“Money Is The Root Of All Happiness” – Rediscovering ‘The Candy Snatchers’ (US 1973 – 94 mins).

Posted in Rediscover by - February 12, 2014
“Money Is The Root Of All Happiness” – Rediscovering ‘The Candy Snatchers’ (US 1973 – 94 mins).

In 1973 the bar for exploitation movies was certainly set high by director Guerdon Trueblood for his gritty, fast moving thriller; ‘The Candy Snatchers’. A true one-off in an era of over-crowded, drive-in quickies, I think it remains one of the very best of the genuine cult movies of the Seventies.

On her way home from Catholic school, teenage heiress Candy is kidnapped in broad daylight, where she is bundled and blind-folded into the back of a blue van. Taken to a remote spot, she is then buried alive in a make-shift coffin with only a small air pipe to breathe through. The abductors; Jessie, Eddy and Alan, a heartless trio of criminals then demand a ransom in diamonds from the poor girl’s jeweller father. It transpires that Candy’s father is actually her stepfather, and he is not too concerned about her well-being, hoping in fact that the kidnappers carry out their threat to kill the child, so that he can get his hands on her forthcoming estate. Of course, not everything goes to plan, and with its very downbeat ending, no one comes out on top.

Sexy, Seventies cult queen Tiffany Bolling, is excellent as Jessie, the ruthless ringleader of the gang. The feisty Bolling was often too good for these types of parts, and deserved better movie choices than she usually got given. Bolling later said that she hated making this picture, and was doing a lot of cocaine at the time, dejected at the whole film industry. Talented Tiffany was also memorable in the 1974 sleaze-fest ‘The Centerfold Girls’ as potential victim Vera. Her final confrontation with the deranged killer at the films climax is well acted and very memorable as she exacts revenge on him. Other notable films at this time were the pretty good ‘Bonnie’s Kids’ (‘73), and the popular ‘Man-verses-Nature’ flick; ‘Kingdom of the Spiders’ (’77), with William Shatner.

Pretty Susan Sennett (who also regrets being in this movie) was very convincing as frightened Candy. Going through various emotions from sweet child to terrified victim, Susan looked much younger than her actual age, which was 20 at the time, and was able to pass off as the 16 year old schoolgirl without worry. Susan would go on to co-star in the following years ‘Big Bad Mama’, as Angie Dickinson’s promiscuous daughter, Billy Jean, a far cry from the innocence of her character here.

The two bickering male abductors were credibly played by non-actor Vince Martorano, as burly Eddy, the unstable war vet, and TV regular Brad David was Alan, Jessie’s sadistic brother. Familiar character actor Ben Piazza played Candy’s cheating, cold-hearted father. Piazza’s career took a rather downward spiral after such promising early work in top grade fare, which included a good role in the excellent 1959 Gary Cooper drama ‘The Hanging Tree’. Ben was prolific in television including an excellent stint in ‘Dallas’ as doomed Walt Driscoll.

Director Guerdon Trueblood shows an imaginative flare here, and often uses low angle shots in the movie, allowing the viewer to share the uneasy perspective of the victim. Trueblood’s son Christopher played the ill-treated, autistic little boy, Sean Newton, who is the only witness to the kidnapping, and is an integral part of the movie, especially the climax, which I won’t ruin here.

‘The Candy Snatchers’ is not a sensationalistic blood and guts movie, but a well made, entertaining exploitation piece. It’s both tense and exciting, and filled with unexpected twists and turns. Although in saying all this, it is a movie full of uncaring, greedy people, with poor young Candy very much alone in this cold, cruel adult world.

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