Candy (1968)

Rating: *
Review Date: 5/10/20
Cast: Ewa Aulin, John Astin, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, James Coburn, Walter Matthau, John Huston, Ringo Starr

"Hey, George! You can't bring a frozen guru into California!"

A psychedelic chapter in madness and lust taken from the theater of the absurd. "Candy" is the film adaptation of a notorious pornographic novel from 1958 with the same name, featuring the titular Candy Christian (Ewa Aulin) as a hapless and naïve high school girl (seemingly from outer space) who gets caught in a series of farcical sexual encounters. Or more bluntly, gets raped by every man she meets. These include a lustful poet (Richard Burton), a Mexican gardener (Ringo Starr), Candy's lewd uncle (John Astin), an insane surgeon (James Coburn), a psychotic general (Walter Matthau), a sham guru (Marlon Brando), a pretentious filmmaker, and a criminal hunchback. The film is constructed as a series of loosely related vignettes, and comes across as a pointless and disjointed mess of cinematic lunacy and depravity. It reminded me a lot of "Casino Royale" (1967) in this regard.

The trailer for the film is actually quite funny, which is why I decided to check it out. The actors look like they're having a great time hamming it up to the extreme, and Swedish beauty Ewa Aulin is simply stunning. She is exceptionally sexy and has a youthful, innocent, and other-worldly quality about her. She's also obviously dubbed, and while I generally find the whole "dumb blonde" approach offensive, it actually works in this case because Candy's character is just as confused and helpless as the audience is. She also has a heart of gold, and only gets into these ridiculous situations as a result of genuinely trying to help people. So, that's an interesting moral lesson.

While the absurd and dirty humor works on a certain level, it's quickly overshadowed by how misogynistic, mean-spirited, and rapey the film is. Candy never puts up a struggle, but she's also not a willing participant in all of the sexual shenanigans. She's like a dim-witted, emotionally detached, and/or drug-addled victim of constant abuse who doesn't care or know any better. Maybe that's part of the space alien angle? It also casts men in an extremely bad light, as lustful idiots who can't control themselves and go to ridiculous lengths of depravity to get a piece of Candy. Granted, I could probably deal with this in small doses, but the film is overly long and each set piece is needlessly drawn out to the point of tedium and discomfort. It's like a train wreck that you can't look away from, and my finger was hovering over the stop button the entire time. But you also have to consider the time period when the film came out, where this sort of mistreatment of women was considered acceptable and commonplace. Even so, I found it distasteful and difficult to watch, and it was only the ethereal allure of Ewa Aulin that kept me watching all the way to the end.