Monday, August 08, 2016


DVD production company Vinegar Syndrome seems to be trying to pick up the market that Something Weird Video cultivated over the past fifteen years or so. And that is a good thing! Their desire to restore and release as many independently produced exploitation films as possible is both laudable and impressive. I count myself as a cult film fan but a look at their list of titles leaves me scratching my head in wonderment as I have never heard of most of the movies they are dealing to the public. My few dips into the VS catalog have been interesting sleazy fun but I was caught off guard by this disc. 

The Candidate (1964) (also known as Party Girls For The Candidate) was pitched to me as a sexploitation film staring Ted Knight and my mind rejected that description sight unseen. There can be no such film, said logic and reason. Surely the planet would rip asunder if movie existed, said sanity. Ted Knight of The Mary Tyler Moore show engaged in sexual shenanigans? This cannot be true. And in the end this thought process was proven right enough for me to retain my intellect after screening the film.

Now, there are sexploitation elements in the film as you might expect with any film that top lines sex kitten Mamie Van Doren, but those are the least interesting parts. Of the film, I mean! She plays Samantha, a hard working modern woman who, because of a chance encounter with Senatorial candidate Frank Carlton (Ted Knight), is offered a job by conniving campaign runner Eric (Buddy Parker) aiming to work for the prospective senator. She agrees and we are then shown the complicated way various relationships shape the campaign and how it all falls apart. In a strange choice the story is related as a series of flashbacks as the main characters are grilled in front of a Congressional hearing which causes the film to feel like a mild and overly solemn courtroom drama.

 It can be pretty entertaining to watch Eric procure ladies for the Washington elite but the film bogs down once the shape of the downfall of Knight's character comes into focus. Parker plays the ruthless Eric as a cynical bastard and he isn't bad in the role but its Knight that is actually impressive. As his character meets and falls in love with Angela (June Wilkinson) we see this shy man come alive and have to face that the woman he cares for will destroy his hoped for career. Knight is exceptional in the role investing great care in showing very nuanced emotions as he struggles with his options. In the scenes with his character the film is solid and the courtroom sequences are very well scripted but the rest of the movie- the sexploitation parts- are dry as dust. This is the movie's problem- it has half of a good movie but it has been shackled to a silly lingerie show with Miss Van Doren. In the end The Candidate isn't a bad movie but it isn't very good either which is a shame. 

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