The Candy Snatchers (1973)
By: Mr Intolerance on June 9, 2009  | 
Subversive Cinema (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0, English DD 1.0. 92 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Guerdon Trueblood
Starring: Tiffany Bolling, Susan Sennett, Ben Piazza, Vince Martarano, Bonnie Boland, Brad David, Christopher Trueblood
Screenplay: Bryan Gindoff
Country: USA
External Links
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Early 70s US exploitation has a feel like no other kind of film. It's usually pretty grimy, pretty sleazy, normally with a kind of aberrant sexual violence that could never be replicated today, at least, not in the mainstream anyway. Many of these films have a real notoriety that the last thirty odd years has not diluted – The Killing Kind, Mother's Day, I Spit On Your Grave, The Last House on the Left and, although probably not so well known by folks outside the world of the exploitation enthusiast, The Candy Snatchers, a tale of the bungled kidnapping of a sixteen year old heiress, Candy Phillips, and the various clashes, crosses and double-crosses her captors have when everything goes to pot.

Our bungling amateur criminals are sultry blonde bombshell Jessie (Tiffany Bolling – an ex-Playboy Playmate in real life), her loopy brother Alan (Brad David), and unhinged Vietnam vet Eddy (Vince Martorano, in a role created for him by his buddy, director Guerdon Trueblood). They've got this great idea to kidnap Candy (Susan Sennet), the sixteen year old daughter of wealthy diamond magnate Avery Phillips (Ben Piazza), and extort all kinds of fat ransom cash from him. The film begins with poor Candy being bundled off inside the back of a seedy-looking van by our bad-guys, clad in comedy glasses with noses attached (kind of like those Groucho Marx ones you probably had as a kid). This does sort of set the tone for the film – sleazy horribleness tempered with oddball black comedy; not like Craven and Cunningham's freshman effort (it's not as ham-fistedly clumsy), but not too dissimilar, either.

Candy is buried in a hole in the gound in the middle of nowhere, with only a small metal tube providing her with any kind of ventilation. The kidnappers disappear, heading off to deliver their ransom demands, but haven't realised that they have a witness – the eminently irritating and capricious Sean (played by director Trueblood's real life son Christopher); I personally haven't wanted to kick a small child in the face so badly since the last time I watched House By The Cemetery. I honestly don't think the folks responsible for this film could have found a more hateful brat if they'd fuckin' tried. But, despite the fact he's a noxious piece of vermin of a child, he does serve a narrative purpose – he observes all of the wrong-doings of the bad-guys and then...well, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, Phillips gets the ransom message, and the gang think they're doing pretty well, and will soon be rolling in the diamonds that Candy's pa has in his ritzy boutique. But as we all know, the course of good crime never did run smooth... Y'see, Phillips has a floozy on the side, and seems to have been thinking of doing a runner from both little Candy and his much older and alcoholic wife – the kidnappers have just given him the necessary nudge to do so, and with a flipping great wadge of diamonds, too. I mentioned crosses and double crosses before, well, the plot of The Candy Snatchers is rife with them, like all the best film noir movies, which this flick obviously pays a debt to.

Things get even more convoluted when we see that not only has Phillips fucked off with the diamonds and is trying to get his mistress to decamp with him to Rio de Janeiro, but the kidnappers, now starting to squabble amongst themselves as the wheels begin wobbling off their plan, have unearthed Candy and are trying to best work out how to use her to get what they want from daddy-dear, keeping her bound, blindfolded and gagged (in the Special Features actress Susan Sennet states that sometimes during breaks in the shooting when cast and crew might be having something to eat, she'd be kept tied up and made to lie still, so as to ensure continuity with her hair – in her interview, and again on the audio commentary track, she is flatly honest and does not view any part of making The Candy Snatchers through rose-coloured glasses). At the same time the mute creep Sean is having a pretty lousy day with his folks, who really aren't too keen on him, seeing him as the reason why they're trapped in a nowhere life (invited to dinner with Sean's dad's rather eccentric boss, his muteness is ridiculed and they read this disability as his fault, and his conscious attempt to sabotage any plans they might have for bettering themselves). I think that he's meant to be the sole sympathetic character in the film, but his slack-jawed, egocentric and at times sadistic portrayal does not make it easy to feel any connection with him. For example, when Sean first sees Candy being planted in the ground, he runs over to her air tube after the bad guys have left, and alternately blocks it up with his hand, and throws peanuts down it – kind of hard to sympathise with him; alternately tormenting and asphyxiating a frightened teenager.

Jessie and co decide to amp up their threat to Candy's dad and so head off down to the local morgue to have an ear sawn off one of the reasonably fresher corpses to be mailed to Phillips under the pretence that it's Candy's. Now, under normal circumstances that may actually have worked, but here? Not likely – but it does give the audience a bit more of that pitch-black humour I was talking about. Meanwhile, as Jessie and Alan are negotiating the price of body parts, they've left Eddie with Candy in the back of the van, and the big dumb yutz not only reveals their names to her, but also starts to unravel the motivations of all of the characters, identifying them as Candy tries to reason with him. Now he's previously told the captive girl that her existence has been guaranteed by the fact she hasn't seen their faces and can't identify them – he may well have unwittingly just signed her death warrant. Candy, whether deliberately or not, puts in motion a chain of events that drives a wedge between the kidnappers, playing on Eddie's crush on Jessie, and the power-play between the three.

