What’s a 90’s monster list without Candyman? Tony Todd’s gravel voice and hypnotic gaze (and chestful of bees) helped create one of the keystone 90’s movie monsters. I haven’t seen the new Candyman film yet (though I’ve heard good things), but even if the film itself is fantastic the monster will never be the same without Tony Todd.
The Candyman (the vengeful spirit of Danielle Robitaille, painter and victim of lynching) is only on screen for a handful of minutes – he doesn’t even show up in the original film until 45 minutes in – but his presence dominates the narrative from the first line. And once he does show up, Tony Todd assures a layered performance. Despite his tragic death and cultured upbringing, little of Robitaille remains except his need to exist and to take his vengeance on anyone that gets in his way. Todd manages to infuse romance, bitterness, rage, romance and pity into the character, though – sometimes all within the same scene.
While I’ve seen the sequels, it’s really Bernard Rose’s first film that has the most impact. It’s a layered film, with elements of race, classicism, fear of the other, loss of control and sanity itself. I remember when I first saw it I’d never heard of urban legends before, so of course I ran out and picked up a ton of Jan Harold Brunvand books after. The whole thing is enjoyable, but Todd’s Candyman is the heart and soul. Nobody else could make a flayed chest full of bees into a moment filled with both horror and a gothic sort of romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love the whole film and Virginia Madsen is great, it’s just that the best monsters always lay claim to a piece of my heart. Candyman is no different.
Just for fun, here’s another Candyman illo from a year or so back.