Candy (1969)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Charles Aznavour, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, James Coburn, Walter Matthau
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Radio Spots, Still Gallery, Biographies

Hey, remember that movie that starred Marlon Brando as a guru who lives in the bed of a 18-wheeler, Richard Burton as a drunken poet, Walter Matthau as a general, and Ringo Starr as a Mexican gardener? Me either. But these unlikely teammates were gathered together for the absurd tale of an innocent girl on a journey of sexual discovery in ’Candy.’ Throw in James Coburn, John Huston, John Astin, and Sugar Ray Robinson and you’ve got one of the more interesting casts of a movie I’ve absolutely never ever heard of.

Based on the book by Terry Southern (who co-wrote the ’Dr. Strangelove’ script) and Mason Hoffenberg, ’Candy’ is apparently a satirical play on Voltaire’s classic ’Candide,’ though any referential jokes are beyond me because I am an illiterate fool. But anyway, Candy is the high school girl that every man twice her age lustfully wants and every woman hates. Of course, all Candy really wants to do is help those with problems. In other words, she’s about as sharp as bread. The film begins in the star clusters of space, cuts to a shot of Candy kneeling in the middle of the desert, then cuts to her sitting in a social studies class taught by her father (John Astin, the guy from the Addam’s family TV show) and constant repressor of incestual desire. The normal school day is interrupted by a visit from famed poet McPhisto (Richard Burton), a man whose hair blows in the wind even in doors. After his lecture, which has other girls swooning, he specifically invites Candy to his limo and offers her a ride home. He has a couple drinks, recites a few of his poems, and then expresses his ’great, huge need’ to Candy on the glass floor the limousine. After getting his trousers wet, Candy takes him inside her house to help clean and sober him up. But she can’t do this all by herself, so she calls on the help of the family’s loyal gardener, Emmanuel (Ringo Starr. Yes, that Ringo Starr). Emmanuel, the good boy, is timid about helping out a drunken poet and the ever-tempting Candy, and sooner than later he finds himself forcing her on top of the pool table and out of her clothes. And so it goes…

This should give you some kind of idea about the absurdist nature of the film. Candy lands herself in all kinds of compromising positions on her way to New York, meeting about every kind of man you can imagine and all with the same desire to have their way with her. Will Candy lose her innocence and gain some knowledge about the male libido? Or will she actually find someone she can trust? Or worse, will she realize that her two brain cells are very, very tired and just give up altogether?

My biggest problem with the film is that the jokes are a bit too off the wall to really generate any true laughs. Sure, the situations are kooky, but that doesn’t mean the individual scenes are actually funny. The main joy in this film, which should come as no surprise, is the cast. My personal favorite was Burton as the tragically self-destructive poet who nonetheless revels in the glow of fame, even if it is on the stage of a high school gym. He reminded of Bill Murray for some reason, and that’s never a bad thing in my book. Brando was kind of interesting as the longhaired guru, who does his best to lead Candy towards ’enlightenment.’ James Coburn plays a famous surgeon who has a cult of women with his initials tattooed on them at his disposal, and is a hoot to watch because his character takes himself so extremely serious. John Astin was also very good as the father, as well as Candy’s Uncle, in two roles that share the same screen in a pretty good job of camera trickery. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed with Walter Matthau in this movie, even though he got the biggest laugh from me when his pride in the ridiculous routine his troops perform to perfection brings him to tears. It was when he started expressing his desire to see Candy naked and then have her bear him a child that had me wincing. If your image of Matthau is that of the lovable old schmuck next door to Jack Lemmon, then don’t watch him in this movie for that image may be tainted forever!

Anchor Bay has brought to the table a pretty decent 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer of ’Candy.’ Colors are bright and do not bleed and detail is pretty sharp for a film this old. There is quite a bit of noticeable grain, however, particularly in the night scenes but there are very few blemishes, scratches, or dirt specks on the print. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital mono and sounds better than you might expect. Most of the sound is limited to dialogue, which is clean and clear, but the soundtrack, featuring songs from The Byrds and Steppenwolf, sounds full without distorting. Special Features are limited to an appropriately insane trailer, two interesting radio spots (one thirty seconds, the other sixty), a medium-sized still gallery and bios for some of the cast and crew.

A product of the sixties, there are no drugs taken on screen in ’Candy’ but there’s no doubt there were a few passed around behind the camera. If you like wackiness or just have a general curiosity about bad films made by good actors, then you may very well want to have your own piece of ’Candy.’