The Candy Snatchers
The Candy Snatchers (1973) is sleazy, brutal, lurid, nihilistic, and lacking in any kind of production value -- and it's considered in some circles to be a cult classic. In this tale, three amateurish kidnappers decide to abduct a sixteen-year-old girl named Candy, bury her alive in a grave supplied with an air pipe, and demand a ransom from her stepfather, who runs a jewelry store. The stepfather, however, happens to have a good financial reason for not caring if the girl dies. And a small mute boy, meanwhile, who has witnessed the kidnapping and other sordid acts, seems to hold the key to setting Candy free, if he can manage to communicate his knowledge to an adult -- and not make things worse by playfully dropping snacks down the air pipe or covering it up.

The movie was unofficially inspired by the real-life 1968 kidnapping of Emory University student Barbara Jane Mackle, a case that drew national attention. Mackle survived her ordeal and wrote a book about it that became the basis for two official TV movies, The Longest Night (1972) and 83 Hours 'Til Dawn (1990). But Candy Snatchers writer Bryan Gindoff and director Guerdon Trueblood took the premise of the incident and turned it into their own uniquely twisted work. In fact, for all the rough production values, dated score, funny hairstyles and the like, the film has drawn high praise from many critics and fans for its clever, twisty plot that goes to highly disturbing places.

Produced independently, the movie was distributed by General Film Corporation, whose owner, Arthur Marks, was a prolific and influential producer and director of '70s exploitation cinema, including the cult blaxploitation films Detroit 9000 (1973) and Friday Foster (1975). The Candy Snatchers was released in Miami and a few other locations in 1973. Not until Nov. 1, 1974 was it reviewed in the Los Angeles Times, which called it "a low-budget exploitation picture that strives hard -- too hard, really -- for significance rather than sensationalism while steadily building suspense."

Guerdon Trueblood never directed another feature film but he did amass a writing career including credits on many series and movies for television, such as The Streets of San Francisco (1972-76), The Savage Bees (1976), and Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo (1977). He also received story credit on Jaws 3-D (1983).

Actress Susan Sennett, who plays Candy, had a handful of other minor credits before marrying the singer Graham Nash. Also in the cast are real-life husband and wife actors Ben Piazza and Dolores Dorn, who had long careers in movies and television (and theater). Fans may recognize Dorn from the Sam Fuller classic Underworld, USA (1961), in which she played a character named "Cuddles."

One of the kidnappers is played by Tiffany Bolling, a former Playboy model who made several other B movies of the time and has acted in television, including the well-regarded series The New People (1969-70), produced by Aaron Spelling and a likely influence on Lost (2004). Interviewed in the 1990s by Kris Gilpin on the Temple of Schlock website, Bolling said she hated The Candy Snatchers ("the worst film in the history of the world") and only did it because she needed the money and didn't at the time possess the judgment not to do it. "I was doing cocaine," she said, "and I didn't really know what I was doing, and I was very angry about the way that my career had gone in the industry,...the opportunities that I had and had not been given.... The hardest thing for me, as I look back on it, was I had done a television series..., The New People, and so I had a lot of young people who really respected me and...revered me as something of a hero, and then I came out with this stupid Candy Snatchers movie... It was a horrendous experience."

Others feel very differently about this film, which has achieved cult status and remains a real window into its era. But it's very much an old basement window covered in cobwebs and grime.

By Jeremy Arnold