It is not uncommon for a major network or a streaming service to develop a film or series surrounding a real-life crime case. Some famous movies and series based on crime cases were Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 and The Keepers, Lifetime’s Cleveland Abduction, 2007’s Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo starred Zodiac, and many more.
One such true case that made headlines was the gruesome murder of Betty Gore back in 1980, famously known as the Candy Montgomery case. The 1990s Stephen Gyllenhaal-directed television film A Killing In A Small Town was based on this case. Over three decades after its release, we are back again with new shows based on this perplexing story. However, what’s unusual this time is that Candy Montgomery’s case is made into a series by not just one but two networks almost simultaneously.
Updated July 5, 2023: This article has been updated to keep the content fresh and relevant for your enjoyment.
Hulu’s Candy, starring Jessica Biel, and HBO’s Love and Death, starring Elizabeth Olsen, are both based on the Montgomery case. The former beat the latter by releasing all the episodes in May of 2022, with HBO’s Love and Death coming out in full almost a year later, airing from April 27, 2023, to May 25, 2023. Since the show is based on the same case, many were left asking if they would have the same storyline or if the directors would approach differently enough to stand apart.
Looking at how Candy and Love and Death differ from each other, it's obvious that the creative teams behind the projects had different visions for their respective show. However, before delving into how they differ, let’s briefly look into the dark details of this murder and the events leading up to it to know what the case is about.
The True Story of Candy Montgomery
On June 13, 1980, Allan, Betty Gore’s husband, was away on a business trip. He could not reach his wife back home in Texas, which wasn’t like her. He requested his neighbors to check up on her by evening, fearing for her safety. They were the ones who found her bloody body along with a three-foot ax. They also discovered Gore’s one-year-old daughter, who was unattended for hours.
Further investigation revealed that Betty was struck 41 times with the ax. Though Candy and Betty were friends, Candy began an affair with Betty’s husband, Allan, in December 1978 and lasted until October 1979. Candy was the last person who saw Betty alive that morning when she dropped by their home to run an errand. The police even found her fingerprint matching a bloody one at the crime scene. Two weeks after the murder, Candy was arrested and became the prime suspect.
Telling the Story Two Different Ways
Since the two shows are based on the same case, they will obviously be compared. However, Hulu’s Candy writer Robin Veith is "actually excited" about it, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. Veith says:
"The thing about this story is there's like 100 ways to tell this story. I'm also the person who watched three Fyre Festival documentaries that came out at the same time, I watched them all back-to-back. I just love different perspectives, so I'm very excited for what they're doing."
She continued stating that the writers did not feel any pressure or competition since they already "had a take and a story that we wanted to tell."
There is one major difference between Candy and Love and Death as far as differences go. While HBO’s take on the case is majorly based on the Texas Monthly article "Love and Death in Silicon Prairie," trying to recreate the events as a reader would have thought of it at the moment, Hulu’s Candy has taken another route by mostly covering the psychological aspects of this case.
"There was something about this story, about a woman's explosive rage at 10 o'clock in the morning, seemingly over very little," Veith said, "that felt apropos of the #MeToo moment of like, ‘Hey, we can actually talk about this feminine rage, this female rage that we carry around with us that we're not supposed to acknowledge.'"
While both shows do cover Candy's complex mental state at the time of the murder, Love & Death feels more about the shock of the horrific events. Candy, on the other hand, explores in depth the mindset she must have been in leading up to the terrible event. She doesn't just have an affair because she fell in love. She betrayed her friend and her husband because she needed something to help her feel a little less numb.
Unfortunately, her need to have a more interesting life was threatened by Betty, and Candy couldn't risk that. No matter which show a viewer chooses to watch, or even if they watch both of them, there is no denying that both stories pull the veil of time back and throw the audience into a gruesome true story.
One big difference between the two programs is reaction. Love & Death was reportedly Max's Most Watched Original Series globally, although worth noting is Max is a new streaming service, and it is unclear if it counts its previous version, HBO Max. Love & Death was likely bolstered by the popularity of Elizabeth Olsen, who is famous for playing the Scarlet Witch in the MCU. Love & Death holds a 63% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and many critics compared it unfavorably to Candy.
According to ReelGood, a streaming aggregator, Candy was the 8th most streamed television series across all streaming platforms for the week of May 14, 2022. Candy has a 72% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In an odd coincidence, Candy was likely what viewers were watching after going to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which starred Love & Death's Elizabeth Olsen.
Betty Gore’s Family: The Real-Life Impact
As much as may have enjoyed both these true-crime adaptations, they haven’t exactly been easy on Betty Gore’s family. As Stephanie McNeal’s Buzzfeed News report states, other than the 1990 television film, the case wasn’t in the limelight for the last four decades. However, with these two shows releasing within a year of each other they have made matters worse for the family.
"Betty’s loved ones weren’t looking to dredge up their trauma over her death, and one family member told me they don’t understand why they now have to do so more than 40 years later. But apparently, the case makes for a good story, and for some, that is what’s important," says McNeal, adding: "Betty’s family is still living with the aftermath of her death. They aren’t quite sure why the tragedy is now being turned into multiple TV shows. A family member, who asked to remain anonymous to protect their privacy, told me that they personally were not contacted before either series was made, nor were they informed that the projects were in the works."
This is an unfortunate consequence of true crime content. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that real people were involved, and they remember the traumatic events exactly as they happened. Betty's murder case, unfortunately, did not have much closure. Despite knowing that Candy did it, she escaped the ordeal with minimal consequences. The two miniseries risk causing more harm to the families involved, but hopefully, they also offer up some hope of healing and understanding.