'Manson' on History channel

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The horror of the Tate-La Bianca murders 40 years ago last month is revisited in this two-hour, dramatically reenacted documentary, but there's little new to learn.

The term "crime of the century" has been worn thin by overuse, but the slaughter of seven people in two days by members of the Manson family in August 1969 still requires its hyperbolic ring. The Tate-LaBianca murders scared Los Angeles witless and horrified an already deeply unsettled nation. Forty years later, Charles Manson remains our homegrown image of Satan and, as the recent denial of the dying Susan Atkins' request for early release proves, the senselessly brutal deaths, particularly that of the pregnant Sharon Tate, are a still vivid American nightmare.

So it's not surprising that the History cable channel would have some way of marking the anniversary. "Manson," which premieres tonight, is a dramatically reenacted documentary that turns on the emergence of Linda Kasabian, a "family" member who was present at both murder sites. She did not actively participate in the killings and in exchange for immunity became prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's star witness during the Manson trial.

Kasabian, who has been in hiding for much of her adult life, left an unhappy marriage when she was 21, took her baby daughter and followed friend Catherine Share (a.k.a. Gypsy) to Manson's Spahn Ranch. There she became romantically involved with Tex Watson and a devoted member of the "family" until she fled, leaving her daughter behind, shortly after the LaBianca murders.

As promising as the "emerges-from-hiding" interview might seem, the result quickly becomes just another excuse to wallow around in Manson lore and dramatically reenact the horrific murders...

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