What if a gang of thugs kidnapped a child but when they presented their ransom demands found out to their great surprise that the parents didn’t care and didn’t particularly like the child? In fact, they’re fine with the kidnappers turning into murderers, but the criminals don’t want to kill anyone, just get rid of the kid as fast as they can and get the money.
That’s the storyline of the rather daft cult film The Candy Snatchers from 1973. It’s one of many films in the history of cinema where the story line is surprisingly engaging, but the script and actual production are dismal, leaving us viewers pondering the possibilities had a better cast, better writer and better production team tackled the story.
In The Candy Snatchers, the three hapless ne’er-do-well crooks Jessie (Tiffany Bolling), Alan (Brad David) and Eddy (Vince Martorano) kidnap cute teen Catholic school girl Candy (Susan Sennett), expecting that her father Avery (Ben Piazza) will pay $50,000 in diamonds from his jewelry store inventory to ransom her and get her back. While they wait, the kidnappers bury Candy alive in a box dug into the ground.
Avery’s married to a drunk but is secretly having an affair with a younger woman who, in one notable scene, puts glasses on to assess a diamond he’s given her as a gift before they retire to the bedroom. In fact, no-one in the film has pure motives, everyone has a dark side and petty motives, whether they be sexual, financial or interpersonal.
The most difficult storyline to watch is with the young autistic boy Christophe (the director’s son, Christopher Trueblood), who stumbles across the entombed Candy and befriends her. His mother is beastly towards him and his father ignores him, while he endures their constant fighting. In a rather overwhelming scene, Alan rapes Candy (who is tied up and blindfolded at the time) while, unknown to him, Christophe looks on from the building rafters. Yikes. Even as a child actor one hopes there are some limits past which they won’t be asked to travel, but clearly not in this particular case.
There’s not much else to say about the film. It’s a cult movie, a 70’s exploitation film in the Roger Corman vein, though this one’s directed by Guerdon Trueblood and distributed by General Film Corporation. But it’s the story that I found interesting, and minus the exploitation elements (a rape, a woman abusing her apparently autistic child, the fetishistic attention paid to Candy, who is bound while still wearing her Catholic schoolgirl outfit through almost the entire film) there’s a core dilemma that could make a really interesting dramatic crime movie.
In the meantime, if you like exploitation, if you like cult films, if you’re a fan of the overly-saturated, self-aware 70s movies that all now feel so dated, then you might just enjoy The Candy Snatchers if you can find it showing on cable or available through an online streaming service. No great loss if you can’t, but still, a surprisingly interesting storyline…