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A Cult Classic 

Thursday, Jun 6 2013
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California has an all-too-rich heritage when it comes to brainwashing cults led by megalomaniacs. Whether it's Charles Manson, L. Ron Hubbard, Jim Jones or Werner Erhard, the Golden State has hosted some of the wildest master manipulators in history. Chief among them was Charles Dederich, a Svengali on steroids whose Santa Monica-based rehab-gone-amok Synanon is the subject of a new documentary, The Rise & Fall of Synanon. Dederich's well-intentioned exercise in addiction treatment went way, way off the deep end by the '70s, degenerating into a hellish nightmare in which members routinely endured beatings, humiliation, deprivation, sexual abuse and extreme mind control. And Dederich nearly got away with all of it, until renowned attorney-crusader Paul Morantz took the whole organization down. (Yes, Morantz is the guy into whose apartment mailbox Synanon assassins famously stashed a 4-foot-long rattlesnake, resulting in the ultimate close call.) It's fascinating stuff, and Morantz will appear and discuss the case here tonight. You'll also get a screening of 1965 trash classic Synanon, which boasts a great cast and jazz soundtrack, so the whole evening rates a triple-threat, upside-your-head blast of pure, mad-dog California cult psychosis. Silent Movie Theater, 611 N Fairfax Ave., Fairfax District; Sun., June 9, 7 p.m.; $12, members free. (323) 655-2510, cinefamily.org.
Sun., June 9, 7 p.m., 2013
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Reach the writer at jwhiteside@laweekly.com

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