Really it’s “Teenage Survival Sex Work, With A Side Of Free Love”, but that just wouldn’t have the same lurid appeal for trailers, posters and lobby cards.
Teen drifter Kim (Alisha Fontaine) has decided to leave her former life pushing drugs for a transient commune. Instead, she hitches for a draft dodging new boyfriend, who is using her to help him get out of the country. The two of them make their way east, in the hopes that Kim’s estranged sister Hilary (Robin Low) will give them cash from Kim’s inheritance.
Too bad her former lover/guru/drug connect Maury and his wayward band of hippies have followed her across the country, and the bad times roll right behind them.
I can’t say there’s anything remarkable in this Z grade romp. Most of the dialog has clearly been dropped in in post, and the only print I can find is scratched like it has eczema. However, it is a grindhouse potboiler that understands that movies have to actually move. The 75 minute runtime breezes by as it hits all of the standard beats of the flotilla of the post Charlie Manson cheapies. Establishment bad. Disenfranchisement worse. Off beat bohemian dancing. You know the routine.
There’s a melodramatic B plot that involves Kim seducing Hilary’s sugar baby younger boyfriend, and Robin Low gives a hammy soap opera performance as the uptight foil to Kim’s freewheeling ways. There’s skinny dipping and man stealing, and a whole lot of Hilary swanning about her fabulous house drunk and tut tutting at Kim.
Then Maury shows up and brings all of the drugs, bongos and bad juju with him, as well as excuses for some more nudity, some violence, and a wild groovy, party, man. Wherever you go, there you are. Heavy.
It’s obvious that this will end poorly, in the classic youth in peril/juvenile delinquent mode, but the sheer budget conscious bungle of exactly how it all falls down was worth a solid giggle.
A slight, but perfect, bottom half of a double bill with a Tiffany Bolling feature presentation. She tended to play the grown up, harder bitten version of this same character in equally regional California productions. Give Kim 5 years to wise up, a tan, and a golden blonde rinse…..you end up with Jesse from The Candy Snatchers.
The early 70’s were a time of massive change for all facets of film industry. The old studio system was gone, and a newly frank and independent generation of filmmakers were veering into rawer territory than ever before seen in Hollywood. Hardcore pornography broke box office records, and porno chic permeated pop culture to the point that even the staid New York Times had a reviewer front and center for “Deep Throat”.
It was bad enough that the mainstream was edging onto exploitation’s turf, and that the rise of hardcore had killed the market for old style hard R/soft X sexploitation almost overnight. However, another shake up was coming to the grindhouse ecosystem. As is often the case with cinematic stalkers, the next menace was coming from inside the house. Exploitation veteran Sean Cunningham and fresh face Wes Craven unleashed “Last House On The Left” in 1972, and set a new high water mark of drive in depravity.
With everyone scrambling to find new ways to package exploitation style sleaze, short lived distributor General Film Corporation took a chance on an odd little film called “The Candy Snatchers”, with TV writer/one off director Guerdon Trueblood manning the director’s chair, and first timer Bryan Gindoff providing a script that mixed sex and shocks with a new crime thriller style structure. Let’s find out what exactly they are doing to poor Candy, shall we?
Folk guitar twangs over the sound track, admonishing us what a shame it was that “the Candy girl had to play the game”, and clueing us in that this particular Catholic schoolgirl is the titular Candy. In a classic B-movie tradition, the teen Candy is played by twenty something actress Susan Sennett. Candy chats with the Mother Superior, says goodbye to her friends, and promptly starts trying to hitch a ride home. Basically this entire sequence becomes a music video for the folky theme still blaring away on the soundtrack, “Money Is The Root Of All Happiness”. Candy is young, carefree, and blissfully unaware of being watched:
Enter hulking Eddie (Vince Matorano), scheming Jessie (Tiffany Bolling), and her several screws loose brother Alan (Brad David). Following behind her as she continues to hitchhike, they kidnap Candy in the guise of giving her a ride. Because those Groucho glasses don’t actually hide anything, our trio blindfolds, binds and gags Candy in the back of the van to protect their identities.
