Judge Paul Corupe implores you not to read too much into that title.
Money is the root of all happiness.
Now this, my friends, is what DVD is all about! Never before released to the public outside of a criminally short theatrical release and a few bootleg VHS copies floating around the collector scene, The Candy Snatchers is an well-crafted, exceptional exploitation classic that very few have heard about, let alone seen. Making its official home video debut from Subversive Cinema in a striking new transfer, this DVD is a revelation in every way—a brilliantly and uncompromisingly pessimistic diamond, presented in an exquisite, velvet-lined setting.
Facts of the Case
Looking for a big ransom payoff, inexperienced kidnappers Eddy (Vincent Martorano, The Severed Arm), Jessie (Tiffany Bolling, Bonnie's Kids), and her brother Alan (Brad David, Nine to Five), kidnap Candy (Susan Sennett, Big Bad Mama), the schoolgirl daughter of jewelry store manager Avery (Ben Piazza, The Bad News Bears). Candy is taken to the outskirts of town and buried alive in a makeshift wooden box, while Jessie calls Avery and demands that he turn over all the diamonds in the store for her safe return. But suddenly, the trio's carefully planned "perfect" crime falls completely apart—not only does Avery fail to show up with the ransom, the burial has (unbeknownst to them) been witnessed by five-year-old Sean (Christopher Trueblood, My Samurai), a mute boy who lives in the neighborhood with his selfish parents. As the kidnappers' escalating tempers rip asunder complex relationships to reveal personal failures, Eddy, Jessie and Alan are forced to dig up Candy and figure out how to make the unresponsive Avery bend to their demands.
Beginning with the film's scornful theme song, "Money is the Root of All Happiness," The Candy Snatchers hits like a truckload of bricks, with shameless greed as the underlying motive for almost every action in the movie. The relentlessly winding plot brings the film noir nihilism of films like Treasure of the Sierra Madre kicking and screaming into the sleazy '70s, for an unparalleled stab at exploitation glory.
It's simply amazing that a film like this has remained unknown for so long, as it's certainly one of the better B-movies I've ever seen. Captured against the sunny Southern California landscape, The Candy Snatchers is a story of neglect and self-indulgence populated entirely by unlikable and flawed people who lie, murder, torture and rape their way through the film, all focused intently on their own desires to the complete detriment and exclusion of everyone else, especially Candy and preschooler Sean, her sole potential savior. Rising above the purely visceral thrills of most '70s grindhouse fodder, The Candy Snatchers is primarily a character piece, with the abduction plot used mainly as a catalyst for the complete combustion of the kidnapping ring. The sleazy desperation that finally sets in on the three characters by the end of the film is not only poignant, but completely palpable—a lit fuse that leads to devastating final reel in which the audience is spared no shock or twist.
Helping to lighten up the potentially somber proceedings is a streak of pitch black humor that runs throughout the picture. Surprisingly, the dialogue is often as funny as it is brutal—screenwriter Bryan Gindoff has stretched sinfully delicious conversations over his tightly-woven narrative, in which characters boast about the number of people they've killed in comparison to the world's record, pick the wrong phone repairman to steal equipment for a job from, and casually dismiss the idea of raping Candy simply because their schedule is too tight. Jessie and Alan even head to a hospital at one point to purchase a human ear off of a less than scrupulous morgue attendant.
Despite their relative inexperience, the actors do a surprisingly good job with the admittedly unsavory material. Martorano's Eddy reveals the depth of his character as he develops a convincing father-daughter affection for Candy, and as the tough-talking Jessie, Playboy Playmate-turned-born-again-Christian Bolling more than proves her acting chops with a character looking to regain control of her life. It's the director's son, Christopher Trueblood, however, who almost steals the show as the speechless young Sean, as he struggles to communicate Candy's whereabouts to indifferent adults. In one amazing scene, he calls a local deli, and pulls the string on the back of talking policeman doll to activate a voice that says "Police! Put you hands up!" Thoroughly confused, the clerk tells the kid that if he doesn't stop prank calling him, he's going to stick a salami up his ass! With everything shown through facial expressions and unselfconscious body language, it's one of the most notable performances by a child actor that you're likely to see.
Hot on the heels of a recent theatrical re-release, The Candy Snatchers looks incredible here. Remastered from the original negative, colors are outstandingly bold and bright in this transfer, and detail levels are simply stunning. The film's soundtrack, offered in both mono and stereo, is crystal clear. All in all, this release is another top-notch job by Subversive. We also get a nice smattering of extras, headlined by a commentary with Tiffany Bolling and Susan Sennet moderated by Marc Edward Heuck and Norman Hill. It's a relatively interesting track, even if the actresses don't remember that much, with Bolling dominating the conversation to reveal some behind-the-scenes info and talking about her own career and life at the time. It's surprising that Sennet agreed to participate in the DVD, since her experiences making the film were mostly unpleasant, and she seems genuinely upset here. Heuck keeps things moving along well, even if he doesn't seem as well-versed in exploitation cinema as he could be. Much of the information revealed here is repeated in the accompanying featurette, "The Women of Candy Snatchers," in which Bolling and Sennet appear for sit-down interviews. The disc is rounded out with a still gallery, some text biographies for the cast and crew, and a pair of trailers for this film as well as some of Subversive Cinema's other releases. In the keep case, you'll also find a fold-out poster of the film's Italian advertising art, plus three lobby card reproductions—nice!
One last note—after selecting items off the main menu, the film launches into about 30 seconds of clips taken from the film, including major spoilers. If you haven't seen the film yet, you'll definitely want to look away until they're over.
While it's nice to have two of the film's participants here, it's really too bad we couldn't get a more rounded look at The Candy Snatchers from some of the other behind-the-scenes players. Still, any problems with the extras on this disc are really minor when you take into consideration the fact that this film is available at all. The Candy Snatchers is a momentous discovery, a darkly bleak but highly enjoyable grindhouse gem that will remain a treasured part of the cinematic canon thanks to Subversive's fine efforts. Highly recommended.
Absolutely innocent—one of this year's most notable releases.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Subversive Cinema
• Commentary with Tiffany Bolling and Susan Sennett
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