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STUDIO: Subversive Cinema
RUNNING TIME: 92 Minutes
• The Women of Candy Snatchers
• Lobby Cards
You don’t see proper exploitation movies anymore. Tarantino can try all he wants, but his characters make way too much sense. When I sit down to chew on some exploitation, it should be full of losers who are entirely messed up. Characters who make no sense at all, in any context. A good run down, desperate sort of quality doesn’t hurt, so long as there isn’t anyone in the film who’s recognizably human.
Based on that criteria, The Candy Snatchers is one of the best exploitation flicks around. It’s both one of the dumbest movies I’ve ever seen and one of the most mind-boggling, which means it’s perfect.
A woman, her brother and a big lug of a guy are planning a kidnapping. The target is Candy, the pretty blonde daughter of a jewelry store manager. The trio figures that daddy will hand over the store’s jewels in exchange for his shining daughter. What they don’t know is that daddy isn’t quite perfect, and he might not be ready to give up all the diamonds just yet.
Working on misinformation, the dumb trio of kidnappers grab the girl and bury her alive in the hills around L.A. I have massive respect for criminals who go straight to live burials. Beatings and fingernail pulling are for pussies. Why bother with tying people to chairs when there’s a shallow grave just outside?
But Sean, an autistic kid who looks like baby Dollarhyde, sees the burial and gets curious. The film is his story as much as Candy’s; if Iron Butterfly was on the soundtrack, you could re-title the movie Little Francis Learns to Kill, and no one would notice. The rest of the film balances between his terrible home life and the kidnappers’ increasingly desperate attempts to get the money they want.
This isn’t as nasty a film as I hoped it might be; there’s not a lot of real violence or gore. Instead, it’s just weird. Who writes an autistic kid into a kidnapping? Once you get to that point, it’s obvious that the little goon should drop candy down the pipe that gives air to a girl buried alive, but that first step…I worry.
While watching the film, my soul went into retreat.
And then you see the credits, and learn that the kid is Christoph Trueblood, the director’s son. This guy wrote and directed a film where his own son is treated like a special effects dummy, then has to dispatch…well, no spoilers. But this is like Melvin van Peebles throwing Mario into bed with a woman to shoot a sex scene for Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song.
The scenes of potential violence towards Candy will probably satisfy most people’s creepy quotient, and there’s always the abuse directed at Sean. A live burial is bad, but the way this kid is treated by his family is easily the most horrifying part of the film, since it’s the only part that’s even close to real.
Fortunately, since this is perfect exploitation, there isn’t anyone in the film who isn’t whacked, and you’ll be tempted to just laugh off the whole thing. The kidnappers are either simple or psychotic. The kid is damaged, his parents are abusive and self-involved, and even the father’s boss is the sort of guy who freaks out when his employee’s kid isn’t quite normal. The only person who’s right in the head is the old guy who works for the jewelry store. Candy was probably functional once, but she’s a little destroyed by the time things get moving.
I do have some admiration for Eddie, the muscle of the Snatchers. He wants to drop his share of the cash on a bowling alley. Hooray for the little guy, who dreams of a playground with a good bar and a couple of hookers. It’s aspiration like that what makes America great.
We can probably lay some of the blame for the ludicrous characters on the actors. Ben Piazza is Avery Philips, Candy’s dad, and he plays every scene like he’s savoring memories of bestial sodomy to find his motivation. The guy is twisted. As lead kidnapper Jessie, Tiffany Bolling makes some of the wildest facial expressions; while making Candy scream into a tape recorder, she looks like she’s rehearsing a drag queen Ziggy Stardust revival. She thinks acting is a light form of facial paralysis.
Cosplay at the Dick Tracy con.
One little fact: since the kidnappers grab Candy with a van, I thought that the film might have been inspired by Bittaker and Norris, the two loonies who made up a torture van and grabbed girls from Southern California. But they worked years after this is made…hopefully the inspiration didn’t go the other way around. (The commentary mentions that the story is based on a crime that took place in Florida.)
7 out of 10
You’ll see some noise and hints of damage, but for a movie that’s never had a home video release (and therefore no transfer that might press someone to take care of it) this is a damn fine looking flick. It’s got that wonderful ’70s quality of faded blues and browns, and slightly soft edges. When I think about seeing a dodgy flick in some Times Square theatre, this is exactly how I imagine it looking.
Lit like a rainbow of pain.
Which, by the way, is the best mixture of professional and incompetent. Kenneth Gibb must have been a hell of a gaffer, because even with the low budget the film is lit like there was a plan. But the composition is something else. Awkward and frequently just barely off-kilter, I have to wonder if the look is intentional.
9.5 out of 10
Clear, but mastered ridiculously low. I had to crank the volume to get the median dialogue, and anything meant to be a bit quiet needed a further bump. I appreciate the original mono track, too, which is a welcome accompaniment to the good transfer.
7 out of 10
A warning: do not under any circumstances click on the ‘special features’ tab if you want the film to remain unspoiled. The menu throws out a montage of the film’s kills with no option to skip forward.
The commentary is a highlight. Featuring Tiffany Bolling, Susan Sennet (Candy) and DVD producer Norman Hill, the track is moderated by DVD Mark Edward Heuck. The quote for exploitation lovers, from Sennet: "This is the only time you see my eyes except for when I’m raped." Oh, boy. (Not true, by the way.) A few sentences later, Tiffany Bolling explains the movie was supposed to be a dark comedy, but went over a lot of people’s heads. Yeah. Nothing like listening to people try vaguely to defend an irredeemable piece of trash they made thirty years ago.
The nuns had their own plans for Candy.
I love Bolling talking about how the ‘liberal media’ doesn’t want to talk about a load of kids ‘getting massacred in Northern Uganda right now’, as if a conservative media would be trumpeting the horror of their fate. There’s a nugget of gold every few minutes in this commentary. Another is Sennet prodding Heuck to admit that he really hopes she still has the film’s schoolgirl costume, at which he’s audibly uncomfortable. His giggle there could become the new Wilhelm scream.
Just in case you missed him the first time.
The Women of The Candy Snatchers is a fun little featurette featuring interviews with, obviously enough, the film’s female stars. Relish the shot of Susan Sennet (Candy) being interviewed today in front of a blown-up still of her bound in a shallow grave. And Tiffany Bolling’s comments about her singing debut are keepers. ("It kinda sucked.")
8.5 out of 10
I’ve never seen another disc from Subversive, but I want to after this. The cover art is stylish and very cool, with a frothing little essay on the back cover. The insert is a replica of the theatrical poster (or one of them, anyway) and looks great. There are even some faux lobby cards tucked inside. Subversive has tailored this disc for people who value the whole package, and it’s fantastic.
I do have one complaint, though. The film’s menus are irritating as lice. They use long clips from the film, and switching to a sub-menu requires further indulgence of an editor who was trying too hard to be clever. Menus are for people to get to the film; I don’t want to watch a movie before I watch it.
9 out of 10
Overall: 7.5 out of 10