Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ed Wood's BLOOD SPLATTERS QUICKLY: 'Breasts of the Chicken' (1972)

A deceptively bland-looking businessman enjoys a meal in "Breasts of the Chicken."

NOTE: This article is part of my ongoing coverage of Blood Splatters Quickly: The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

One of Ed's several Gold Diggers stories.
The story: "Breasts of the Chicken," originally published in Gold Diggers, Vol. 4, No. 2, May/June 1972, Pendulum Publishers, Inc.

Synopsis: After taking out loans on his house and car and saving his money for months, businessman Rance Wilkerson is finally able to afford a $5000 meal at an exclusive, hidden-away restaurant which specializes in extremely rare delicacies. 

After taking a limo ride through a storm to the castle-like structure, Rance is taken to an elegant dining room with just one table. There, he is given chilled champagne and treated like royalty. Then, the staff bring out a group of drugged-up young women and give the customer his choice. Rance selects a redhead, whose breast is cut off and expertly prepared for consumption, with the girl's internal organs being used as stuffing. 

The businessman thoroughly enjoys his meal, so much so that he feels he needs to go to the bathroom to masturbate in private. He is led to the men's room, only to realize too late that he has stepped into a trap. From behind a pane of glass, a wealthy old lady orders Rance's penis to be served to her "medium rare," and our hapless cannibal connoisseur is dragged away, screaming, by guards.

Wood trademarks: Yet another character named Rance (cf. this collection's "Superfruit" and "Epitaph for the Village Drunk"); breast fetish; systematic dismantling of a woman's body (cf. this collection's "Scream Your Bloody Head Off" and "The Gory Details"); thunder and lightning (a Wood staple since Glen or Glenda?); driving in a storm (cf. Night of the Ghouls); numerous Gothic trappings, including wolves howling, bats, a castle, and a forest (cf. this collection's "Dracula Revisited"); disparaging reference to "narcotics"; phrase "The whole thing was becoming an obsession with him." (compare to Glenda's "It was becoming an obsession to him."); alcohol (in this case, chilled champagne); horny man running off to a bathroom to masturbate (cf. "The Autograph").

Excerpt: "The nervous sweat was most noticeable in the crotch of his shorts than anywhere else. The chill of the night froze the sweat quickly and it was actually uncomfortable. But there were definite sexual implications in his thoughts. Sexual implications which centered around that delicacy he was about to sink his teeth into."

The mag's innocuous cover.
Reflections: First, I'd like to offer a little unsolicited business advice to all you restaurateurs out there. If you own a super-high-end, fantastically expensive restaurant which caters exclusively to cannibals, maybe -- just maybe -- it's not a great idea to kill off one of the few customers who actually knows your business even exists. 

In this story, Rance Wilkerson liked the joint so much he was already planning a return visit. And you killed him anyway! (Presumably, that is. Things certainly look bad for Rance at the end of "Breasts of the Chicken.") Is this how your fancy-schmancy restaurant treats its high-paying clientele? How do you expect to maintain good word of mouth? I mean, I'm sure the dowager countess at the end of this story specifically demanded a human penis with a sprig of parsley, but I doubt she demanded that said penis come from a middle-aged, middle-manager-type nonentity like Rance Wilkerson. Why was she not given her choice from a lineup, the way Rance was? Shouldn't the restaurant have rounded up a chorus line of well-endowed studs for the lady's pleasure? I think both of these customers got ripped off. I'm certain the Better Business Bureau will be hearing about this. And I wouldn't want to see the Yelp reviews for this establishment. No, wait. Scratch that. I'd love to see the Yelp reviews.

In all seriousness, "Breasts of the Chicken" is the most gruesome and disturbing story I've encountered so far in Blood Splatters Quickly. This one will stick with me, especially every time I order chicken in a restaurant. As with "Scream Your Bloody Head Off," the "two wrongs supposedly make a right" morality of the ending again seems derived from the Tales from the Crypt comics of the 1950s, where all manner of bad behavior was acceptable as long as it came with terrible consequences. (That mentality was definitely carried over to the '90s Crypt series on HBO.) In its gleeful brutality, "Breasts of the Chicken" presages such torture porn films as Bloodsucking Freaks (1976) and Hostel (2005), particularly the former, which contains a stew made of eyeballs, women used as furniture and dartboards, and the climactic severing of the protagonist's penis.

But this story also reminded me of a couple of Stanley Kubrick films, specifically The Shining (1980) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999), which both suggest that the combination of wealth, privilege, and isolation lead to toxic decadence. I was already making the Kubrick connection in my mind before Rance arrived at the "red velvet-draped gold room" where he eats his sickening supper. The Gold Room, of course, is one of the infamous locations from The Shining. Rance's journey to the restaurant, meanwhile, reminded me of Dr. Bill Harford's ominous car trip to the mansion where a super secret society is holding an orgy in Eyes Wide Shut. Both Bill and Rance arrive at their destinations in rented clothes and rented vehicles and then try -- with disastrous results -- to indulge in the pleasures normally only available to the incredibly wealthy elite. Leave it to the perennially cash-strapped Eddie to write a cannibal story whose hero spends nearly as much time worrying about money as he does devouring human flesh.

Next: "Never a Stupid Reflection" (1973)