In How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck, Werner Herzog visits the World Championship of Livestock Auctioneers in New Holland, Pennsylvania, where contestants compete in feats of tongue-twisting verbal dexterity. “I was fascinated by livestock auctioneers,” Herzog once told an interviewer, “and always had the feeling that their incredible language was the real poetry of capitalism. Every system develops its own sort of extreme language, like the ritual chants of the Orthodox Church, and there is something final and absolute about the language the auctioneers speak.” Equally riveting is God’s Angry Man, which profiles L.A. televangelist Gene Scott. Faith, for Scott, is big business, and he broadcasts daily jeremiads to his flock, offering the promise of deliverance while demanding—with great vociferousness or stoney, intimidating silence—a check in the mail. Everything in America, it would seem from these Herzog documentaries, even salvation, comes with a price tag.

How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck
Werner Herzog, West Germany, 1976, 45m
English and German with English subtitles

God’s Angry Man
Werner Herzog, West Germany, 1980, 44m
English and German with English subtitles