We get a close up of a “Money Is The Root Of All Happiness” bumper sticker on the van, a special credits sequence mentioning the writer and singer of the new song “Money Is The Root Of All Happiness”, and now a long plot mandated drive into the hills so the entire song can be played AGAIN.
Dear God, this movie needs to stop trying to make “fetch” happen with this Jim Croce reject theme song.
Candy’s father is a well to do manager of a diamond jewelry business, and our terrible trio kidnapped her to collect a hefty ransom. A efficient, simple plan. Where this veers from Crime 101 is that they plan on burying Candy alive until the ransom is paid, with nothing more than a tiny pipe for air. This is the sort of overly elaborate nonsense that tanks Bond villains, let alone a group of people who have yet to master the concept and correct use of masks. Jessie admits that she got the idea from seeing it on television. Clearly, that was one gritty episode of “Scooby Doo”.
To compound the tragedy, no one notices there’s a witness, even if that witness is just a kid who looks like a lost extra from “Village Of The Damned”:
The child does try to help Candy in his own odd way, listening in to make sure she is still breathing, then dropping some peanuts down the hole to attempt to feed her. Our tiny potential savior is named Sean(Christophe Truegood), as we learn from his mother screaming his name like a pig caller from the bottom of the hill. She also is slamming a cowbell with all her might, in case your eardrums weren’t bleeding yet. Little Sean is apparently mute, and before he can even try to indicate what he saw up above, his mom is slapping him and shrieking that they are late to Daddy’s business dinner. Meanwhile, Daddy isn’t even home yet. If this woman was my only company, I wouldn’t talk either.
Meanwhile, back in the actual plot of the film, the baddies are synchronizing watches and getting ready to make their ransom demands to Candy’s father, Mr. Phillips (Ben Piazza). It’s an ornate, timed 3 person plan. They need all the help they can get if they are going to successfully pull off such daring maneuvers as making a phone call and dropping an envelope off at the back gate of a business. What’s next? A cereal box decoder ring?
Right about here is where this movie starts to splinter into a random joy buzzer effect, as if you were flipping through the channels, unsure of what exactly it was you wanted to watch, and catching a little bit of everything. Each individual plot thread chugs along, with blithe disregard for matching the mood or content of the others. This does not get better as the film goes on.
Jessie and company celebrate their victory with some drunk driving, visions of diamonds giddily dancing in their heads as they drive to the ransom drop off point.
Sean’s parents cringe in embarrassment in admitting to the big boss their son can’t talk. Said boss finds disability hysterical, and laughs like a community theater Mephistopheles for at least 30 seconds. Making a mute child cry is high comedy, apparently.
Meanwhile, Mr. Phillips gets Candy’s mom drunk, tells her Candy is staying with a friend, and that he has a work meeting to get to. The “work meeting” is a tryst with his assistant Lisa, who is also his mistress. She is putty in Avery Phillips’ hands, as long as those hands are full of embezzled diamonds from their shared workplace. Not surprisingly, he never shows up at the ransom drop off point.
Standing by their cartoon supervillain plan, Eddie and Alan take Candy out of her prison, and take her into their abandoned house hideaway for the night. You know, the one right next to the ventilated hole they decided to use instead. Because that makes total sense not to just use the house for the hostage in the first place.
Assuming that Candy’s family isn’t taking them seriously, Alan insists that Candy’s ear in a box is the only option to let her father know they mean business. Jessie and Alan are all for it, but Eddie stops them from actually harming Candy.
