Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Candy Snatchers (1973)

I tend to think that the term "cult movie" lost a lot of it's meaning when "Snakes on a Plane" came out. Not a knock on that movie by any means. I say this because this marked the point when the media would label any movie coming out that was "outside of the norm" so to speak a "cult movie." Granted, this happened before this, but this is when it really started to get annoying.

To me, a cult movie-a real cult movie-doesn't gain said label right away. It takes time for a movie to gain that label. It needs a small but devoted audience ("The Evil Dead" may still be a cult movie, but I personally think it's lost a little of it's cult appeal now that so many people know of the movie-though it is still a classic in it's own right), something that makes it stand out from the mainstream, and that leaves a lasting impression on said small audience. It may not be a perfect movie, but it needs that special something. A perfect example of a movie that earns the name "cult movie" is Guerdon Trueblood's 1973 Grindhouse favorite "The Candy Snatchers."

A teenage heiress (Susan Sennett, playing a 14 year old but clearly in her early 20's) is kidnapped by a trio of thugs (one of them played by former Playboy Centerfold Tiffany Bolling) who want some diamonds from her stepfather Avery (Ben Piazza). Then some problems arise-a mute autistic boy named Sean (the director's son Christopher) sees what's going on, problems among the trio arise when greed and violence start to raise their ugly heads, and Avery doesn't care all that much about Candy anyways.

"The Candy Snatchers" is a mean, gritty and sleazy affair that's a real treat for exploitation fans. It's got all kinds of immoral behavior (kidnapping, rape and murder), gratuitous female nudity, and a nihilistic tone. It's also a capably acted little movie, Bolling, Brad David and Vincent Martorano all delivering fine performances, managing to play their characters monstrous at one moment, then strikingly human the next with ease (Martorano also deserves attention for his wonderfully tacky shirt that say "Coors: It's What's For Breakfast!") Attention should also be given to Christopher Trueblood as Shawn, who manages to play the character with surprising depth for a child actor. Add a downbeat conclusion and a really fun score by Robert Drasnin, and you have a hit.

Well, not everything hits. There are moments of humor involving Shawn that really clash with the tone of the movie. This is a dark exploitation movie. It doesn't need light hearted laughs. Also, the sole sore thumb in the acting department are Shawn's Parents, especially his mother. The actress playing her is incredibly shrill and over the top, and really got on my nerves.

But those are minor complaints. "The Candy Snatchers" as a whole is a well directed and (mostly) well acted piece of exploitation that should please fans of the style, and will hopefully gain more fans in the future. As I said, it certainly earns it's "cult movie" status.

Rating: 8/10

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