Things start looking quite grim for young Candy as the events unfold and the friction between the kidnappers heightens. No-one is being honest with each other, and you get the impression that each member of the group is seeing the other two through cross-hairs. There's an old saying, "There is honour among theives" - well, that might be, but there certainly isn't among kidnappers and extortionists, that much is apparent. The plan seems to have changed, too – as Jessie's plan hasn't worked, Eddie suggests a different approach, although still using the ear as a threat for Candy's continued well-being; funnily enough, the kidnappers, regardless of which plan they try to coerce the cash out of Phillips, are relying on the goodness of other peoples' hearts for their success – despite their own mean-spiritedness and fumbling evil, have no concept of the notion that regular civilians might not be the fine upstanding pillars of the community that you would expect, and might be just as self-serving, mean-spirited and low-down as they themselves are – if not moreso. They're not necessarily a naïve bunch, and I think the realisation is as much a surprise to them as it is to the audience's expectations of family values. When the bombshell is dropped, it's a sucker-punch for us as much as anyone on the screen.

The tension cranks up another notch at this point, now that everything has changed and Candy's importance to the plot has become much different to what it was before. Back at the cabin where Candy's been imprisoned, the tension has risen even higher – and little Sean has become more than simply a witness to the precision display of nastiness he sees; now he's involved. With the kidnappers: Jessie's plan? Fail. Eddie's plan? Fail, but at least an illuminating one putting them fully in the picture. Now it's time for Alan's plan. Given his character, you just know that this is going to involve violence.

And this is where the film swings into its final act – I count a number of double-crosses and a whole bunch of otherwise no-goodnik anti-social behaviour, not to mention the possibility of everything going horribly, horribly wrong for all parties concerned: Jessie, Alan, Eddy, Candy, Phillips and Sean – each of them are mired pretty deep in some pretty despicable activities, and it's time for you to check them out.

This is most definitely a winner of the early 70s US sleaze/exploitation genre, and one I heartily recommend you seek out – you will not be disappointed by all of the necessary elements of exploitation cinema: the random, senseless acts of violence, the rapes and murders (as distasteful as they are, you couldn't have a film this grmy without them as plot devices – it just makes the bad guys even badder), the mean-spirited nature of each and every character bar Candy, the virginal hapless heroine, child abuse (no, not in that way) the rather hypocritical moralising common to the genre, and the goofy, oddball black humour – The Candy Snatchers has the lot.
The picture has been re-mastered from the original negative, and anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 TVs in the OAR of 1.85:1, so really, The Candy Snatchers isn't ever going to look any better on DVD. It's a fine lookin' picture.
You can check out The Candy Snatchers in its original mono, or go for the stereo Dolby remix, which is probably what most folks would do. Me, I went for the mono – I wanted it old school. Either mix is good, though – both are clear and sound just fine.
Extra Features
There's an audio commentary on the disc that isn't, oddly, mentioned on the case, including Susan Sennet and Tiffany Bolling, as well as the DVD producer and a moderator – you'd think they'd've used it as a selling point, after all? There's a pretty neat featurette called "The Women of Candy Snatchers" which interviews Sennet and Bolling about different aspects of the pre-production and the filming of the movie, as well as its legacy and effect on their respective careers – definitely worth a look; sounds like it was a difficult shoot, kinda almost approached guerilla-style. For god's sake, don't watch this before you watch the film – there are some pretty major spoilers included; they're both extremely candid about their thoughts and memories, let me tell you. There are also a welter of text bios for Susan Sennet, Ben Piazza, Tiffany Bolling, Vincent Martorano, Guerdon Trueblood and Bryan Gindoff. A still gallery? Yeah that too. And then there's some Subversive trailers for The Candy Snatchers (PG rated), The Candy Snatchers (R-rated – guess which version I'm reviewing?), The Witch Who Came From The Sea, Freakmaker, Metalskin and Battlefield Baseball. All up, not a bad package, and especially not for such a below the radar film.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
The Candy Snatchers is one of those exploitation films that fans of the genre need to watch. It's sleazy, grimy and horrid and you'll have a whale of a time watching it. The performances are good, given what it is, the picture quality on this version is top-notch, and despite all the horribleness you're going to have to sit through, the film itself is definitely one of the US's better pieces of nasty tatt. You can be bewildered by the director's decision to speed up most of the action sequences, or befuddled by the Byzantine nature of the plot, but I can guarantee that you'll be sucker-punched by the final act. The Candy Snatchers is definitely a piece of 70s US exploitation cinema you need to see.

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