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The Candy Snatchers

     "You don't understand. We're gonna  kill her!"

-- the Kidnapper     

     "I was hoping you would say that."

-- Not exactly what the Kidnapper wanted to hear     




Gonzoid Cinema




Yeah, you might be clawing them out by the end, too, folks...


Watch it!



Sights &
The Candy 
  Guerdon Trueblood
  Bryan Gindoff
  Robert Misrach

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The Hell?!

What is this Man so Afraid of?

Scroll down a bit more to find out.

& Rarities:
The Good,
the Bad &
the Little Seen.

The Candy Snatchers

Wicked, Wicked


The Hell?!

...Oh, you have got to be @#%ing kidding me!

Our little noirish potboiler of kidnapping, seedy characters, and double-crosses wastes little time to get up to speed as we open on three hoodlums in a VW microbus trailing a young girl on the sly. And when the girl, sixteen year old Candy (Susan Sennet), sticks her thumb out for a lift, the van stops, but their intentions are far from samaritan in nature. Before she can react, the girl is yanked inside, blindfolded, bound and gagged, then driven to a remote spot and buried alive in a shallow grave. But before the kidnappers leave, one of the hoodlums tells the girl through the air tube to relax, because if her old man comes through with the ransom, she'll be home in time for supper. With that, the three kidnappers -- Jessie (Tiffany Bolling), her hot-headed brother, Alan (Brad David), and the husky Eddie (Vince Martorano), -- all pile back into the van and leave to deliver the ransom note to Candy's father.

They're kind of like The Mod Squad -- if Link were a sweaty, doughy, middle-aged white guy.

Avery (Ben Piazza), the man they seek, works for an upscale jewelry store. And as Eddie runs interference for Alan to hide the ransom note, Jessie, the obvious ringleader, makes the call from a nearby phone booth. She tells Avery where to find the envelope, and if he ever wants to see his daughter alive again, to follow their instructions, including, of course, no police interference. Now, the ransom for Candy's safe return is every diamond in the store to be delivered to a specific drop-off spot. Still inside the store, Eddie watches as Avery, who is visibly shaken by this turn of events, finds the note. But he recovers quickly, then closes up the shop and sends all his help home early. Returning to the van, Eddie happily reports that their kidnapping caper is going off like a Greek watch. (What does that even mean? Does that mean it's going well..?)

And then, pretty much after that, everything all goes to hell...


Mostly known for his writing for the small screen, Guerdon Trueblood was the credited screenwriter for Sole Survivor, which most people purport to be the first ever movie made specifically for television. This supernatural tale of ghosts that haunt the old wreck of a World War II vintage bomber is pretty good, and after that, Trueblood got killer insects on the brain, churning out scripts for The Savage Bees, The Return of the Savage Bees, Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo, and It Happened at Lakewood Matter -- where "it" happened to be the invasion of a colony of angry ants. In between all of that, Trueblood made his directorial debut with The Candy Snatchers, an unrelentingly bleak morality play. With a tight script from Bryan Gindoff (-- who also penned Hard Times, my all time favorite Charles Bronson movie), Trueblood delivers a tale that betrays his extensive background in network TV. And that's what the movie reminds me of: one of those old, hard nose detective shows from the '70s like Baretta or Kojak, or better yet, a skeevey episode of Starsky & Hutch gone horribly, horribly wrong. And from what we've seen so far, that's exactly how the movie is playing out: a by the numbers police drama, but the film is about to take a startling left turn on us. Several of them, actually. And things do go wrong, all around, in very disturbing ways that I'll be getting in to as the review progresses. 

So fair warning -- there be spoilers ahead. Big ones.

From the hideous theme song "Money is the Root of all Happiness" that'll bore into your brain like a Ceti eel to be replayed again and again, to the gonzo dialogue, to the brutal treatment of it's namesake character, I honestly can't recall a movie that was more wrong on so many levels than this thing. It's a vintage piece of '70s sleaze and unflinching violence, to be sure, that would never, ever, not even in a million years, get made today. Every character and scene basically grinds up in its own gears until there's nothing left standing. And just when you think it can't get any worse -- it does!

