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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Candy Snatchers (1973) review


Tiffany Bolling (Jessie), Susan Sennett (Candy), Ben Piazza (Avery), Brad David (Alan), Vincent Martorano (Eddy), Christophe Trueblood (Sean)

Directed by Guerdon Trueblood

The Short Version: The seediest of the seductive Tiffany Bolling's unofficial 'Trash & Transgression Crime Trilogy' that includes BONNIE'S KIDS (1973) and THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS (1974). The latter might be the most sleazy, but CANDY--based on a true story--has a mean streak of child abuse that dominates the film sitting uncomfortably alongside the films blackly comical demeanor making for a memorable piece of gutter trash filmmaking to be savored by the most devout worshippers of 70s sinema.

***WARNING! This review contains nudity***

Candy, the daughter of a jeweler, is kidnapped by three inexperienced criminals expecting the entire store supply of diamonds as ransom. Bound, gagged and burying the young girl alive with only a tube for air, the anxious hoodlums wait for the pick up. However, the delivery never comes. Growing more and more nervous as time goes by, the three small time crooks slowly begin to lose their sanity. Meanwhile, an abused, mute autistic boy has seen the crooks and learns of Candy's location and tries to save her--if only he could get somebody to pay attention to him.

Note the similarities in this poster (google images) and the iconic imagery of the promotional materials for LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)

Filmmakers in the 1970s produced some of the ballsiest, extreme examples of envelope pushing celluloid the likes of which will never be replicated. THE CANDY SNATCHERS is one such movie. Terribly obscure, I first became aware of it in the bible for 42nd Street enthusiasts, Bill Landis's and Michelle Clifford's SLEAZOID EXPRESS: A MIND TWISTING TOUR THROUGH THE GRINDHOUSE CINEMA OF TIMES SQUARE. Thankfully, it would only be a few years later that the movie would be finally unleashed onto an extras packed edition from the late and lamented DVD label, Subversive Cinema, one of the best companies to get your exploitation fix.

THE CANDY SNATCHERS may turn off some viewers with its occasional scenes of strong violence, misogyny and rape. Upon closer inspection, you'll notice so much of the grim subject matter is laced with a blackly comical sludge which does make a slightly easier transition for when a sequence of genuine brutality makes its presence known. One of the best of these dark touches is when two of the greenhorn crooks decide to obtain a severed ear bartered over by a less than scrupulous morgue attendant. This sequence is one of the major highlights of the movie. The scene where our three criminals-in-training get more than they bargained for when trying to rip off a telephone repairman is another example of the films black comedy. The dialog, too, is rife with gallows humor such as a conversation regarding the world record for most murders and the contentment of one of the kidnappers to simply reach a hundred.

Arguably the single most disturbing aspect of this production is the blatant aura of child abuse, pedophilia and general destructive behavior towards youngsters, both living and dead. These moments are often intermixed within the framework of gallows humor, but more times than not, the mistreatment and soul crushing actions towards the under-aged comes out as nothing more than repulsive. Therein lies the power of the film and so many like it that were made during the daring decade that was the 1970s. Candy (played by a very young looking Susan Senett who was 20 at the time, but looked all of 14) is abused, kicked, buried alive, bound, gagged and brutally raped; the little mute boy is frequently berated, insulted and beaten by his parents for the most minor of details; a young dead girls corpse is violated by an indecorously cold morgue attendant. The raw, rough around the edges style of editing, indigenous to 70s movies, greatly "enhances" the down and dirty aura that looms large over THE CANDY SNATCHERS.

As per so many 70s exploitation and road movies, Trueblood's maiden directorial effort carries with it a theme song that represents the main thrust of the film. This song is also just as glaringly ironic in its subject matter as Trueblood's previous writing endeavor on WELCOME HOME, SOLDIER BOYS (1972). 'Money Is the Root of All Happiness' both opens and closes the proceedings and the way the film ends, this song encapsulates the sardonically oppressive atmosphere in the most mockingly humorous way imaginable. Speaking of the ending, the last scene (recalling a similar closer in Bava's BAY OF BLOOD) is so over the top hilarious in its ghoulishness, one can't help but clap and cheer at this last moment of poetic justice. However, this minor moment of rejoice is quickly extinguished by a cruel last second revelation seconds before the credits begin to roll.

