Directed by Christian Marquand
Starring Ewa Aulin, Marlon Brando, John Astin, Richard Burton, James Coburn, John Huston, Walter Matthau, Ringo Starr, Charles Aznavour, Elsa Martinelli, Sugar Ray Robinson, Anita Pallenberg, Enrico Maria Salerno, Florinda Bolkan, Marilu Tolo, Umberto Orsini
Kino Lorber (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Anchor Bay / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
In its day, Candy was the most scandalous novel by the satirist Terry Southern, best known for writing Barbarella, The Magic Christian, and Easy Rider. His story, sort of an updating of Voltaire's Candide for the flower power generation, followed a naive waif through a series of erotic and perverse misadventures, though Southern himself was unable to come up with a finale and turned to Mason Hoffenberg to supply the final demented pages. The book wound up being banned and censored all over the globe, so it was only natural for someone to turn it into a movie. In 1969, Candy opened and revealed a crafty way of getting around the controversial subject matter. The Italian/French/American co-production, packed with famous stars, turned the meandering storyline into a trippy, candy colored comedy with sci-fi and fantastic overtones, complete with a mindblowing cosmic finale. There really hasn't been another movie quite like it, and for those who can handle cinematic head trips laced with chuckles and gorgeous visuals, this Candy is dandy indeed.
Young high school student Candy Christian (Death Smiles on a Murderer's Aulin), who may be a visitor from outer space, lives a quiet suburban existence with her history teacher father (Astin). One day the school is sent amok by the arrival of guest speaker McPhisto (Burton), a drunk Welsh poet (what else?) who takes Candy for a ride in his limousine. Their encounter back at Candy's house turns into debauchery, with McPhisto drooling over a mannequin while Candy is ravaged on a pool table by Manuel (Ringo Starr), the family gardener. Since Manuel was saving his chastity for the priesthood, his entire family pursues Candy and her father to the airport, where they catch a ride with military zealot General Smight (Matthau). Again things turn calamitous, leaving Candy and her now comatose father plunging from the plane. At the hospital, Mr. Christian becomes the patient of the celebrated Dr. Krankheit (James Coburn), who vies for Candy's attentions and engages in shouting matches with the hospital administrator (Huston). With her father now in a coma, Candy tears off into the city streets where she encounters a bizarre assortment of characters, including a gravity-defying hunchback (Aznavour), a fanatical underground film director (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage's Salerno), and a lecherous Indian guru (Brando) who services her across the country in a moving truck.
Obviously a plot summary can't capture the dizzy, psychedelic charm of Candy, which will please '60s film lovers for its once in a lifetime cast. However, fans of European cult films will also be delighted with the colorful supporting characters, including Blood and Roses' Elsa Martinelli as Candy's aunt, Florinda Bolkan (Don't Torture a Duckling, Flavia the Heretic) and Marilu Tolo (Bluebeard) as Manuel's sisters, and a dubbed Anita Pallenberg (Barbarella's Black Queen) as a psychotic nurse. The "out of this world" opening and closing sequences were designed by Douglas Trumbull, who had just completed 2001, and then there's the catchy, outrageous soundtrack, one of the decade's best. Candy was withheld from home video for decades because of music rights, but now you can hear it all: Dave Grusin's groovy instrumentals, songs by Steppenwolf including "Magic Carpet Ride," and best of all, The Byrds' sweeping closing credits song, "Child of the Universe," which turned up later in stripped down form on their Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde album in 1972. Incidentally, director Christian Marquand is better known as an actor in such spicy fare as Roger Vadim's And God Created Woman and the trashiest movie soap ever, The Other Side of Midnight.
Though the packaging doesn't mention it, Anchor Bay's DVD in 2001 marked not only the first U.S. video release of Candy but the first American availability ever of the uncut European version. Tranferred directly from the original negative in Italy, the film looks terrific and boasts an extra six minutes of footage, previously only available on bootleg videotape. Among the highlights are more pandemonium at the hospital, including much more footage with Pallenberg, and a sequence in which Candy is accosted at a bar by some gangsters. The mono audio sounds quite good; try playing it through your front speakers for the full room-shaking effect.
While the movie alone would be enough to justify this disc, there are a few nice extras worth noting. The long theatrical trailer is a beautifully edited piece of work, concluding with Ringo's memorable "Viva Zapata!," and the disc also contains some amusing radio spots ("the sweetest movie this side of Psychopathia Sexualis!"), talent bios, and a still gallery featuring many behind-the-scenes shots of Aulin relaxing with various cast members. The subsequent Blu-ray and DVD edition from Kino Lorber in 2016 brought the film back into circulation, carrying over the trailer and radio spots while adding welcome new interviews with Henry and film historian Kim Morgan. Unfortunately the transfer, while highly detailed and more tactile than the older DVD one, has had its color scheme vandalized with a heavy, really ugly teal hue slathered all over the film, completely wiping out the signature colors of white, pink, and gold that define this film's intended look.