Yes, the kidnappers' meticulous plan appears to be going off without a hitch, but there were two factors that they weren't prepared for:

The first is the unexpected presence of Sean Newton, an autistic child who also appears to be mute. Sean (played by Trueblood's own son Christopher) plays around the area where Candy is buried. In fact, he watched them do it; but he doesn't quite grasp what's going on, and inadvertently tortures the victim further by dropping peanuts down the air shaft (-- when he's not plugging it up with his hand!) When the boy hears his harpy of a mother (Bonnie Bolland) calling for him, upon his return home, she gives Sean a whipping for running off -- before chucking him via airmail into the bathtub. (Wow.)

The second, and more dastardly turn of events happens when Avery, instead of heading for the ransom drop, goes home to find his lush of wife, Katherine (Dolores Dorn), already in her cups. Mixing her another stiff cocktail, he then lies, saying Candy is spending the night with some friends, and then Avery, the weasel, takes the stolen diamonds to his mistress (Phyllis Major), gives them to her as a present(!), and they both hop in the sack for a little nookie(!!).

Meanwhile, the kidnappers, fearing that Avery isn't taking them seriously when he doesn't show, dig Candy up. Warning the girl that the only thing keeping her alive is the blindfold, they take her to their hideout, an abandoned house only half-constructed. Once they get there, Alan wants to rape the girl, but the brutish Eddie starts to get protective. Telling both of them to forget about the girl, Jessie tries to get her caper back on track. (Because, say it with me, money is the root of all happiness.) To escalate the sense of urgency, they torture Candy while forcing her to scream a message for help into a tape recorder. That's not enough for Alan, however, who wants to cut her ear off and send it along with the taped demand, too. But when it comes right down to doing the deed, none of them have the stomach for it. 

Not to worry, Jessie has another solution in mind; the results of which is a pretty embarrassing scene with a morgue attendant who likes to negotiate his price for body parts with some nonsensical scatting -- that would have Cab Calloway spinning in his grave. He's also got a thing for fondling the corpses while waxing poetically about the unfairness of life's lost opportunities to screw after your dead. *sigh* When the singing and fondling stops, Jessie has her needed ear, but before delivering the new ransom demands, Jessie and Alan want to bury Candy again -- but Eddie won't let them. Seems Eddie and Candy kind of had a bizarre heart to heart while the siblings were fetching the ear. You see, Eddie is a Vietnam vet whose been trampled over by life. He's also got a thing for Jessie, but fears she's too far out of his league. But any sympathy the big, sweaty lug has garnered for his actions to protect Candy are torpedoed in a later scene when he confronts Jessie with his feelings. For when she rejects him, he attacks her and, well, I don't think I need to draw you a picture.

Despite the rapidly crumbling foundation of their partnership, the dream of a big payoff soon gets everyone on the same page again. And while Eddie delivers the ear and tape to Avery, Jessie sends Alan back to the house to kill Candy. Why? I think to just piss Eddie off, but I can't be sure ... Meanwhile, Sean ventures into the villain's hideout and finds Candy tied up. He takes the gag and blindfold off, but he can't undo the knots binding her hands and feet. Candy pleads for him to go and get help, but by the time Sean figures out what she wants, Alan shows up. The young boy manages to hide, but watches as Alan first strips and then forcibly rapes the helpless girl -- very graphically, and very loudly -- and all of that is just as unpleasant as it sounds to watch. (Gah!)

We barely have time to recover from that horrific scene before we finally find out what that schmuck Avery is up to when he doesn't react as expected after Eddie delivers the ear. Turns out he's Candy's step-dad, and he only married Katherine for her money. But most of the money is locked up in a trust that Candy is due to inherit when she turns 21. So Avery is counting on the kidnappers to kill her, and then he can get his hands on the girl's millions by default, ditch the lush, and then skip off to South America with his mistress. This revelation, of course, pisses Eddie off, who gets even more pissed off when he finds out what Jessie and Alan are up to ... After racing back to the hideout, Eddie proceeds to knock Alan around -- too late to stop the rape, but in time to prevent Candy's death. During the confusion, Sean manages to escape but all attempts to convey to his mother that someone nearby needs help go for naught.

There's another weird scene where Sean tries to use one of his talking dolls to call for help over the phone that is one of thee ultimate WTF?! moments in all of cinema. Another soon follows when his mother starts giving the kid pills -- and I don't mean children's Tylenol. Several other disheartening scenes involving Sean and his parents are probably worth mentioning, but I don't care to drag out the details. So I'll just let you decide if you want to see them or not.

