Candy Snatchers (1980)
Directed by Guerdon Trueblood

Starring Ben Piazza Bonnie Boland Tiffany Bolling Vince Martorano

A long-lost gem, "The Candy Snatchers" has the look and feel of an episode of "Starsky and Hutch," and a storyline more akin to Wes Craven's "Last House on the Left." Clearly influenced by "Last House," it doesn't reach the levels of depravity that Craven horrifically depicted. "Candy Snatchers" barely qualifies as a horror film. If it weren't for its Last House-esque advertising campaign, in fact, it may never have been remembered as anything qualifying as a fear film.

But it certainly isn't a police drama either. Perhaps it is best defined as a sadistic "noir" film, although it's even too strange for that.

With the opening title song "Money is the Root of All Happiness," we meet the film's title characters -- three criminals (one of whom is played by the gorgeous Bolling) who are about to snatch Candy, a 16-year-old heiress (played by 30-something Susan Senett). The plan is to ransom her for money from her rich Dad. Wearning Groucho Marx glasses as disguises, they pull her into their van and bury in the hills above Los Angeles, with nothing but a tube to provide her with oxygen. A mute child witnesses the crime.

In the events that follow, the storyline of "Candy" is anything but traditional, even by early 1970s standards. What's interesting is how producer Bryan Gindoff's script is so unconventional, but director Trueblood's style is so rudimentary for the time. The film literally looks like an episode of "Starksy and Hutch," with wah-wah guitar music and a comfortable 1970s feel many of us who grew up watching television in that era can remember well. Unlike "Last House" or "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," which both hit you over the head with their low budgets and documentary-style feel, "Candy" feels like it was made for television, until the torture starts.

Although the sadism that Candy's captors inflict her with has been exaggerated somewhat (again, it's nothing a viewer of "Last House" couldn't easily stomach), it still demonstrates a viciousness that could only have come out of the cinema of the 1970s. The end of the film is especially nihilistic and interesting.

Not a classic, but an unjustly forgotten oldie from the golden age of violent exploitation, "The Candy Snatchers" never saw an official video or DVD release, but remains popular on the underground market. Look for it at conventions and the like.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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