The Candidate/Johnny Gunman

Director - Robert Angus, Art Ford

Cast - Ted Knight, Mamie Van Doren, Ann Donaldson, June Wilkinson, Martin E. Brooks, Johnny Seven, Eric Mason

Country of Origin - U.S.

Discs - 1

Distributor - Vinegar Syndrome

Reviewer - Steven Lewis

Date - 12/07/13

The Films

Sex symbols, political satire, and film noir.  All these characteristics are included in the films The Candidate and Johnny Gunman, the latest single disc double feature released by Vinegar Syndrome.  Two black and white films that where chosen most likely for their risque content that is adored by the home video distributor who always takes on risky entertainment such as horror and pornography.  However, The Candidate and Johnny Gunman appeal to the tamer side of risque providing a more realistic and down to earth view of entertainment with some ahead-of-it's-time crafty film direction by two unknown directors Robert Angus and Art Ford, but along with the positives of independent productions, there most of the time lies negative qualities that ream their ugly heads so far out creating a shadow over the positive qualities.  These two films are no exception and only proving that just cause The Candidate and Johnny Gunman are in black and white and made prior to 1970, doesn't make the films instant classics.

 

Film ( 2.5 / 5 )

 

The Candidate's plot can be relative to today as it deals with sex and politics. Campaign coordinator Buddy Barker will do anything to reach the top including hiring a sexy "procurer" named Samantha Ashley to be a sort of pimp and plaything for Barker's Senator candidate Frank Carlton.  Barker, a habitual playboy himself, uses Samantha to throw wild parties and to acquire women for his candidate and for himself, but at the same time, he can't live without her and comes to love her. As Barker tries to sort out his own complex life, his candidate Carlton falls for one of the acquired women, an illegal alien English born girl named Angela Wallace, who creates a problem for Barker as she is a Washington undesirable alien and could hurt Carlton's candidacy and his own chances to make it to the top. All issues come to light in a committee hearing conducted by Senators to seek the truth behind the "procurement" of women for the candidate.

 

The material for The Candidate is pretty risque for the era but the subject matter can be related to to even today's issues.  Examples of these issues are like with the married Anthony Weiner texting his wang all over the internet to young girls or to the once Commander in Chief former President Clinton having an affair and then lying about it.  We never expect our elder politicians to lose self respect or self control, yet it happens and The Candidate brings this to light. The two female leads Mamie Van Doren (Samantha Ashley) and June Wilkinson (Angela Wallace) are both sex symbols of the 1960s. Van Doren was suppose to be the counter answer for Universal Studios to 20th Century Fox's Marilyn Monroe, but her flame and fame fizzled with Universal and she began making movies with other companies including an outside company that produced The Candidate.  Van Doren and Wallace both also posed in playboy - multiple times in fact. Both women were slender, curvy, voluptuous and blonde making them perfect "candidate" for their roles in The Candidate.  Even though sex was the whole underlying theme for The Candidate, sex also became its worst enemy. The sexual innuendoes had to be thoroughly decoded and literalness of the theme doesn't exist within the film.  Your imagination has to run on overtime to try and figure out that the wild costume parties were actually suppose to be sex or orgy parties, Samantha's "procurement" status for Buddy Barker (even though the term pimp is too much for the films censors being made light of in the committee hearing), and Buddy's playboy antics that leaves one girl supposedly paralyzed from the waste down due to the harm he has caused her in the bedroom.

 

Trying to breakdown the film piece-by-piece just to understand the content is already difficult enough, but then we're thrown another curveball in the form of convoluted editing work that'll have your brain scramble to try and keep up. I don't want to dog the film too much because there are actually some great scenes here and some innovated work especially with the beginning title and credit scene which had to of cost a small fortune with different locations, different props, and customized props which included a voting ballot card with the names the cast and crew.  Also, Ted Knight, yes the same Ted Knight who plays Ted Baxter from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, plays the candidate and is unrecognizable yet stellar in his performance.

 

Film ( 2 / 5 )

 

Ever hear of director Art Ford?  Probably not since Johnny Gunman was his one and only film that didn't quite make it mainstream. Johnny Gunman involves two right hand men, Johnny G and Allie, looking to take over the recent crime syndicate business led by their recently imprisoned boss Lou Caddy. The story takes place in a matter of 24 hours in New York City and mainly focuses on Johnny G who winds up in a coffee shop with a group of people while trying to dodge a newspaper photographer.  One of these coffee shop patrons is a girl named "Coffee." Coffee, of course, isn't her real name but a moniker she gives Johnny because he is a stranger and is a member of a vicious mob, but Coffee is running away from New York City due to her failed ambitions of being a writer and in 8 hours she leaves the city for good., but before she leaves she decides to have a date with Johnny G and two other male patrons of the coffee shop in order to seek a good story out of one of them. 

 

Though the film might be titled Johnny G and mainly focused on Johnny G, or Johnny Gunman if you haven't figured that out yet, there are two separate stories here - the one of Johnny G and his struggle for power and also with Coffee and her search for a story.  She finds one with Johnny G.  His gangster ways overshadow people's perspective of him, but he expresses to Coffee the real side of himself, the more gentler side, and she starts to fall and sympathize for Johnny G.  When Coffee moves on to her second date of the night, a fellow bohemian writer, his intentions for her are more malicious as he just wants her solely for sex proving the age old statement that you can never judge a book by it's cover.  Johnny's morals are more righteous than one would give him credit for as he notes that children shouldn't grow up to be like him or how idiotic the would become to follow the footsteps of someone like him.  Johnny also keeps his promises as he promised his father that he would never use a gun (even though his name is ironically enough Johnny Gunman) and carries around with him a switch blade knife.

 

Much like The Candidate, Johnny Gunman suffers from severe editing mishaps. The story doesn't shape itself correctly leaving plot holes and gaps in time creating no spacial structure. The story of Johnny Gunman isn't as exciting as it sounds either being more of a talking head feature than an action packed crime thriller. Johnny spews more talk then he walks the walk.  Also, Coffee, played by Ann Donaldson, is so stiff and dry that burnt toast would better in her character.  I didn't expect much from Johnny Gunman due to it's being a sidelined bonus feature for The Candidate, but I was hoping for more; instead, what I received was a waste of 67 minutes. 

 

Audio/Video ( 1 / 5 )

 

Better put on your weather boats, mittens, and winter coat because both features have a lot of snow.  The video is far from being perfect with graininess, ghost lines, and some repeat/reversed scenes.  These prints should have been restored better after the 2K transfer to film, but probably being not the hottest title in Vinegar Syndrome's arsenal I wouldn't be surprised that more money went into more sultry prospects.

 

The audio is just as bad with constant static throughout both and microphone cutouts and/or added in over lines that just don't blend well with the final product.  I was certainly surprised to see this flaws in The Candidate with high profile names like Ted Knight and the money that was obvious put into the production, but then again, some of these flaws could have been cleaned up also for home video release.

 

Extras ( 0 / 5 )

 

There were no extras with these films.

 

Overall

 

The Candidate was by far the superior film and is worth a view, but feels dragged down by the weighty and flawed Johnny Gunman that it might make The Candidate a turn off for those who are on the ropes.  Neither film with shock you nor will either film leave you with a lasting impression and the flaws solidifies that opinion even more so.  You're better off watching Citizen Kane and being confused about the interpretation of Rosebud then to put in the time and effort in trying to interpret The Candidate's innuendoes and to understand the editing of Johnny Gunman.  Pass.