Teenage Candy (Ewa Aulin) is daydreaming in school when the teacher (John Astin), also her father, snaps her out of it. The bell rings and the students pile out of the classroom to go and listen to the dashing poet McPhisto (Richard Burton), who spots Candy in the audience. After the recital, he persuades Candy into his Mercedes where he tries to rape her, but only ends up a wreck on the floor of the car, lapping up spilt whisky. When Candy takes pity on him and invites him into her home, her adventures of self-discovery are just beginning...
Candy was a highly controversial, and very funny, novel by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg, which had been widely banned. By the time the film came out, adapted by Buck Henry, the novel was more available, and its fans saw how badly the film makers had messed up the story and blunted the satire. Consequently, the film was a disaster with the critics and at the box office, but watching it now, it looks like a curious attempt by Hollywood to grapple with the new permissiveness, and it's not without interest. Mind you, it's not without faults, either.
Candy, in these hands, became a string of overextended sketches with many star turns embarrassing themselves. Burton rolling around, acting drunk, is not a pretty sight. Walter Matthau plays a hawk-like general who is unusually attached to his men, Ringo Starr is frankly appalling as a Mexican gardener whose sisters take revenge on Candy for claiming his virginity, James Coburn is a mad doctor, a surgeon who has groupies as if he were a rock star (or a bullfighter), and Marlon Brando appears as a guru who assists Candy on her way to enlightenment. None of these actors do themselves any favours, but Charles Aznavour, as the thieving hunchback, surely comes off the worst.
As far as satire goes, the film takes the attitude that all men, no matter what their status in life, will risk everything for sex with a nubile young woman. But there's a hippy flavour to the story: it is bookended with sequences travelling through space (courtesy of Douglas Trumbull), and adds an additional scene to the climax of the book where Candy wanders through the countryside, seeing all the characters she has met on her journey. This means that any message is confused, as none of the sexual adventures add up to more than smutty jokes told at great length.
A few laughs emerge, however. Burton's pretentious poetry, and his permanent windswept look (due to a constant breeze aimed in his direction) is amusing, as is Candy's uncle plugging his radio into the back of his comatose brother's head. But none of it has the bite of the book, which was silly and subversive - the film is simply silly. And one of the most famous lines, "GIVE ME YOUR HUMP!" is absent (although that final line is there).
Some of it can be oddly unsettling viewing, such as the doctor's habit of branding his conquests, or the hunchback's insect-like acrobatics - as if watching these middle aged men leching over a teenage girl wasn't bad enough. Ewa Aulin wanders through the thing in a state of apparent bewilderment; just think how the original choice for Candy, Hayley Mills, would have looked! A curio, then, but only for connoisseurs of the strange and hardcore bad movie fans - it's a lumbering mess, really. Music by Dave Grusin, The Byrds and Steppenwolf. Incidentally, seeing that cast you can't help but think, couldn't there be a role for Peter Sellers anywhere?
French actor and director. Best known for roles in a variety of prominent European films during the 1950s and 60s, including Roger Vadim's And God Created Woman and Visconti's Senso, as well as appearing in the French plantation sequence of Apocalypse Now Redux. Directed two films, the romantic drama Les Grands Chemins and the all-star erotic satire Candy.