Instead, someone remembers this is indeed a grindhouse movie, and we take a trip to see a man named Charlie, a worker at the hospital morgue who apparently sells body parts out of the back. There’s a brilliantly creepy little scene where he negotiates the price with Jessie via singing a cheerful song down the hall, then delivers this bizarre speech while massaging the feet and legs of a corpse:
Charlie: These are the best people in the world. They don’t hurt nobody. They don’t make no trouble. They don’t tell me what to do. They don’t cost no money. They mind their own business. Yes, all they do is lie there, and just think about all them people it’s too late…..to fuck.
The smile never leaves Charlie’s face, even as he hands Alan the bloody ear in a baggie.
Eddie is back at the hideout, having a cozy fireside chat with the bound Candy, and inadvertently letting her know the name of each of her captors and approximately what they look like. It’s a soft focus speech full of pouty pathos and bowling alley dreams, and Candy falls asleep in Eddie’s arms.
Just in case you fell for the supposed character building of it all, as soon as Jessie returns from the morgue, Eddie has a vicious fight with her, until she is sobbing incoherently that “I don’t want to be me anymore!” Apropos of absolutely nothing, Eddie pulls her out of the bathtub and sexually assaults her in a fit of “friendzone” faux nice guy rage.
The only thing anyone learns from any of this is that they finally use the abandoned house to stash Candy, tying her to the radiator before they leave for the next stage of their Hindenberg of a plan. It involves more bickering, and the theft of a telephone truck.
Candy’s dad? Still keeping his wife drunk and misinformed as to Candy’s actual whereabouts.
Cut to an utterly ridiculous chop socky fight with a remarkably agile telephone repair man, which Jessie ends with a 2′ x 4″ and a terrible one liner.
Sean…..is still in the movie. His parents are still abusive.
Eddie tries to strong arm Mr. Phillips, and we finally learn why he has been so coolly indifferent to Candy’s fate. He’s not her real dad, and never will be. If Candy lives to be 21, she will inherit two million dollars from her biological father’s estate. If Candy dies before then, Avery himself will receive half that sum. This knowledge is why he married Candy’s gin blossom of a mother in the first place.
In the second piece of actual acting in this entire movie, Mr. Phillips hands Eddie back his box of cadaver ear with a casual “You forgot this”, thanks him with barely concealed glee, and sincerely wishes him a nice day. Villain transformation complete, and parting Mr. Burns hand gesture duly earned.
Eddie runs back to the van and tells Jessie why they can’t kill Candy, if they want to see any sort of profit.
Unfortunately, Alan is already on his way up to the hills to do precisely that.
This is what happens when the annoying child actor is the director’s real life son. Rather than the at least semi exciting chase that is currently happening off screen, we get a TV movie of the week presentation of Son-Rise: The Miracle Of Denim. He loosens Candy’s blindfold, but can’t untie her. Candy then begs him to get the police. Having failed miserably at everything but grinding the plot to a screeching halt, Sean hides in the open attic trapdoor when he hears Alan coming.
As he has been planning the whole movie, Alan brutally beats and rapes Candy, so she “won’t die a virgin”. It’s awful, and made worse by the fact that Sean is still there, and can see everything from his vantage point.
Eddie and Jessie arrive, and while too late to stop the rape, he nearly kills Alan for doing it.
In a spectacular misread of the room, the follow up to this is several scenes of flatfooted slapstick involving stray cats, goofy chases and Sean trying to use a talking toy to summon help. In more side splitting hilarity, the attempt at a phone call leads to a cantankerous Jewish deli owner telling Sean to shove a salami up his ass.
I can’t stand him either, but that was harsh.
There’s a solid 30 minutes more padding to the plot, but both this film and this write up have run long as it is. Assume bad jokes and drawn out scenes of Sean. Here’s the highlight reel:
Eddie has hidden Candy in the hole with a newly concealed breathing tube, to fool the others into thinking she is dead.
The titular Snatchers get themselves a gun, but stop by the house and kill Candy’s mom with a knife (?!)
They finally manage to force Mr. Phillips to empty his store’s safe and make with the diamonds.
