Notes from a Video Store Burnout

An enlightened trip down the New Release aisle

In this 1968 adaptation of Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg’s scandalous satiric novel of the 1960s, Candy, America’s puritanical social mores and narrow sexual fixations are never in danger of being skewered–the film’s mind-boggling cast of acting talents are too busy skewering each other. Which is enough in itself to make French actor-turned-director Christian Marquand’s lascivious little head trip worth a sniggering look — if you’re into that sort of thing. Charles Aznavour, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, James Coburn, John Huston, Walter Matthau, Ringo Starr, John Astin, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Buck Henry (who also wrote the script) make complete asses of themselves in this hodgepodge story of an innocent, nubile blonde (Swedish beauty queen Ewa Aulin) thrust into a world of hedonism and arrested development while ostensibly on a journey of erotic discovery. Burton is up first. His McPhisto is a dandyish poet who visits Candy’s midwestern high school and ends up party to the film’s most inventive visual gag and cruelest in-joke. Wherever he goes, Burton’s hair is tousled by a mystic wind–until he seduces Candy into his glass-bottomed limousine. After much backseat fumbling, their ride ends with Marquand’s camera shooting up through the glass as Burton laps booze off the floor. In not-so-short order, as fate buffets Candy from one hungry suitor to the next, Matthau appears as a sex-starved cold warrior, Coburn shows up as a demented New York quack, Aznavour climbs the walls as a hunchbacked art thief, and Brando does a turn as a fake Indian guru who helps Candy find her “center of all breath.” By the end of the film’s two-hour running time it’s apparent Aulin could use the help, given her blank, breathy delivery of every line of dialogue. Though Marquand made a sex comedy that isn’t very sexy, nor especially funny, he and his cast deserve credit for portraying American masculinity as the quivering ball of infantile obsessions that it is. Bookended by stoned-out shots of outer space and swimming in groovy color, Candy–available for the first time on VHS and DVD–falls short of essential ’60s á go-go cinema (it doesn’t have any split screens) but qualifies as a wildly bizarre and overblown side trip.

Also released this week:

VHS: The Day the Silence Died.

VHS/DVD: Bamboozled; Billy Elliott; Fiona; The Gospel According to Phillip K. Dick; Jerome; Ladies’ Man; Love, Honor & Obey; The Proposal; Ratas, Ratones, Rateros; Space Cowboys; Undesirable; What’s Cooking?; Xchange.

DVD: Coneheads, Hamlet, Ghost, Love Story, Playing Mona Lisa, Stuart Saves His Family, Summer Rental.

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