Friday, 4 May 2018
The Killer Likes Candy (1968)
It starts out promisingly, with a harmless priest feeding the pigeons in a Roman piazza but as we will soon discover he is no priest. He is a very high-priced assassin.
His target is the King of Kafiristan, Kafiristan being somewhere in central Asia. The Americans want Kafiristan’s oil and to get it they need to keep the king alive and that’s the job assigned to CIA agent Mark Stone.
The assassin is Oscar Snell, ex-Gestapo agent and reputedly the best hitman in Europe. Snell’s weakness is that he loves candy. That’s not really a weakness, but he does a habit of leaving candy wrappers lying about thus providing a useful clue for anyone trying to track him down.
Kerwin Mathews plays Stone as a typical square-jawed American eurospy hero, albeit one who takes his espionage duties fairly seriously. It’s not exactly a riveting performance but he handles the action scenes pretty well. He naturally has a sidekick, Costa (Venantino Venantini), who naturally provides comic relief.
While Stone is a rather dour hero Oscar Snell is a much more interesting villain. We feel right from the start that he’s dangerous even though he keeps himself very much under control. He’s a lone wolf villain and he likes being an assassin. At times one can’t help feeling sorry for him - his plans for killing the king are sound enough but they just keep misfiring.
This movie lacks the outrageous plot elements that are usually associated with the eurospy genre, and it’s also notably lacking in gadgetry. In fact plotwise it’s a very straightforward suspense thriller, with the assassin hunting the king and Mark Stone hunting the assassin.
It might sound a bit dull but it isn’t. There’s a lot of action and the action scenes are stylish and exciting. Rather than one-on-one fistfights we get extended all-in brawls in interesting settings - the fight among the statuary in the Orsini Gardens, the fight in the meat-packing plant and the fight among the barrels in the warehouse are all exceptionally well executed. And the fights are, by the standards of 1968, pretty full-blooded.
Stylistically this movie perhaps has more in common with the hard-edged eurocrime thrillers of the late 60s and early 70s than with the classic mid-60s eurospy genre, or at least that’s the direction in which it’s heading. Even with its moments of comic relief this is a fairly serious movie and it’s a eurospy movie with virtually no traces of camp. The action is what matters and that’s what the movie concentrates on.
There are some bikini-clad girls of course, although not quite as many as are usually found in this genre. And Costa certainly pursues the ladies with enthusiasm, and with a certain amount of success. Mark Stone is not so much into womanising although there is a glamorous lady doctor on hand to provide a love interest.
The Killer Likes Candy was released by Code Red as part of a spy movie DVD double-feature. It’s paired with a reasonably entertaining heist movie from the Philippines called Stoney (AKA Surabaya Conspiracy).
If you’re a fan of eurospy movies then you know that you have to be grateful for what you get. There aren’t many such films available on DVD and those that are available are very rarely in their correct aspect ratios and image quality is usually dubious. Sadly that’s the case with The Killer Likes Candy. It’s an awful pan-and-scanned print, but the chances of this movie ever getting a decent DVD release are pretty much zero. If you want to see the movie then this is probably as good as it’s ever going to get.
The Killer Likes Candy doesn’t deliver the over-the-top fun you generally hope for in a eurospy feature but it does deliver some decent suspense and some fine action sequences. The DVD transfer is definitely problematic but the movie is still worth seeing and is still recommended.