Alan shoots Mr. Phillips and is about to shoot Jessie to increase his cut, but Eddie kills him first.
A wounded but not dead Mr. Phillips shoots Jessie in the parking lot, steals a car and starts following Eddie into the hills. The car chase is sped up like a bad episode of “The Benny Hill Show”, and there’s more wah wah pedal pseudo funk.
Everyone caught up? Good. Lets end this thing.
Eddie shoots and kills Candy’s stepfather…….
…….. and as he had promised earlier, Eddie begins furiously digging to free Candy from the hole.
Only for Sean to pop up out of nowhere with Mr. Phillips’ gun, and shoot Eddie dead in some sort of bizarre reverse MacGuffin that absolutely NOBODY wanted. He then happily slides down the hill, and shoots his parents for good measure. Candy’s paniced breathing gets louder on the soundtrack, before some familiar folky chords kick in:
Let’s take a journey deep into the heart of the public domain, to talk about “Scream Bloody Murder” a negative bank balance budget 70’s slasher that can be found everywhere from the Internet Archive to $5 DVD sets at big box retailers. The leading man is a one film wonder, and every print I can get my hands on is damaged and so yellowed it looks jaundiced. Even so, “Scream Bloody Murder” in slightly better shape than “Death Drug” by virtue of having actually made it onto the lowest rungs of DVD.
However, it is also a fantastic example of a basic class of filmic dumpster fire. These sorts of films wander out of obscurity by virtue of sheer manic gusto. Plot elements and set pieces are piled on top of each other in pedal to the metal crescendos of sex, violence, and sheer weirdness. Plotting or tension building is irrelevant, plot threads, characters, or entire chunks of the film are blithely made non entities in service of the next passing thought. Given budgetary constraints and often concise run times, if you go several steps too far as standard procedure, one of the 8769476834678937 ideas you’ve thrown against the wall will stick before the end credits roll. It’s filmmaking as Mad Libs. The result might be comic. Its also likely nonsensical.The zippy pacing and low investment of effort threshold will also probably go a long way toward making the end result entertaining overall. Now let’s get to “Scream Bloody Murder”:
The pre credit open is a farmer working next to a tractor, while his bowl cut sporting moppet plays nearby. As soon as Daddy’s back is turned, the kid hops into the driver’s seat, and mangles dear old Dad to death under the wheels. Why? Because someone remembered “The Bad Seed” was a huge hit in 1956.
In a lightning fast bit of instant karma, the kid then loses control of the tractor, falls down, and MANAGES TO RIP OFF HIS OWN HAND under those same wheels. We are at the 3 minute mark, and we’ve already had two bloody “industrial accidents” and as much straightforward exposition as we are going to get regarding anything that happens in this entire movie.
Post credits we get a quick scene of the dime store bad seed getting hauled off to a mental ward, then a flash forward to the adult version reading (via voiceover) a letter from his mother. We learn our protagonist’s name is Matthew (Fred Holbert in his only film role), asylums look like mid tier day spas with kicky little striped robes, Matthew’s mom has been too busy to visit because of her new boyfriend, and that Matty boy now has a hook for a hand, likely because it was the cheapest way to explain away the missing one. It still gets a stinger music cue straight out of “Dark Shadows”.
We get the director’s credit (Marc B. Ray, who only helmed that particular chair for 3 films) and a pouring blood graphic to cut to Matt’s homecoming after being released. Too bad it’s the same day as Mom’s wedding to that pesky boyfriend, and no one even knew the he was arriving back. Once the newly minted husband & wife do sort out who the one handed man is in their driveway, they attempt to seem remotely interested. Matt tosses a snitty shit fit worthy of any teenage edgelord that ever moped across a shopping mall to the Orange Julius.
