson’s EYE OF THE DEVIL, a somewhat jinxed production, as well as Polanski’s THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS. The first victim of the Mansonites was the Polanski family dog, Dr. Sapperstein, named after Ralph Bellamy’s character in ROSEMARY’S BABY, a satanic gynecologist.
One of Atkins’ fellow killers, Bobby Beausoleil, had appeared in a Kenneth Anger film (Anger was chums with LaVey) and subsequently provided a score for Anger’s LUCIFER RISING — the only movie soundtrack ever recorded inside prison. The soundtrack followed an unsuccessful attempt by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page to provide Anger with a satisfactory score. Intriguingly, an earlier version of the film which STARRED Beausoleil was abandoned after Anger quarrelled with the future killer (always a risky thing to do) and much of the footage was supposedly taken by Beasoleil and buried at one of the Manson’s H.Q.s. One of those hideaways was in fact a ranch containing an old movie backlot complete with fake western town. The ranch was once owned by cowboy star William S. Hart.
Combine all this with LaVey’s connection to Jayne Mansfield, rumours tying Manson to the Monkees, Dennis Wilson, and his obsession with Beatles lyrics, and the Manson affair seems like one of the most filmic murder cases ever. And Manson did show some cinematic acumen by knowing exactly who should play him in the movie of his life: