Dr. Gore (1975)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Sci-Fi Horror  |   Run Time - 78 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Fred Beldin

A minor figure in the world of rural exploitation cinema of the 1960s, J.G. Patterson provided bargain-basement special effects and cornpone bit characters for the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (Moonshine Mountain, She-Devils on Wheels), William Girdler (Three on a Meathook), and Albert T. Viola (Preacherman). He also toured the Southern states with a spook show/magic act under the name Don Brandon, which is the moniker Patterson chose for the main character of his most notorious effort, The Body Shop (aka Doctor Gore). It's a comically inept document that is off-putting at first, but will hold certain charms for a select audience. A bizarre, static film with zero momentum, The Body Shop exists only as a showcase for Patterson's butcher-shop gore effects and some of the frankest misogyny ever displayed in horror. Brandon's motivations for his amoral experiments are never pinned down, there is never any antagonist to provide tension (aside from an offscreen sheriff who stops by to ask "You ain't doin' anything illegal in there, are ya?"), and the film is so cheap that certain long shots show the studio walls looming above the tiny set pieces. Instead, every dime has been earmarked for buckets of Karo Syrup and red food coloring, plus enough chopped meat to start a hot dog factory, all dripping from the mouths, shoulders and abdomens of a group of very accommodating young actresses bound in tin foil and duct tape. Patterson pulls off some nice tasteless illusions, but a lot of it probably looked better when he did it on stage. What's more startling is the stark sexism of the film's central idea, indulging the fantasy of building a "perfect" woman, one devoid of ideas, emotions, or knowledge of any kind. Patterson's creepy hangdog looks and bold comb-over are apparently irresistible to the beautiful young ladies in this unique universe that he's concocted, as Dr. Brandon is seen easily picking up (and making out with) a succession of exotic Southern belles, each one eventually dissected and incorporated into his collection. Why does Brandon concoct such a sinister plot when he has his pick of attractive admirers? Leave that one to the feminist theorists. Even the blunt spectre of male chauvinism can't make The Body Shop unsettling enough to qualify as horror. Still, the picture does contain a cigar-chewing hunchback assistant and the goofiest laboratory any mad doctor ever assembled, so the patient viewer can obtain plenty of kitschsy sci-fi kicks. The film's combination of extreme gore with languid, romantic shots of Patterson and his lovely creation wandering hand in hand through the woods is probably what the director meant in the trailer for this poorly distributed drive-in flick; he promised a new kind of "psycho-shock technique" that will terrify the viewer through "psychological mindbending and magical illusion!" He's not far off the mark, though most will experience disorientation or boredom rather than any sort of terror.