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January 6, 2012

Midnight Movie of the Week #105 - The Candy Snatchers

Back by popular demand (from myself, but who's counting) is that blonde bombshell of the sleazy seventies, Tiffany Bolling - who's quickly become a veteran in the Midnight Movie of the Week canon.  This time, I'm taking a look at the 1973 kidnap-xploitation flick (Did I just make that genre up? Maybe.) The Candy Snatchers, which has long been one of Ms. Bolling's films that eluded my eyes.
The film features Bolling and two male conspirators - the smaller and hornier Alan (played by Brad David) and the bigger and dopier Eddy (Vince Martorano) - who snatch up a 16 year old Catholic school girl - named Candy, of course - and set off a chain reaction of violence and mayhem that barrels out of control quickly.  The trio have a kidnapping scheme in place, but we all know that things never really go as planned in this type of situation, don't we?
For starters, the girl's stepfather (played by the creepily Andrew-McCarthy-looking Ben Piazza) is a bit more worried about the money - and a lot more worried about having an affair with a fine young woman - than he is about the fate of Candy or her millionaire mother.  He's always got that distant look in his eyes, and his unwillingness to go along with the trio's treacherous plan is just another splash of gasoline on their criminal fire.
Meanwhile, poor Candy (played by 20 year old Susan Sennett, who would later become the wife of Crosby, Stills & Nash's Graham Nash), gets abused by the men and ignored by Bolling's Jessie, who seems to grow a little jealous of the attention that's paid to Candy by her male companions.  She's buried alive, she's beaten, she's raped (this was the '70s, somebody had to get raped), and she's pretty much tossed around like the plot device she is throughout the film.  Ms. Sennett/Nash quit acting in the mid '70s - allegedly walking out on an audition for TV's Three's Company - because she was tired of doing "racy" material.  So, basically, the character is abused so thoroughly that it made the actress feel abused four years later.
Which brings us to the real star of The Candy Snatchers - the only witness who has any chance of helping Candy - a mute, autistic child named Sean.  Sean is played by Cristophe, the real-life son of director Guerdon Trueblood, and he bumbles through the film in his bib overalls while doing his best to communicate with those around him.  Unfortunately, his parents hate him and abuse him because he can't talk, leading to a couple of late film scenes that had me gasping in fear for the little trooper.  Sean's pretty much the cutest kid hero ever - particularly for such a sleazy film - and I spent much of the movie just wanting to jump through the screen and help the kid out. And maybe give him a high five for being awesome.
With this many volatile characters in one place - the only people we can really root for are a kid who can't communicate and a girl who's bound and gagged for most of the film - the heavy turns that occur throughout the film's journey cover a wide range of exploitation standards. Disagreements between the criminals and cat-and-mouse games between the sleazy stepfather and the sleazier kidnappers are predictable, but still carry dramatic weight thanks to the performances of the actors and the script's ability to make us sympathize with the abused characters.  The antagonists are drawn pretty well too, particularly Martorano's Eddy, a part that was written specifically for the actor because he was a college friend of Trueblood.  His character is seen as sympathetic at times and brutal at others, which keeps things tense when we don't really know what to expect from the character.
This is yet another production by Arthur Marks - who also was behind Bolling films Bonnie's Kids and The Centerfold Girls - and after seeing all three films in which he used her talents it's very clear why Marks kept bringing her back to his films.  Bolling is once again given the chance to play a strong and occasionally fierce character, and her pretty face quickly fades away when we realize just how vicious she can be.  I don't think her role here is as bold as she was in Bonnie's Kids, nor does she reach the primal rage that she released late in The Centerfold Girls, but it is another testament to how strong this Playboy magazine could be without relying on her physical attributes. (Though she does show them off anyway.)
The Candy Snatchers is another vicious little film from the Marks/Bolling machine - I'm glad there's only three of these, because I'm not sure I could keep seeing this kind of dark thriller every week - but it's got a lot of interesting twists and turns thanks to well developed characters and one wonderfully brave little boy.  It's pretty good at what it does, and should be an interesting find for fans of '70s drive-in sleaze.

2 comments:

Hollywood Movies said...

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