Candy Snatchers, The (DVD)

Starring Tiffany Bolling, Ben Piazza, Susan Sennett, Brad David

Directed by Guerdon Trueblood

Released by Subversive Cinema

Before Subversive announced they were going to be releasing a special edition of The Candy Snatchers, which has been compared to everything from Last House on the Left to Reservoir Dogs but is actually quite dissimilar to both, I’d never heard a thing about it. At the time I found it a bit odd, but now that I’ve seen it I’m baffled by not only its obscurity but also the plague-esque way in which it ended the careers of pretty much everyone involved.

The titular kidnappers set their sights on Candy, a 16-year-old girl enrolled in a privileged, seemingly strict Catholic school whose father is the manager of a local jewelry store. They capture the girl, bury her alive with only a small pipe to breath out of, and send instructions to her father as to what to do if he ever wants to see her alive again.

At this point, if you have any inkling to see this film, I recommend you skip a few paragraphs because part of the enjoyment I got from it was watching all the madness unfold level by level.

Okay, still here? Your call.

For whatever reason Candy’s father (Piazza) doesn’t show up at the drop point with the goods, and after waiting for hours, the kidnappers pull Candy out of the ground and try and formulate a new plan, one that will give them all the riches they had hoped for. Only now two of the three kidnappers, Jessie (Bolling) and her brother Alan (David), have even fewer qualms about killing Candy to get what they want. The third, Eddy (Martorano), convinces them to try a less violent approach and ends up confronting daddy face to face. Seems daddy’s fallen on hard times as well and has been waiting for Candy (who’s actually his stepdaughter; her real father was very wealthy and is now very dead) to either turn 21, when she’ll get a monumental inheritance, or get killed, at which time he’ll get a decent chunk of said inheritance for himself. Either way, the trio is doing him a favor. What’s a kidnapper to do?

Things continue to plummet from bad to worse until eventually pretty much everyone, and I mean everyone, is either shot or injured. The ending actually reminded me of Bava’s brilliant Twitch of the Death Nerve, but I’ll just leave it at that. The fact is, The Candy Snatchers is a very well made, incredibly convincingly acted film that suffers only from some moments of bad choreography and horrendous looking blood, of which there is thankfully very little. Its quality is even more amazing when you look at the fact that director Trueblood never directed again (and apparently disappeared, as he was mentioned being MIA for the disc) and no one in the cast did much past the early 90’s, none of it notable.

That’s where Subversive comes in, snatching it out of obscurity as it were, with a new transfer which looks pristine as well as a new stereo mix. Features include a commentary by DVD producer Norm Hill, actresses Bolling and Sennett, and a moderator whose name I have, unfortunately, forgotten but who managed to annoy the hell out of me.

The track as a whole is a bit uncomfortable as Sennett had some major issues with the film. Seeing as how she spent all of it either bound, buried, or beaten (sometimes all three), you can’t really blame her. Bolling seems to have had a few too many joints before sitting down to record the track but still comes off as happy about her role in it. Hill is quiet for the most part, which is a shame because his voice is more conducive to a relaxing listen than the moderator they chose, who was obviously brought in for his encyclopedic knowledge of the film and its cast. They all loosen up as the film progresses, but it never really gets a good groove going unfortunately.

The only other extra of note is “The Women of Candy Snatchers,” a 30-minute featurette that consists of extended interviews with Sennett and Bolling. Bolling, again, seems like she’s still in her hippy frame of mind, but perhaps that was brought on by watching the movie again, who knows. Sennett says a few times that she wishes she had never done Snatchers and can only see it as a positive thing if it’s lumped in with drive-in movies that can and should be ignored. It’s too bad she sees it that way because, personally, I think Candy Snatchers had the potential to be just as influential as other films of its era if more people had believed in it. By the end of the interview she seems to have come to terms with her part in it all, though I doubt it’s a film she’ll ever show her grandchildren.

There’s also a gallery of lobby cards with the same audio issues found on the Freakmaker DVD, a selection of trailers for other Subversive releases, and bios on the stars and crew. Oh, and the packaging is just as cool as their other releases have been with another mini foldout poster and lobby card repros.

If you’re interested in seeing the kinds of films that influenced Tarantino (as this must have) or just a low-budget gem with excellent performances (most of which apparently came through in one or two takes) by a cast that has all but disappeared into obscurity, give The Candy Snatchers a chance. I think you’ll dig it.

4 out of 5

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Johnny Butane

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