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: