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CANDY (1968).

This extravagant, scattershot satire is an utterly unique product of the counterculture '60s, as funnelled through the studio system and a bunch of obviously-dosed filmmakers. It's a trippy, yet often frustratingly naive string of vignettes, and the best (if not only) way to approach this mystical throwback is to put aside the 'story' and just enjoy the slumming starpower on display -- one of the most eclectic casts to grace any motion picture that decade. There's a pile of solid credits behind the camera too. Based on Terry Southern's novel and scripted by Buck Henry, with photography by Giuseppe Rotunno (Fellini's SATYRICON), a title song by The Byrds, and special effects by Douglas Trumbell which kick off this miasma and introduce us to Candy Christian (Ewa Aulin), a doe-eyed schoolgirl on a comic adventure into her own sexuality. Sounds risque? Not as much as it could've been, considering the taboo-shattering time period. Candy is thoroughly innocent and though Ewa is certainly beautiful, her acting consists of confused gazes at her libido-driven co-stars or bouncing about in micro-skirts. And when she tells a Fellini-esque director "But I don't know anything about acting," you certainly believe her... Her first encounter is with Richard Burton, who reaches deep into the recesses of his acting well-spring to play a lecherous Welsh alcoholic (ooh, there's a stretch for the guy!). As a pretentious poet named MacPhisto, Burton is hilariously pompous with an ever-present wind machine dramatically blowing his hair and scarf, and it's the only time you'll see an actor of his caliber blubbering on the floor, face-down in a puddle of whiskey (though this might've been a favorite off-screen pastime by the time he was staggering through crap like THE KLANSMAN). Ringo Starr then pops in, brilliantly type-cast as a Mexican gardener with the worst accent since the Frito Bandito. He's followed by Walter Matthau as a gung ho army chief (reminiscent of Southern's Jack D. Ripper character from DR. STRANGELOVE). Let's not forget James Coburn as an eccentric brain surgeon, John Huston as the hospital administrator and John Astin as twin brothers (Candy's dad and uncle). By the time she finds herself having sex with a hunchbacked thief while inside a grand piano as pillow feathers fill the air -- well -- it's become downright unfathomable. Director Christian Marquand comes up with some far out and groovy images, but he's utterly lost at the same time (hence his spectacular non-ending). Then again, how can you not guiltily enjoy any film sporting the image of Marlon Brando as a nutball Indian guru living in a moving tractor trailer? With flowing locks and a wardrobe swiped from Gandhi's closet, Marlon tosses Method Acting to the wind -- mugging for the camera as he teaches Candy spiritual values (merely as an excuse to play Hide the Salami with her). And if the point wasn't already pounded into our skulls like a railroad spike, here it is: Everyone is out for Themselves! (A valid point, but not a very original one)... This indulgent all-star muddle oozes with curiosity value, and I think CANDY is more welcome today than when first released, simply because it's more of an anathema than ever to modern, brainwave-flattened filmgoers. Down deep it's a mess, but a wonderfully indulgant mess, and I love it.

© 1991 by Steven Puchalski.