Candy (1968)

“I don’t understand! What does it all mean?”

Synopsis:
A vapid, sexually alluring teen (Ewa Aulin) encounters lustful older men — including her father (John Astin), his twin brother (Astin), a poet (Richard Burton), a gardener (Ringo Starr), a hunch-backed juggler (Charles Aznavour), a renowned surgeon (James Coburn), a general (Walter Matthau), and a guru (Marlon Brando) — everywhere she goes.

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Review:
Based on the best-selling 1958 novel by Terry Southern (which itself was loosely inspired by Voltaire’s Candide), this infamously awful camp classic is (as summed up by DVD Savant) simply “a pack of stale sex jokes enlivened here and there by spirited performances”. It’s difficult to know exactly what all the big name actors who committed to this project thought they were getting into — but fortunately for film fanatics, there’s actually quite a bit to enjoy in their cameo spots. Burton, for instance, is deliciously bombastic as a poet with perpetually wind-swept hair, while Matthau riffs nicely on his crusty screen persona, and Brando has great fun (too much fun??) playing a lecherous guru living out of the back of a truck. Aulin herself is convincingly vacant as the sexy object of all men’s desires — and if she’s no great actress, she’s at least appropriately cast for the part. Yet you’ll likely find your patience sorely tested as you question the ultimate point of Candy’s sexual wanderings, given that she doesn’t seem to be particularly turned on by any of these men. Indeed, if you take it all too seriously, it’s easy to be deeply offended by the very premise of a sexually available, under-age naif allowing herself to be seduced by nearly every male she comes across — and the incessant faux humping (this is a satire on pornography, after all) quickly becomes tiresome. Watch this one, if you dare, simply for its value as a curio.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Richard Burton as McPhisto
  • Walter Matthau as General Smight
  • James Coburn as Dr. Krankheit
  • Marlon Brando as Grindl

Must See?
Yes, but only for its notoriety as a campy clunker. Listed as a Camp Classic in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Candy (1968)”

  1. A once-must as a camp classic – but, once seen, chances are you’ll never want to see it again. I saw it once years ago, and it wasn’t much fun going back to it now.

    I’m almost in complete agreement here. ‘Clunker’ is a good word for this mess.

    Yet, is it a complete mess? Well, no, it’s more or less competently directed (by French actor Christian Marquand) and filmed – at least, for what it is. But it does, overall, become tiresome. One would expect a whole lot more from screenwriter Buck Henry – who had just given us a marvelous script for ‘The Graduate’. I found myself wondering (cause the mind really can wander off during this one) if the film would be better if it were funnier. It does have the occasional witty line but the bulk of the humor is sophomoric – and, given the film’s premise, it pretty much has to be, I suppose. As a result, the whole thing comes off…half-hearted, shall we say?

    And that’s too bad when you consider the performances by Brando (esp.), Burton, Matthau, and even John Huston. (I’m much less taken with Coburn here, except when he and Huston start insulting each other in one fun exchange.) These four guys really do get into the spirit of the thing and find ways to be playful with the script. (I like Burton’s reference to reciting for “a fierce but poetry-loving tribe”.) It’s also a shame that more is not done with Ringo Starr as “good boy” Emmanuel; he’s cute. A short string of alluring female co-stars also breeze through with not nearly enough to do.

    Yes, Aulin is ‘perfect’. All she really has to do is exude gorgeous and naive charm and she does ok with that.

    I have a theory that ‘Candy’ is somehow about a young woman’s slow realization (during a period of denial) that most men in positions of authority are puffed-up pervs – like her lustful father. Of course, little is helped by the fact that she’s pretty much a willing sex-magnet (or so it seems).

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