Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Candy Snatchers

I saw The Candy Snatchers last night at the Castro. The film was the back third of a Midinite for Maniacs triple bill. The first two films were Watcher in the Woods and Stand By Me. The theme was Broken Homes. The crowd streaming out of Stand By Me was impressive as I arrived.

I skipped the first two films and arrived around 11:30 for the 11:45 show. Actually, the film didn't start until after midnight because director Guerdon Trueblood's son was in the audience to take Q&A from Jesse Hawthorne Ficks. If you read the credits of The Candy Snatchers, you will note that Christopher Trueblood has a acting credit but he was not in the house last night. It was his older brother from Napa or Petaluma that came down with some friends for the showing. I think Trueblood was drunk but who can blame him? His rambling answers delayed the film until ~12:15 AM.

The film certainly was a bitter, jagged little piece of 70's exploitation cinema. The title song is "Money is the Root of All Happiness" which says it all. By my count, there were six murder (including matricide), two rapes and one mutilation of a corpse. What it lacked in quantity, it made up for in quality. The basic premise is that three buffoonish ne'er-do-wells (a brother/sister combo and overweight sidekick) kidpnap a teenage girl (Candy). Right off the bat, we see Candy, in her schoolgirl uniform, hitchhiking home after school. It's established that Candy has a ~$2M estate so I wonder why she hitchhiking but it's best not to question such things in films like this.

The three stooges kidnap Candy with the intention of ransoming her for jewels at her father's jewelry store. What they didn't count on was that Avery is not her father but her step-father. Not only that but the only reason Avery married Candy's alcoholic mother was because he has been scheming to get his hands on the $2M Candy will inherit when she turns 21. So when the kidnappers make their demand, Avery is only too willing to allow them to kill his "daughter" because that means he'll get the money immediately.

This is unknown to the kidnappers as they ratchet up their strong arm techniques which eventually include burying Candy alive in a shallow grave (twice) and raping her (once). When the kidnapper finally figure out Avery's true intentions, they decide to rob him of his jewels (couldn't they have done in the first place?). There is a shoot out and four of the six die as a result.

The B plot in the film involves a mute boy who witnesses them burying Candy. It's never established why the boy doesn't speak except that his shrewish mother thought therapy was too expensive. In the end, the boy commits the final two murders; it's not important how or why because that's not the point of this film. They point of this film is to cringe and laugh at the stupidity of everyone in the film.

The mute boy is played by Christopher Trueblood (credited as Christophe) - the director's son and the brother of the Trueblood in attendance. According to him, the character and his brother have a learning disorder. The boy did look a little strange - he had a slight harelip.

Let's see if I can summarize the highlights:

1) After raping Candy, one of the kidnappers tells the other two (shocked at what he has done) "You didn't want her to die a virgin did you?"
2) Two of the kidnappers go to a hospital morgue and pay the attendant $50 to cut an ear off a corpse. This is after haggling over the price and then trying to find a corpse whose ear matches the gender, size and skin tone of Candy.
3) After raping Candy, the kidnappers go to her home to wait for Avery. They get his wife drunk and the rapist starts taking advantage of Candy's mom because he wants to have both the mother & the daughter.
4) Eddy, the "sensitive" kidnapper bares his soul to Candy (while she is bound and blindfolded). He tells her about his dream to own a bar with a bowling alley attached and have a couple of hookers.

Despite this grisly veneer, the film had some laugh out loud moments that I'm not sure were planned or unintentional. There is scene where they are pretending to be birdwatchers (in fact, they are watching the drop off site) which is pretty funny. Every scene with the drunk wife must have been played for laughs (even the one where she is stabbed to death while receiving cunnilingus). The scene where the three kidnappers get their ass whipped by a brawny telephone repairman (until one of them takes a two by four to his skull) was pure slapstick.

I recommend The Candy Snatchers to anyone interested in the genre of exploitation films. Ficks said the film has been recently released on DVD but the print we watched was genuine grindhouse. Indeed, the soundtrack skipped alot and much of one reel had been destroyed by acetate deterioration. I'm surprised that it went through the projector without breaking.


I was looking at the upcoming film posters outside the Castro. Milk is returning February 13 to 26, I believe. A restored 35mm print of Fellini's Amarcord (1973) is playing February 27 to March 5.


Trivia from IMDB - Guerdon Trueblood is General Billy Mitchell's grandson. If you don't know who Billy Mitchell is, I wish I could recommend a good film. The only one I know of is The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell with Gary Cooper in the title role. That movie didn't really do it for me although it could serve as an introduction as could the Wiki entry.

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