Saturday, December 8, 2012

Body Shop, The (1973)

... aka: Anitra
... aka: Doctor Gore
... aka: Shrieks in the Night

Directed by:
J.G. Patterson Jr.

After having worked on several Herschell Gordon Lewis films (as an actor, producer and makeup effects artists), J.G. "Pat" Patterson Jr. was ready to make his very own gore flick. Dr. Don Brandon (played by "America's No. 1 Magician: Don Brandon" aka Mr. Patterson) is a famous plastic surgeon and scientist whose wife Anitra, a beauty pageant winner, prominent pin-up model and "society's darling," has just died in a car accident. Brandon is desperate to uncover the secrets of life, restore his dead wife and create "the perfect mate" in the process. With help from his moaning, groaning, bearded hunchback assistant Gregory (Roy Mehaffey), the two men dig up the wife's grave and bring her body back to their home. It's wrapped in aluminum foil, has electrodes attached to it and is then given a jolt of electricity. When the experiment doesn't work, the head is removed and put on ice and the body is tossed in a vat of acid. Thankfully, some deliverymen drop off a trunk with a "nice, fresh one" inside for them to further experiment further on. Where this came from is anybody's guess.

Now with just a head, Dr. Brandon comes up with the idea of assembling an entire female body using only "perfect" parts he's able to acquire from various young ladies he kills and dismembers. He goes to the beach, drowns a young woman in a bikini, brings her back to the lab and then cuts off her arms and legs with hacksaw to give him the perfect torso. Now needing perfect hands, Brandon goes to a steakhouse to see Bill Hicks and the Reignbeaux perform a dreary country song, followed by a magic act. While he's there, he hypnotizes Ellen (Jeannine Aber), makes her throw a plate of spaghetti in her date's face, drugs her and takes her to his lab, where he removes her hands with a scalpel. When she awakens mid-surgery, he stabs her in the stomach. A blonde secretary (Candy Furr) is up next. She has her arms cut off and her eyeballs yanked out with tongs. Now with all of the necessary parts, Brandon assembles the body, sews it together and electrifies it.

The creation of Anitra (Jenny Driggers), the "perfect woman" (i.e. a dumb blonde with large hooters), is finally realized. Not wanting his blank slate ("...a beautiful newborn child with full maturity") corrupted, Dr. Brandon immediately hypnotizes her and tells her that her only happiness will derive from doing his bidding and doing things to make him happy. Dr. Brandon demands she stay in his castle away from "evil people" and tells Gregory that he doesn't want him in the house any longer because he doesn't want Antira to be around anyone other than him. Brandon teaches Anitra her ABC's, how to drink a glass of water, about perfume and vinegar and how to be affectionate with him. But he's created a monster in the process. Now Anitra thinks she has to "be loved" by every man she comes across. When she hugs Gregory ("A man!"), the mad doctor goes into a jealous rage. He throws chemicals in his face, sinks an axe into his back and then tosses him in his acid vat. Not to be held back, Anitra eventually runs off with an obese truck driver and Dr. Brandon ends up in prison.

The director (who also did the special effects) appears to have run out of money before this was completed. After Anitra runs off with a truck driver, loses him and starts hitchhiking in her bikini, Brandon suddenly ends up in jail without any establishing scene of why he's there or how he's been caught. So desperate for footage, they were even forced to use a shot with the slate (with the film's original title Anitra on it) clearly being held in frame and then pulled away!

Equipped with terrible acting and dialogue, cheap gore fx, bad editing cuts and boring attempts to pad out the time, this is far from good, but it's interesting for the unconscious and bizarre daddy issues that keep popping up. Look past the blood-smeared mannequin parts and you'll find a pervy male fantasy underneath about a dude who's turned on by the prospect of being both a father and a lover to a mindless woman who lounges around in babydoll nighties giving him adoring looks all the time. You can tell Patterson also wrote this because every young woman in the movie wants this old man's scrawny bod. He has also written tons of make-out scenes for himself and the actresses and watching him suck face with girls half his age in prolonged shots have a definite sleazy feel to them. There are also several montages set to more cheese-ball Bill Hicks songs used to eat up minutes.

It was primarily shot at the Overlook Castle in North Carolina. Future directors Worth Keeter (credited as the "special horror consultant") and William Girdler (credited with music, music editor and sound effects) also worked on this one. The original VHS release from United featured a 5-minute intro - filmed sometime in the 80s - featuring Herschell Gordon Lewis talking about himself, Patterson and the movie (which at one point was apparently considered a lost film). Lewis awkwardly fumbles through the scene, mocking the "artificial and mechanical contrivances" and "prosthetic devices" of high-budget Hollywood special effects as being "phony." He also warns us "Don't look for highly sophisticated filmmaking here." and "You may not like the acting. You may not like the storyline. For all I know, you may not like the gore. But I think you'll agree that after you see this picture, you're not about to forget it very soon." A ringing endorsement if I've ever heard one.

The DVD release from Something Weird also includes Lewis' HOW TO MAKE A DOLL (1968), which Patterson also worked on.



CavedogRob said...

Actually I found this movie highly hysterical! A hunchback assistant named Greg!The dialogue was incredible (ly bad!). I always wondered about that jail scene too. Thought maybe there would be an extra scene on a DVD version. Patterson was an actor in a few of Lewis' movies and made another film called "The Electric Chair"...

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

The Electric Chair is an extra on another Something Weird DVD I have but I haven't gotten around to it yet. Have you seen it?

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