With nothing else to lose, the kidnappers decide to take one more run at Avery and the diamonds. First they hit a gun shop and arm up. They've also decided that Candy is no longer of any use to them and is expendable. Eddie volunteers to the deed, but just buries her again -- with the promise that he'll dig her up and let her go once they finish with her no account step-dad. The treacherous trio goes after Candy's mom first, but Avery still won't play ball until they threaten to reveal his plan to the cops and finally agree to meet with them at the jewelry store with the diamonds. Nutjob Alan then kills Katherine before they leave, saying she was number eleven. (Eleven what?)

As should be expected by now, the meeting with Avery goes bad, and things quickly escalate out of control. When Avery goes for a gun hidden in a drawer, Alan kicks the door shut, smashing his hand. Alan then pegs Avery as number twelve before shooting him in the guts; then turns the gun on Eddie, saying he's about to be number thirteen. But Eddie grabs Jessie's carbine, which goes off, hitting Alan in the head, killing him instantly. Eddie then takes the diamonds, grabs Jessie and tries to flee. Not wanting to leave her brother behind, the girl runs back inside -- right into Avery, who still kicking, and armed, and takes several bullets point blank in the chest.

Eddie escapes, with Avery in hot pursuit, and returns to the spot where Candy is buried. Upon arrival, he and Avery have a shoot-out. Luckily, Eddie manages to kill Avery, and then starts to dig Candy up. He pulls up the air tube and uses it dig -- but then another shot rings out and Eddie takes one in the chest.

What the hell?

Is Avery still alive?


When Eddie looks around to see who shot him, a slow pan reveals Sean -- SEAN (!?!) -- pointing a gun at him. That's right; the kid is packing. (Where did the gun come from? I honestly don't know.) Eddie begs the boy to put it down, but Sean only shoots him again, killing him deader than a Greek watch. Then we hear Sean's mother screaming for him to come home. And when Sean heads down the hill and out of sight, his mother keeps screaming until we hear another shot. The screaming stops. And as the camera pans back to reveal the hole where Candy's breathing tube was, we can hear her crying underneath the layers of earth as the screen fades to black and the credits roll.

The End

Well. Wasn't that a nice #@%*ing turd-burger of ending.


I really wish I could translate into words the exact noise I made during the conclusion of The Candy Snatchers. An incredulous cry, choked off by an incoherent babbling, that degenerated into a full fledged roar of anger when I realized the ramifications of what Sean had done, and that Candy was doomed to die in her shallow grave because of them. Evil is punished, but the film tells us bluntly that the price is way too high. (Heav-vey!)

The Candy Snatchers became quite infamous because of that downer ending when it was first released, but it's been wallowing in obscurity ever since. People who'd actually seen it, championed it as a forgotten exploitative gem. And for nearly three decades, the inability to see the damned thing to confirm those claims only added to the film's notorious reputation. Now that it's out and readily available, via a spiffy DVD from Subversive Cinema, I honestly don't know if it will help or hurt the film's cult status. (See Massacre at Central High for more thoughts on this phenomenon.)

Lurid, pessimistic, brutal, and unpleasant to watch, but the best word to describe the film would probably be unpredictable. As a viewer, you're sucked in with absolutely no clue as to what twist or turn will come next. These characters are all scum-buckets, but believable scum-buckets -- we're dealing with the bottom of the food chain here, folks. And the only two exceptions, Sean and Candy, don't belong in this world. They're there just to be kicked around and abused. All the actors involved play their characters well, but Sennet truly shines in her thankless role (-- she was actually 28 when this film was made), and what makes that ending almost work is Christopher Trueblood's startling performance.

By no stretch of the imagination is The Candy Snatchers a good film let alone great -- and it's a difficult film to sit through on many levels. After I watched it the first time, I hated it with every fiber of my being. But the more I thought about it, the more it started to work for me. After watching it again, I didn't hate it, but it still pissed me off. Which, I guess, is a good thing, right? Regardless, they definitely don't make them like this anymore. And whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is up to the individual viewer.

Originally Posted: 12/13/05 :: Rehashed: 04/24/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.

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