Former singer, playboy model, stage play actress and director Tiffany Bolling had a brief, yet fascinating career in 70s exploitation cinema amassing a small, but loyal fan base. Her deprecating attitude towards her more infamous roles has seemingly tempered over the years, but there's no denying her penetrating screen sexuality that dominates her movies most memorably when she plays a strong, if sometimes less than honorable character. Her unofficial 'Trash & Transgression Trilogy' showcases the seedier side of humanity and the depravity to which man (and woman) will descend to lie, cheat, steal and kill to get what they desire whether it be monetary gain, sexual compulsion, or the sickening desire to take another persons life. Like THE CANDY SNATCHERS (1973), both BONNIE'S KIDS (1973) and the THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS (1974) follow the same template flaunting a string of lascivious and sadistic people who populate a world where those who are good, honest and naive are to be used, abused and killed like an animal in a slaughterhouse.

Watching these three movies viewers will recognize indisputable similarities to the works of the overrated, but talented Quentin Tarantino and his string of dialog heavy and hip crime films of which he has so far done three. Some of the sameness is negligible, but not always. The unique pseudo anthology style of THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS is apparent in QT's PULP FICTION (1994). The bungled and failed robbery/crime of CANDY is a defining stamp of RESERVOIR DOGS (1992) and the two hitmen--Jules and Vince Vega are carbon copies of the hitman duo of Eddy and Digger from BONNIE'S KIDS. The Travolta/Thurman dance scene is lifted wholesale from BONNIE'S KIDS as well. Since JACKIE BROWN (1997) is based on a novel, the distinctive qualities of the Bolling films are less apparent. Still, that films various scenarios with assorted seedy characters is highly reminiscent of the gloomy, darkly humorous CANDY SNATCHERS and BONNIE'S KIDS. The hole gets a little deeper, though.

Tarantino is an acknowledged fan of Arthur Marks's movies taking into consideration his now defunct Rolling Thunder label released the directors gritty, racially charged crime thriller DETROIT 9000 (1973). Also, the immersive and witty dialog exchanges in all three of Bolling's movies is mirrored in all three of QT's criminal underbelly pictures. The Arthur Marks connection carries over into all three of Bolling's movies as well. She was a friend of Marks, who got her the job on THE CANDY SNATCHERS as well as being a presenter; Marks directed BONNIE'S KIDS and he was the writer on THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS. Without the feisty femininity of Tiffany Bolling, these three movies would likely be less entertaining and they would certainly be missing her commanding sensuality. Bolling also features in the first and only split screen Giallo-ish thriller WICKED, WICKED (1973) and also in a less exploitative, but stern role in KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977).

Known predominantly for being a writer, THE CANDY SNATCHERS was Guerdon Trueblood's only stint as a film director, which is a shame, as he obviously had a knack for it. His scriptwriting credentials contains some choice 70s product such as the searing anti war drama, WELCOME HOME, SOLDIER BOYS (1972), a movie bearing a brilliantly ironic title. Trueblood also counted 'Nature Amuck' credits among his resume with the underrated TV production THE SAVAGE BEES (1976) about an invasion by South African killer bees and its TV movie sequel, TERROR OUT OF THE SKY (1978). He also had lesser movies such as ANTS! (1977) and TARANTULAS: THE DEADLY CARGO (1977) among his credits and even JAWS 3D (1983). Strangely enough, he left the writing duties on CANDY SNATCHERS to Bryan Gindoff of the gritty Charles Bronson classic HARD TIMES (1975) and the teen sex comedy LOSIN' IT (1983).

Tiffany Bolling was at her sexiest in BONNIE'S KIDS (1973), sultry and resourceful in THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS (1974) and she was at her most vicious here in THE CANDY SNATCHERS (1973). It might have been largely forgotten during its original theatrical run, but this curious blend of crime, cruelty and loathsome characters is highly recommended for trash collectors with a sweet tooth.

This review is representative of the Subversive Cinema DVD


J. Astro said...

Bolling = hot as always. The actual film didn't do a whole lot for me, though. I was pretty bored throughout. Except for the ending, with the wrap on the subplot of the abused little toddler kid. THAT sorta resonated with me. The rest, eh, not so much.

venoms5 said...

The first time I saw it, the adulation it got in SLEAZOID EXPRESS took a second viewing before it sank in for me. I noticed a lot more things in it the second time around.

Bolling dominates the commentary track, too. Susan Sennett hates the film and I'm surprised she even accepted to do the interview and commentary.

Erich Kuersten said...

Damn dude, this site is badass. I've been too squeamish to see Candy Snatchers since reading about it in Sleazoid Express.. I get claustrophobic! But you've given me the courage to check it out, and Centerfold Girls and Bonnie's Kids too!

venoms5 said...

Hi, Erich. Thanks for the kind comments! Yes, all three of those are well worth checking out especially if you're a fan of 70s movies!

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