When Matt takes a break from sulking and farmwork to peep on his mom & stepfather kissing in the garden, he promptly murders them. The unmitigated gall of getting married and seeming happy about it was bad enough, but when stepdaddy kisses Mommy/Madonna (and makes her a filthy whore) he dispatches them both….with an axe and a rock. Even though he has a sharp object attached to his arm.
Matthew then hits the road and runs…… from the mother of all Oedipus complexes. He hallucinates his mommy being mauled by filthy men in everyone he meets, and none of the women he “saves” appreciate his sacrifice, so they get bloodily dispatched too. The newlyweds who pick him up hitchhiking? He bludgeons the man with a rock and then drowns the woman in a stream. The imagined taunts of his dead mother and step father ring loudly enough in his ears that they drown out the smooth jazz on the soundtrack, as he once again makes haste to avoid the rising body count.
Meeting painter/hooker with a heart of gold Vera(Leigh Matthews, a two film wonder), things brighten a touch for our little Matt. He compliments her art, renames her Daisy, brings her flowers, and kills a john for treating her poorly. If that isn’t love, he doesn’t know what is. Also, the dead john? Killed with Vera’s stolen palette knife. What do the death sequences of this film and the song “Triumph” by the Wu Tang Clan have in common?
No hooks to be found in either of them.
Desperate to impress and to make good on his claims of wealth and success to fulfill his inane white knight fantasy of “saving” Vera/Daisy from sex work, he murders the entire household of the closest fancy house he can find. For those keeping score at home: Time elapsed: 50 minutes Body Count: 9 Implements used: 7 Kills via Hook Hand: 0
Matthew kidnaps his lady love and steals from locals to provide her with all the creature comforts you could possibly need while tied to the stolen bed of a psychopath. I would also be remiss if I didn’t pull out this notable quotable, both for the actual content, and the perfectly petulant delivery:
Matt (to Vera/Daisy): See what I do for you? I get groceries, and clothes, and art stuff, and kill people, and do you appreciate it? No.
“Scream Bloody Murder” has always been a favorite of mine, and the sequence post kidnapping has always been a big part of the reason why. In a film who’s very existence indicates a gaggle of questionable choices, Vera/Daisy never falls into the Bermuda triangle of slasher victim bad decisions. She defies Matthew’s insane directions as best as she is able, be that spitting food back into his face or insisting on being called her real name. The second Matt leaves the house, she hobbles to the phone, even if her bondage means she has to dial a rotary phone with her tongue (a rather impressive skill). She hops downstairs and makes noise when she hears the doorbell. She’s always plotting escape, and eventually she finds Matt’s Achilles heel. Like every other character based on Norman Bates’ basic template, he’s terrified of women, terrified of sexuality, and female sexual agency makes him just as limp as his knives and threats are sharp. In the context of needing a bath, Vera/Daisy forces him to attempt to play pool with a rope, and upends the power dynamic just long enough for another chance to flee.
Unfortunately, just as Vera/Daisy’s plan starts to work out, the unfamiliar sensations of wanting to be filthy cause Matthew’s hallucinations of Mommie Dearest to come back back in full force. He snaps, and finally slashes Vera/Daisy’s throat with the hook. The one character we have reason to care about is just a few STEPS from freedom, and Matthew FINALLY learns to keep it simple, stupid.
Matt’s mind completely snaps, and hallucinations of all of his victims stalk him, cackling ungodly loud on the soundtrack. He runs away, then steals a car, abandoning it to try to hide in a church. Unsure if what he is seeing are real ghosts or tricks of his own mind, we see him finally get his fondest wish, giving the apparition of his mother a tongue kiss, then collapsing and spitting blood.
The ghosts/hallucinations/whatever raise hooks, Matthew raises his…….
…….and eviscerates himself with his own hook. Instant karma strikes again, and this dumbass goes to his grave never having learned.
This is actually the poster/tagline for a much better film. Rightfully, the term gore-nography probably belongs to either “Blood Feast” (the originator of gore horror) or ” I Drink Your Blood” (first film rated x for violence/gore)