Puppet Master

It’s fair to say that Charles Manson maneuvered his followers like a puppeteer handles his creations. The details of Manson’s megalomania are all laid out in Vincent Bugliosi’s book Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. But what if, say, it’s the year 3069 – in a post-apocalyptic world with no recorded history – and a man discovers Bugliosi’s book… how would he interpret it? What if he bought Charlie’s version of reality – that he was the messiah? It’s a strange and horrific tale, which is why John Roecker decided to tell it with his film Live Freaky! Die Freaky! And through the stop-motion magic of clay animation, Roecker fulfills the Manson-as-puppeteer analogy in all its bloody, orgiastic glory.

Roecker’s initial vision of the film was raunchy enough (imagine South Park times a hundred), but then he learned of a film one of his animators was also working on -- Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

“I started to get cold feet, thinking, ‘Oh, maybe I went too far,’” Roecker says on the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “But then I saw [The Passion] and thought, ‘If they can give us that, we can do this.’”

Despite the bawdy nature of the film, the director had no problem getting big names involved. All he had to do was call his friends in the music industry – members of Green Day, Rancid, Blink-182, and other popular punk bands, as well as actors like Viggo Mortensen and Asia Argento. (Roecker recently filmed a Green Day documentary, Heart Like a Hand Grenade.)

“My film is over the top, but only so much as The Passion is over the top,” Roecker says. “I think I should be right next to him at Wal-Mart.”

While that’s not likely to happen any time soon, a DVD of his film is available from www.wellspring.com.
Jan. 27-28

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Jason Budjinski