There was a time in the late 60s when studios just couldn’t keep up with the rapid emergence of young talent and the demand for “artistic freedom”… blame The Beatles and the growth of accelerated career paths built on the “new”.
The bread-heads never knew if they were granting funding to people with sustainable talent - so many started well only to fall at the second or third hurdle. It has ever been thus… but probably not so much as in the psychedelic years from which every gaudy miss-step stares in stoned disbelief at the phase-shifted after image of its own folly… man.
Well… not quite. Candy is a bit of a mixed bag and no amount of acting talent can completely rescue this over-wrought, over-thought, irritating and sometimes actually funny and good-looking sprawl… it’s a triple album which should have been an EP.
|Elsa Martinelli, Ewa Aulin and "Uncle" John Astin|
The film was directed by French actor Christian Marquand who had plenty of ideas but no consistent style although the cinematography is pretty good and there's no shortage of budget in evidence. His good buddy Marlon Brando played a major part in getting the film made and naturally enough appears along with the above-mentioned host of A-list Hollywood.
Maybe Marquand gave his actors too much freedom?
|Walter Matthau and Marlon Brando|
Candy begins the film as some kind of extra-terrestrial spirit which descends through space onto earth… transforming into the beautiful form of Ewa Aulin. The Swedish actress was just 19 at the time and is very good looking but, in so many ways, this works against her and the film. She’s not acting in her first language and appears to lack emotional engagement through all of the indignities she faces… which makes things so much worse.
|No guru, no method...|
This final section is well done with the various parties lounging around on a sunlit hillside covered in brightly-coloured flags… Candy ignores them all and makes her own way away from their pointless depravity. Or maybe I was just relived that the film was over?
|Richard Burton as Macphisto!|
Richard Burton rolls up as the continuously wind-blown pisshead poet, Macphisto who wows his impressionable audience before taking Candy home. He abuses her in his car – chauffeur-driven by Zero (Sugar Ray Robinson) - and is too drunk to proceed further which allows Mexican gardener Emmanuel (an excruciating turn from Ringo Starr) to grab handfuls of Candy.
|"Aw noo, thees is no good!"|
Matthau gives perhaps the best/least-worst performance and can carry the OTT satire better than the drama specialists. But the general has been starved of companionship and proceeds to maul Candy in the cockpit (see what they did there…?).
Landing in NYC, Candy’s dad has to undergo brain surgery at the hands of superstar surgeon, Dr. A.B. Krankheit (James Coburn) in front of a paying audience… this being an operating theatre and all (see what they did…?).
Coburn does his best and is aided by a vicious turn from Anita Pallenberg as his psychotic left-hand, Nurse Bullock and a creepy cameo from John Huston as Dr. Arnold Dunlap. Things go a bit dull for a while with an “after-show” party and the bad Doctor’s inevitable examination of his patient’s daughter.
|James Coburn, Anita Pallenberg, Ewa Aulin, Elsa Martinelli and chums|
|Marlon Brando is Grindl!|
There’s too much and whilst the ending is enigmatically pleasing – Candy having overcome all the low-life around her – the humiliations of the previous two hours just feel gratuitous.
From an age when simply to ask questions was enough, Candy has little in the way of actual answers. It’s too cynical and abusive to be viewed as merely a “period-piece” retro-treat although it’s drenched in the spirit of the times.
Matthau apart, the big names are mostly flapping about, Burton takes the piss out of himself well enough as does Brando but their characters have no depth and rapidly run out of steam. As pop culture Candy is pretty shallow and its ultimate point, that we should respect ourselves a little more and always seek the answers beyond societal norm is as applicable to the film as the wider world. What would Candy do if she had to sit through this film?
Dusty verdict: Just about entertaining and worth preserving so long as you don’t feel too guilty about ogling Ewa Aulin when the narrative gets tough… The poor woman never got beyond her looks in her short career - a fact that nails Candy’s vapid pretensions firmly to the floor.