Most people imagine California during the 1960s to be an idyllic, peaceful and highly creative place in which some of the greatest and most imaginative music of the last half century was created. In many ways this is true, but there was also a dark social undercurrent that took hold during the later part of the decade, and it stretched out and infiltrated what many people believed to be “America’s band” when Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson for a time became involved with a cult led by Charles Manson. The Beach Boys and the Satan, a hour-long German documentary
directed by Christoph Dreher, explores some of the more dubious events
and people of the 1960s, spotlighting the yin and yang of a much-discussed era.
The movie details the Beach Boys’ rise to success in a broader context than just your typical music documentary. Rarely seen footage of the band is interspersed with clips of some of the more controversial characters of that period, like Anton La Vey and Kenneth Anger. A fairly comprehensive portrait of the band’s history and
development is illustrated with this rare footage, as well as interviews with Kim
Fowley, Don Was and none other than the reclusive creative force behind
the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson. At the core of The Beach Boys and the Satan, though, is Dennis Wilson’s much speculated about involvement and friendship with
Manson and his “family” of followers — the dark side of the Summer of Love’s setting moon. While the speculative/comparative conceit at its core is intriguing, and a nice point of attack, it’s the solid interview “gets” that anchor the movie, which was originally released in 1997 and has since then been commercially unavailable, except on the black market.
Housed in a clear plastic case with a segmented cover that spotlights its putative subjects, as well as a lonely surfer, The Beach Boys and the Satan comes on a region-free disc. There are unfortunately no supplemental bonus features, which is a shame, since extra interview and/or commentary material with Dreher about the inspiration and genesis of the project would have likely been fascinating. To purchase the disc via Amazon, click here. B (Movie) C- (Disc)