“The Wizard of Gore” (1970)
Studio: Mayflower Pictures
Starring: Ray Sager, Judy Cler, Wayne Ratay, Phil Laurenson, Jim Rau
Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Running Time: 95 min.
Synopsis: A mad magician tortures victims on stage while the audience is unaware.
The Wizard of Gore was the third film I saw from Herschell Gordon Lewis. I first saw it over twenty years ago in 1990 and still to this day it is one of my favorite H.G. Lewis movies next to Two Thousand Maniacs! and Blood Feast. It is a great horror film made by The Godfather of Gore and has the great Herschell touch to it that all his films have. The movie is almost like an EC comic book come to life. It is a creepy macabre over the top horror story that fits the 60’s and early 70’s like a glove.
Wizard of Gore was shot in Chicago in 1968, but wasn’t released until 1970. The film is about a magician, Montag the Magnificent (Ray Sager) who is not like any traditional magician. Instead of pulling rabbits out of hats or sawing a woman in half, well he does saw a woman in half, but not in a wooden box and a hand saw, he using a big electric saw and cuts the woman on a table for everyone to see. All his tricks involve craving, cutting, or mashing his volunteers in bloody disgusting ways. Although the audience does not see this and everything looks gore free and the volunteers walk off stage in one piece, but after the show they are found dead and killed by the same way they were on stage.
A talk show host, Sherry Carson (Judy Cler) takes notice in Montag’s act and wants him on her show. At first Montag refuses to be on television, but then decides to go on anyway to plan a major trick for the whole world. Sherry’s boyfriend, a sports writer named Jack (Wayne Ratay) is following the murders in the papers and thinks that someone is copying the way Montag does his gruesome tricks, but does them for real on the female volunteers or could Montag be behind all of it?
With this film H.G. Lewis out gores himself with this one. The man that invented the gore film with Blood Feast makes an even gorier movie with The Wizard of Gore. To this day this film remains one of the goriest films ever made. Two sheep carcasses were used in the gore scenes, which involved a woman sawed in half and a woman’s stomach being smashed by a punch press. The other killings include a woman getting a large spike hammered into her brain and two women swallowing swords.
Wizard of Gore is not just about the gore scenes, but the story itself is very good and entertaining. It is a great creepy tale of a crazed magician torturing his contestants while everyone in the crowd is in a trance and sees nothing. Then the women die hours later while Montag is nowhere near them. The character of Montag is one of the most memorable villains from 60’s and 70’s horror and even maybe all of horror. One of the great things that H.G. Lewis does is make a good creepy evil villain. Sager also brings it to the role with that eerie stare and the way he carries himself on stage when he is performing one of his illusions. He also has some great lines in the film too, such as “Torture and terror has always fascinated mankind.” and of course, “I am Montag, the Magnificent!”
The music is another great part of the film and is a very memorable score. The main theme of the film that plays over the opening credits is very strong and fits the tone of the movie. Larry Wellington does an excellent job with the music throughout the film. To the haunting harmonica sounding piece every time they show a newspaper headline of a murder to the jazzy 1960’s style theme when the police are roaming the streets of Chicago at night following the girls who had volunteered for one of Montag’s tricks.
Although the film was released in 1970, but shot in ’68, it is a great representation of the late 60’s. It is perfect if you want to see what the 60’s looked and sounded like. H.G. Lewis’ earlier films that he did with David Friedman represent the early to mid 60’s greatly and his later films do the same in the era that they were filmed. The colors, the style, the music, and the fashion, all scream out the 1960’s or early 70’s. You also know when you are in that era when you see the beautiful Judy Cler wearing these sexy miniskirts throughout the film.
Of course this film has gained great notoriety through the years. It was remade in 2007 starring Crispin Glover as Montag and a scene of the original film was shown in the 2007 film, Juno, where the lead character played by Ellen Page is going through Jason Bateman’s VHS collection and finds The Wizard of Gore. Bateman pops in the tape and shows her the film. The writer of Juno, Diablo Cody is a fan of Herschell Gordon Lewis and other cult horror icons.
In my opinion this is one of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ best films and is one of the best horror films to come out of the 1970’s. The film has always been a favorite of mine for years and years and it continues to be very entertaining and bizarre every time I watch it. If you are a H.G. Lewis fan, drive-in movie fan, or just your average horror movie fan then this is the movie to see if you haven’t seen it all ready. It is highly recommended and a great addition to your horror movie DVD collection.