Nowadays, the only way for your average slob to strike it rich is to either win the lottery or appear on one of them newfangled reality television shows. However, back in the 1970s, your options were rather limited. You either worked for "the man," produced porn for the mob, or you hatched an elaborate kidnapping scheme along with your hippie friends. Most people don't realize this, but around 80% of the population back in the 1970s had elaborate kidnapping schemes that were either in the development stages or on the proverbial back burner. Why is that, you ask? Well, like I said, collecting a healthy ransom was the only surefire way to extricate yourself from a life of poverty. Of course, some of you might be wondering why anyone one would need money in the 1970s. I mean, didn't people just drift aimlessly through a thick haze of pot smoke over a never-ending layer of shag carpeting? That's true, life was much simpler back then. But according to the lyrics of the cynical ditty that opens The Candy Snatchers, "Money is the Root of All Happiness." Which is ironic, because just before I started watching this surprisingly effective slice of exploitation, one that features what has to be the strangest child performance in movie history, I saw a news story about a lottery winner who was poisoned to the death. How is that ironic? The piece ends with someone uttering the line, "Money is the Root of All Evil." You see, it's the root of all evil, not happiness. Nevertheless, try telling that to the characters who exist in this film's greed obsessed universe. Hell, even the guy who works in the hospital's morgue will sell you an human ear if the price is right. To drive the point home, in case you had trouble hearing the lyrics to the film's theme song, we get a close up shot of the bumper sticker on the van the kidnappers use to transport their precious cargo. I don't think I have to tell what the sticker said. But just in case I do, it said, "Money is the Root of All Happiness."
Did you say that the kidnappers were driving a van? Yeah, I did. Oh-oh. A van in the 1970s equals trouble with a capital 'T.' Hold on a second, I thought you said the van was the vehicle of the future? When did I say that? In your review of The Van you state that the van will be, and I quote, "humanities principal tool for propagating itself in the apocalyptic future of tomorrow." Yeah, but the van in The Van is covered in decals; it's like a freaking peacock. The van in The Candy Snatchers, on the other hand, is drab and dull looking. In other words, the perfect vehicle to help foster humanities destruction.
Seriously, if you saw the van from this movie driving around your neighbourhood, you would call the police immediately. You can tell just by the way it menacingly rolls down the street that whoever is inside is up to no good.
The van in question, for those interested, is a blue and white Ford Econoline Super Van, and inside are three wannabe kidnappers wearing Groucho glasses. Actually, since the glasses lacked bushy eyebrows and had no mustache whatsoever, I would classify their disguises as "Groucho-esque." Okay, now that I've cleared that up. The wannabe kidnappers are: Jessie (Tiffany Bolling), Alan (Brad David) and Eddy (Vince Martorano). And their prey is Candy (Susan Sennett), a teen who attends, judging by her uniform, Catholic school. You could say Candy was just asking to be kidnapped if you factored in her willy-nilly approach to hitchhiking. But again, you have got to remember, this film takes place in 1973. Meaning, everyone hitched rides back then; even cute blondes in Catholic schoolgirl uniforms.
Nevertheless, Candy's devil may care attitude when it comes to thumbing rides leads her to be forced to lie face down in a mysterious van, as the wannabe kidnappers can finally drop the "wannabe" from their unofficial title, as they are now fully-fledged kidnappers. Of course, whether or not their so-called "perfect crime" turns out to be a success or not is another story.
Basking in the murky glow of their dastardly deed, Jessie, Alan and Eddy take Candy, who is bound and blindfolded, to their secret hideout overlooking some rundown part of Los Angeles. According to Jessie, she got the idea to bury Candy in a makeshift grave (complete with a breathing pipe) from watching television. While the plan seems foolproof, I doubt they any of them knew Sean (Christopher Trueblood), the extremely blonde autistic kid who lives at the bottom of the hill, was five steps ahead of them.
As with most kidnapping plots, this one involves money, or more specially, diamonds. Even though Candy's father doesn't own the diamonds the kidnappers desperately want to get their hands on, Avery Phillips (Ben Piazza) does have access to them.
Instructed to drop the diamonds off in the trunk of an abandoned car or else they will kill his daughter, Avery mulls over his options. Now, you wouldn't think they're would be any options to mull over in a situation like this. But nothing about The Candy Snatchers is straightforward. That's right, it turns out the "perfect crime" isn't so perfect.
If you're wondering why Sean hasn't told his alluring mother, Audry (Bonnie Boland), or his dad, Dudly (Jerry Butts), about the girl languishing in the makeshift grave at the top of the hill overlooking their house, it's because he can't talk. Sure, he tries several times to drag his father in the direction of Candy, but Dudly's got more important things on his mind.
You probably noticed, given your world famous habit of noticing stuff, that I called Audry, Sean's mother, "alluring." No doubt, many an eyebrow was raised and a shitload of heads were scratched the moment I placed that particular adjective next to Audry's name. At first, I thought she was just your average stressed out mother. But as the film slowly progresses, we soon find out that Audry has a bit of a dark side. Frustrated over the fact that her son is autistic, Audry is very strict with Sean. Hell, some might say she's downright abusive (she feeds him downers like they were candy). Horrible parenting skills aside, that still doesn't change the fact that Bonnie Boland is the most attractive actress in the movie. While that might sound like first-class kooky talk, you shouldn't pass judgment until you have seen Bonnie in pink hair rollers. Rawr!
As expected, the plan A goes awry when Avery fails to show up at the drop point. Figuring that Avery wasn't properly convinced that they're serious about killing Candy, plan B involves cutting Candy's ear off and sending it to her father. Altering the plan ever so slightly, Jessie and Alan head down to the hospital to procure an ear, while Eddy bonds with Candy, who has obviously been removed from the hole. The so-called ear shopping scene is darkly humourous (none of the early ears shown to them match Candy's ears) and features an excellent monologue about the perks of hanging around dead people all the day long by Bill Woodard, who plays Charles, Jessie's go-to "ear guy." It should go without saying, but when you need a severed human ear, and you need one fast, Charles is the man.
Speaking of "the man," when Eddy says something to the affect of, "I ain't working for the man," immediately after the prospect of getting real jobs is brought up after plan A fails, I was taken aback. Call me an artless pratt, but I thought "the man" was something people only said when they were trying to emulate 1970s speak. I had no idea "the man" actually existed back then.
Wonderfully acted, boasting first-rate 1970s-style music cues, featuring many twists and turns, including one doozy of an ending, The Candy Snatchers is a forgotten gem that definitely deserves to be as popular, or at least as well-known, as its exploitation cousins. I was thinking that maybe the rape scenes or the lack of any likable characters were causing it to remain the obscure oddity that is currently is today. But then it dawned on me, that pretty much describes every film from the 1970s; too much rape, not enough likable characters. No, I don't see any reason why this film shouldn't be listed alongside all the other trashy sleaze from the drive-in era.
video uploaded by LadyStalker