Color, 1978, 85m.
Directed by Gail Palmer
Starring Carol Connors, John Holmes, Cris Cassidy, Turk Lyon, Don Fernando, Paul Thomas, Amanda Blake, Eddy Cannon

Color, 1979, 85m.
Directed by Gail Palmer
Starring Carol Connors, John Leslie, Desiree Cousteau, Richard Pacheco, Rhonda Jo Petty, Wendy O. Williams, Turk Lyon, Sharon Kane
Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Erotic Adventures of Candy

Back in 1958, novelist and brilliant satirist Terry Southern and co-writer Mason Hoffenberg scandalized Erotic Adventures of CandyEurope with a little book called Candy, an episodic and (for the time) sexually explicit chronicle of a high schooler's misadventures with a number of older men in various professions. More or less inspired by Voltaire's Candide, it became a pop culture sensation and inspired a particularly nutty 1968 all-star film adaptation (with Marlon Brando, James Coburn, Walter Matthau, Richard Burton, etc.). That version didn't exactly set the box office on fire, but the film has aged well as a sort of hallucinatory time capsule and earned a notable cult following.

Flash forward to 1978 at the height of porno chic in theaters around the world, when the time was evidently ripe for another go that more accurately depicts Candy and her frequently sought-after "honey pot." The result was Erotic Adventures of Candy, which only credits Voltaire as the source but blatantly pulls from the novel at almost every turn as it tells the tale of young, blonde Candy Christian (Connors), who likes to cuddle up with her teddy bear while enjoying sexual fantasies about her Mexican gardener, Manuel (Fernando). When her father (Cannon) catches her acting it out for real in her bedroom and tips over from a coronary, she finds herself entangled with an odd assortment of characters including lascivious Aunt Kraven (Spelvin), two separate randy doctors (Lyon and Leslie), and a California mystic named Graham Hollander (Thomas) who presides over a pansexual commune. If you've read the book, you can guess how it all ends. Erotic Adventures of Candy

Though not the most sophisticated entry from the golden age of adult films, this one's a funny little diversion with a winningly game performance by Connors and a parade of familiar faces (and other body parts) popping up throughout its speedy running time. Lyon and Thomas make for the best foils for Connors, while the omnipresent John Holmes pops up for a scene to show off his single talent. The film was highly Erotic Adventures of Candytouted as the work of Gail Palmer, whose only previous directorial credit was Hot Summer in the City; she gets huge billing on the title card and even hosts the theatrical trailer, speaking in a halting monotone that caused many to immediately question whether Palmer was a fabricated front for other people entirely. Later evidence seemed to bear that out as others came forward with claims of ghost writing and anonymous directing to keep up the charade supposedly engineered by her boyfriend (and temporary husband), porn and strip club maven Harry Mohney. Whatever the truth may be, it was a fascinating idea in '78 to promote a real female as an auteur in the industry when most credited women directors were complete pseudonyms.

A sequel was already in the works when that film hit theaters, and less than a year later Ms. Palmer was back with a superior sequel, Candy Goes to Hollywood. Freed from the constraints of a well-known novel, this is a much looser, more freewheeling snapshot of SoCal pop culture at the end of the decade with our naive but cheerful heroine (Connors again) heading off to make it big in Hollywood. There she falls in with a shady talent agent, Johnny Dooropener (Leslie again), who gets her some into some perverse Tinseltown gigs. The most elaborate and well-known of these is a colorful parody of The Gong Show with a wigged Richard Pacheco as "Chuck Bareass," an Unknown Comic imitator, and none other than Erotic Adventures of Candylate Plasmatics lead singer Wendy O. Williams doing a naughty stage act with ping pong balls. Of course, it wouldn't be a late '70s adult flick without a huge orgy scene at the end, featuring an eye-catching turn by beloved Farrah Fawcett lookalike Rhonda Jo Petty.

Connors's performance is stronger here as she gets to play a bit more than just a sex object, delivering more enthusiasm in her carnal encounters and clearly getting a kick out of being the center of a cinematic free-for-all. Lyon makes a welcome return here, too, and the game show segment also features an appearance by Jack Birch (fleetingly seen as an extra in the first film), who debuted with Connors in Deep Throat. The married Connors and Birch would leave the industry by 1982 to raise their daughter, American Beauty actress Thora Birch, with widely reported stage Erotic Adventures of Candydad antics later affecting her career. In any case, there's no question Connors had quite a bit of screen presence and could've been a bigger star had she stuck around longer, and this double feature still shows her off to her best advantage.

Both films were the maiden theatrical releases for Caribbean Films, who stuck around for a few more years with their most significant release easily being Stephen Sayadian's Nightdreams. They became VHS and DVD mainstays from VCX, though the transfers looked very dated by the time the '90s came around. The 2014 Vinegar Syndrome double feature is a colossal improvement, not surprisingly, with fresh 2K scans looking amazingly colorful and fresh throughout. The wild, candy-colored atmosphere here really comes across like never before, with the second film in particular looking eye-popping at times. A great job all around, and the mono audio tracks sound fine for what they are. The sole extras are the theatrical trailers for both films, with Palmer hosting either on camera or via voiceover. We'll never see a pair like this again on the big screen, but at least they're preserved here for future generations to gawk and enjoy.

Reviewed on July 2, 2014.