Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Black in Action: THE CANDY TANGERINE MAN (1975)

In the world of low-rent directors there are many who make you suffer for their art.

I'm not talking about guys who at one time made great films and then spiraled down into the dark abyss of cheap, joyless vampires and video effects, like Albert Pyun, Dario Argento or Alex Cox (though to his credit Cox has yet to make a vampire movie). I'm talking guys who have made insufferable films virtually without let or hindrance for the entirety of their careers, and yet we keep giving them chances. Lamberto Bava comes to mind for some reason, but on these shores it's Matt Cimber.

For over 25 years, I have self-administered controlled doses of Cimber's work in the hopes that some day I would become inoculated and I would experience something that lives up to it's concept, if not the poster art. I mean, that's not much to ask. YELLOW HAIR AND THE TEMPLE OF GOLD (1984) only had to provide a sexy female variant on the Indiana Jones formula and it would be, well, gold! No such luck. Cimber ain't havin' none of that. In that regard, he's like a blackout drunk stumbling in the dark trying to find a toilet after waking up in someone else's bed. In many movies, as an audience member sometimes you want to shout at the actors that Valentine's day isn't a good day to go to the hospital or that this part of God's Country is not the best place to spend the night, but with Cimber's films, the audience is inclined to yell at the director, pointing out the direction in which he should take the film. Just like the kids who go into the basement, things don't end well. Except...

Finally, after years of dull, listless, films that skimp on the exploitation components that would make you forgive the awful acting, flat dialogue and complete lack of production values, I finally watched THE CANDY TANGERINE MAN. I've been putting it off for decades and it's time had come. It was like a post-Christmas miracle. Cimber actually made a movie that was goo - err, well... fun!

Right off the bat, Cimber lets you know he means bidness by listing in the opening credits that he used "actual hookers and blades of the Sunset Strip." Oh, man, even Cimber can't screw that up... err, I think.

The Baron (John Daniels, of BARE KNUCKLES infamy) is the sharpest blade in the drawer, cruising Sunset Strip in his right-hand-drive, macked-out Rolls Royce, lookin' after his girls and staying one step ahead of the clumsy sting operations by the local vice. Yeeeaaaaah baby. Hard-hittin' pimp on the weeknights and a honest, loving family man on the weekends. Can you di - wait, huh? Yep, Baron rules the streets as a pimp with a heart of gold. This soft metal vascular organ is thrown front and center when Baron starts an avalanche of hell after getting a fresh Indian (or rather very obviously Asian) girl out of the hot hands of rival pimp Dusty (all of whose lines were improvised). Unfortunately for Baron, Dusty is on the payroll of mobster Vincent Di Nunzio (Mikel Angel) who ain't too happy about the deal, no matter how fairly won. Di Nunzio sends some goons after Baron, who sits in his Rolls and casually shoots their van full of holes until it blows up via the pop-out machine-guns above the headlights of his bad-ass ride! Holy crap! Did Matt Cimber just do that? Yes he did. Not only that but Baron also gets in a fight with some appropriately greasy goons and after this quick exchange:
Goon: "Nobody's workin' for you any more! Motherfucker!"
Baron: "The only mother I ever fucked, was yours."
Baron sends one of them flying through a window, in what appears to be a third story apartment building. We haven't even hit the 20 minute mark yet! This has got to be a record for Cimber.

Di Nunzio takes this like any Sicilian worth his salame and decides to utilize one of Baron's weekend absences threaten Baron's bitches. Threatening always works best when mutilation is involved and Di Nunzio has one carved up like thanksgiving turkey. Says sleazeball while grabbing an exposed breast "yeah, I'd like to cut this off and have it for breakfast!" Whoa! Dude, Milwaukee is that-a-way. Here in California we have the decency to torture and kill our victims, yet leave them uneaten, regardless of what christwire.com says. So, yes, Baron is a pimp who gets weekends off and then wonders why business isn't so good and mutherfuckas be movin' in. Maybe he ain't the crunchiest chip in the bag after all. Of course when Baron returns from his mini-vacation in suburbia to discover that one of his hoochies has been given a mastectomy, it's on like neck bone sucka!

As if Baron's one-man slaughterhouse routine weren't good enough to hold down the film, Cimber shovels on the sub-plots like he's trying to bury a body after catching his wife with the pool boy.

First off, we have his ratty burglar friend who manages to score $150K in bonds that Baron gets a banker to launder for him by having one of his girls piss on him. This leads to his book-keeper (I guess it makes sense, someone has to do the accounting) stealing the cash to take to her greedy, trashy family, who Baron has to fight off with a broom. What do you mean "broom"? He's a pimp with a heart of gold, remember? He isn't going to use any weapon on the ladies harder than a floor sweeper, not even his dick! Yep, he's such a softie that the only woman he bangs a gong with is his wife. Aaawwwwww...

Better still we have a sub-plot with wildly over-acting racist vice cops, played by George 'Buck' Flower and Richard Kennedy, who are hell bent on nailing Baron by any means possible. This includes trying to dupe him with a rookie cop in drag who gets his nuts crushed for his efforts, or trying to set him up on charges when Baron sets the "Indian" girl free to go "to a reservation" and "find an Indian or Mexican" to go live out her days with (slightly racist and patronizing, but a softie all the same). Another tatic, at least I'm going to assume it was a tactic, is their rape of the "Indian" girl who stupidly decides to come back to LA. For some reason Kennedy finds to be the funniest thing ever. Or maybe he's just laughing at Flower with his pants down.

The horrors of the 'burbs
Unlike most of Cimber's oeuvre, this sleazy sucker moves along at a good clip, delivers on the expected exploitation values and features a lead that can actually hold down the role. Cars blow up, people get thrown out of windows, others are stabbed in the throat and one has his hand shoved into a garbage disposal. Plus some of the characters are hugely entertaining, including rival pimp Dusty, who probably couldn't speak without rhyming if you held a gun to his head ("check me, I got more moves than Ali!") and after scratching in a game of nine-ball, cusses out the ball calling it a "honkey, white, motherfucker shit!". It's a good thing this wasn't the first Matt Cimber movie I saw, because my disappointment with his other films would have been bitterly cruel as well as gruelingly painful. With Cimber's other films finding their way on to DVD (a two-disc set of HUNDRA - wtf?!), hopefully someone can snatch this up for a nice widescreen restoration. It can't be too hard, Cimber is actually shooting a new movie in Portugal as we speak.

Audiences react to the news that Cimber is shooting a new film.

4 Reactions:

  1. This does sound like a hoot. I'm far from a Cimber scholar, but I admit a fondness for his WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (which is in fact the only one of this films I've seen, looking on IMDb). Thoughts?

  2. On WITCH? That was the first one I ever saw and it was after years of (pre-internet) searching. All these film books raved about it and it had a Frazetta poster and I was expecting to have my mind blown. I should give it another chance some time.
    As for other Cimber films, I'm actually am a total sucker for BUTTERFLY which I saw when I was 14. For some reason it made an impression.
    THE BLACK 6 ain't bad either, though not in the same league as CANDY.

  3. Mike White of THE PROJECTION BOOTH did a fudn podcast featuring THE CANDY TANGERINE MAN along with an interview with Cimber. A re-release/re-mastering has been in the works for a couple of years but it's a matter of finding decent elements or some such.

  4. Hey, thanks for the head's up. I'll have to check that out.


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