If it’s been a patchy few years for Errol Morris––one solid doc in-between a bad Steve Bannon portrait and iffy look at John le Carré––our interest in his thorough, startling oeuvre remains strong, and it’s naturally a thrill to hear word of two new features. On the documentary front he’s been adapting, for Netflix, Tom O’Neill’s CHAOS: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, which quickly engendered great attention for challenging standard Manson Family narratives; and there’s a feature screenplay about Ed Gein, who Morris interviewed in 1975 for a never-completed documentary. If it doesn’t feature that footage and opts for a biopic / procedural path, it would make Morris’ first narrative since 1991’s The Dark Wind. [Screen Daily]

Meanwhile, Michael Almereyda has found his first feature since Tesla. Per Deadline, he and Courtney Stephens are developing an untitled documentary about John C. Lilly, the scientist perhaps best-known for his peculiar, controversial studies of dolphins that included attempts to bridge interspecies language gaps. For this and his study of psychedelics and isolation tanks, Lilly would inspire two sui generis films from the New Hollywood era: Mike Nichols’ The Day of the Dolphin and Ken Russell’s Altered States.

Like a number of Almereyda’s documentaries––Escapes, William Eggleston in the Real World––and Stephens’ (fantastic) Terra Femme, the film will mix archival material with colleagues of Lilly, who died in 2001. No release window has been announced, but anticipation is high.

You can read an official synopsis of O’Neill’s CHAOS below:

Twenty years ago, when journalist Tom O’Neill was reporting a magazine piece about the murders, he worried there was nothing new to say. Then he unearthed shocking evidence of a cover-up behind the “official” story, including police carelessness, legal misconduct, and potential surveillance by intelligence agents. When a tense interview with Vincent Bugliosi — prosecutor of the Manson Family and author of Helter Skelter — turned a friendly source into a nemesis, O’Neill knew he was onto something. But every discovery brought more questions.

  • Who were Manson’s real friends in Hollywood, and how far would they go to hide their ties?
  • Why didn’t law enforcement, including Manson’s own parole officer, act on their many chances to stop him?
  • And how did Manson — an illiterate ex-con — turn a group of peaceful hippies into remorseless killers?

O’Neill’s quest for the truth led him from reclusive celebrities to seasoned spies, from San Francisco’s summer of love to the shadowy sites of the CIA’s mind-control experiments, on a trail rife with shady cover-ups and suspicious coincidences. The product of two decades of reporting, hundreds of new interviews, and dozens of never-before-seen documents from the LAPD, the FBI, and the CIA, Chaos mounts an argument that could be, according to Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Steven Kay, strong enough to overturn the verdicts on the Manson murders. This is a book that overturns our understanding of a pivotal time in American history.

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