The kitschy appeal of this low-budget flick about pimps and gangsters in mid-’70s Los Angeles can be summarized by a line of dialogue from a supporting character: “I can’t sell you no chick, man—that just ain’t croquet! Shee-it!” That torrent of jive encapsulates the film’s questionable portrayal of African-American culture, its casual objectification of women, and its queasy way of finding humor in the gutter of human exploitation. Essentially a low-rent rehash of the cult-favorite pimp movie The Mack (1973), producer-director Matt Cimber’s The Candy Tangerine Man is unrelentingly derivative, silly, and tacky, but it has a certain so-bad-it’s-good magnetism. After all, it’s hard to truly hate a thriller in which the hero’s classic 1930s car is tricked out with hidden machine-gun turrets.
The picture opens with scenes showing how “Baron” (John Daniels) runs his empire on Hollywood’s famed Sunset Strip. He intimidates his girls into meeting their quota of tricks per night, he easily defeats thugs who try to rip him off, and he repels gangsters seeking to muscle in on his territory. All the while, he wears natty suits, leather gloves, and a wide-brimmed hat, kicking ass (and peddling ass) in high style. Yet every so often, “Baron” retreats to the suburbs and becomes Ron Lewis, whose wife and kids think a job as a traveling salesman is what keeps him away from home so much. This revelation doesn’t exactly meet the minimum standard for imbuing a character with dimensionality, but at least it’s something. Most of the picture comprises the protagonist’s battles with other pimps and gangsters, as well as the cops who want to bust him, and eventually his long list of enemies expands to include a traitorous hooker. In throwing so many adversaries at the protagonist, however, the filmmakers dilute narrative focus, so The Candy Tangerine Man becomes a blur of “Baron” fighting this enemy and that enemy even as he tries, often in vain, to keep his girls safe. (In the picture’s most gruesome scene, a crook uses a knife to cut the breasts off a hooker.)
The acting is generally rotten, the cinematography is unattractive, the editing is jumpy, and the production values betray the project’s meager resources. Nonetheless, sleazy energy infuses The Candy Tangerine Man, as when some poor slob gets his hand shoved into a kitchen-sink garbage disposal. (The same gag was employed, much more memorably, in the 1977 William Devane thriller Rolling Thunder.) It’s also worth noting that the picture has persuasive atmosphere thanks to extensive location photography, and, according to the opening credits, supporting performances by “the actual ‘hookers’ and ‘blades’ of the Sunset Strip in Hollywood.”
The Candy Tangerine Man: FUNKY