Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hey, Kids! Watch Richard Burton, John Houston, Ringo Starr and Marlon Brando All Choke on the Same Piece of "Candy"!

After I finished watching the 1968 mess-terpiece "Candy", I threw up.

Some would say because I was nursing a sick family member at the time, I merely caught a "bug" from them; the movie had nothing to do with it.

I disagree. Why? Because my mom eventually got better, but I'm STILL nauseous.

"Candy" is a cheerfully "dirty" movie based on an equally cheerful "dirty" book. A "dirty" book, by the way, that EVERYBODY had to read, even people who were horrified by "dirty" books. Thus, when it was announced that Candy was headed for the silver screen, millions of fans couldn't wait to see how the heroine's pseudo-porno exploits with an endless stream of horny men (including her uncle!) were going to play out in living color.

However, once ticket buyers actually digested the finished flick, their reaction was the same as mine: bleeech!

What's wrong with "Candy"? Pretty much everything: the script, the direction, the jokes, the attempted satire and, above all, Candy herself, Ewa Aulin.

A former teenage beauty queen, Aulin had all the acting prowess of a crash test dummy cross-bred with a cast member of "Baywatch". Worse, she possessed the speaking voice of a Swedish Elmer Fudd. When Candy mumbles at one point, "I don't know much about acting", you can't help thinking to yourself, "No kidding!"

Anyway, my guess is director Christian Marquand wasn't too concerned about his leading lady's thespian deficiencies because he had corralled an impressive supporting cast to play Candy's cuddlemates: Richard Burton, Ringo Starr, Walter Mathau, James Coburn, John Huston and I KID YOU NOT Marlon Brando. Marquand must have figured that these peerless players would handle the acting chores; all Ewa had to was (in the words of Queen Victoria) lie back and think of Cinerama (who released the flick).

It didn't work.

Our story begins with the impossibly naive Candy catching the eye of pompous poet Richard Burton, who is dolled up to look like the lead singer of that awful muzack group Air Supply. He offers the besotted Candy a ride home in his limo, but it's clear Burton has more on his mind than iambic pentameter. Lucky for her, Burton is completely stewed and therefore unable to, ahem, "perform."

Never one to hold a grudge, Candy helps Burton off with his pants so she can clean him up. Completely misunderstanding both the situation and Candy's pleas for help is family gardener Emmanuel (played by Ringo Starr). He believes Candy has something more explicit in mind when she beckons him down stairs and he repeatedly insists, "Emmanuel is a good boy!" Still, he jumps on Candy like a rooster on a June bug and yells out, "Via Zapata!" when his close encounter reaches its inevitable climax.

Naturally, a scandal erupts when Candy's behavior becomes public. So daddy sends her to New York to cool off. Or he tries to. At the airport, Candy, her father and Uncle Jack (both played by John "Gomez Adams" Austin) are confronted by Emmanuel's Harley ridin', chain wielding, knife throwing sisters, who blame Candy for popping their brother's cherry. They want to rumble to the death, but end up chasing the petrified group onto a plane captained by a blowhard Walter Mathau. This super patriot no sooner locks eyes on Candy than he proposes some hand to hand combat. The problem is his commander-in-chief, um, can't stand up and salute.

No matter. "Candy" still has plenty of dirty old men cliches where that came from. Let's see: we've had the randy poet, the studly gardener, the military man firing there an all-hands doctor in the house? Sure there is! He's played by James Coburn ("In Like Flynt" himself), a rock star-type brain surgeon who would rather give Candy a spinal exam (nude, of course) than operate on her father. However, when Coburn's fanatically devoted nurse finds the couple on the floor, she chases Candy around with a nasty hypodermic needle. After she manages to ditch nurse nut-job, our clueless heroine declares, "That hospital is full of sick people!" And she's not exaggerating: Candy's Uncle Jack even tries to have sex with his niece during a wild party in her father's hospital room. In the same bed where he father lies comatose, mind you.

More problems await Candy when she stumbles into a dive and orders a Coke. It's there she meets up with an insufferable indie filmmaker (Enrico Maria Salerno), who insists on filming her in a men's room with a leaky toilet. And that is merely a prelude to clueless Candy stumbling upon hunchback Charles Aznavour in Central Park. He takes her back to his lair, where a group of hippies show up for a freak out while Charles and Candy have sex in a baby grand. The resulting commotion brings on a pair of bumbling cops and once again Candy is on the run.

But not for long. To escape the heat, Candy climbs into the back of the traveling guru-mobile of Grindi, Marlon Brando himself. The Eastern mystic promises to help Candy discover the meaning of life, but somehow all his stages to enlightenment involve having sex.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE:Younger readers of this blog might be surprised to learn that Marlon Brando had to audition for "The Godfather". Why? Because appearing in gunk like "Candy" torched his career and basically made him unemployable. Future movie stars out there: let that be a lesson to you.

Eventually, our heroine winds up in a field with all the various horn dogs who crossed her path. What's a girl to do? In Candy's case, she dissolves into the atmosphere--which is exactly what happened to Ewa Aulin's career. And the flick. Like the men on screen, once viewers got what they wanted from "Candy", they didn't bother to stick around.

There are those who would defend "Candy" as a time capsule of the '60's and in order to really understand the movie, "you had to be there".

No so.

True, I was a mere tot when all that groovy/peace/fee love business was going on, but I still know what's tacky. And "Candy" is VERY tacky. The men are all lecherous scumbags. The heroine has the brain pan of a Collie. Any attempt to satirize the conventions of porn, free love or "the Establishment"--which was the point of the original novel-- is missed. What you have left is a collection of folks reveling in their own perceived hipness, who were too busy trying to be dirty that they lost sight of everything else.

One final note. If you're going to write a dirty book, at least make it a good dirty book, like Lady Chatterley's Lover. Conversely, if you're going to make a dirty movie, at least make it a good dirty movie, like "Midnight Cowboy" or "The Sound of Music." You can have your dirty jokes and risque situations, just make sure they are funny, smart and not gross. Standards, people! Everybody needs standards. Without them, everything else just falls flat.

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