Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Movie Review: The Wizard of Gore (1970)

Michele, meet Herschell Gordon Lewis. Hersch, meet Michele. I think we'll be seeing each other again very soon. However, if you were planning to shock or unsettle me with The Wizard of Gore, you kinda failed a little bit, dude. I had an absolute  ball watching this movie, because while eyeball-squishing and other things of that nature in a movie would usually make me squirm and freak me out, this one had me laughing my ass off at pretty much every scene.

Montag the Magnificent is a great magician who is able to saw girls in half and shove swords down their throats and never harm them in the least. That is, until the volunteers leave the theater and suddenly drop dead in the same method as the trick they were involved in. A local television host and her boyfriend catch on to what is happening after Montag's shows and try to put a stop to it all.

As is so often with the case with low-budget horror movies, The Wizard of Gore is one where you really can't spend all your time watching it nitpicking about how shitty it is. Because it is shitty. I'm just going to be honest: The Wizard of Gore is in many ways technically a really bad movie. But I'm well used to that kind of thing by now so I didn't care and I just went with it. So glad I did, too, because it made it so easy to enjoy the hell out of this thing.

So it's a little confusing trying to figure out what is going on with Montag's tricks at the beginning. The first trick he does is sawing a woman in half with a chain saw. There's no box or anything over her, he just saws right through her stomach. The weird thing is when how the scene keeps cutting from her being all bloody with her guts hanging out to her being perfectly fine. Once I realized, though, that the audience was not completely freaking out like they should have been at seeing Montag play around with her intestines, I figured out that what they were seeing was the bloodless version of the act. Montag hypnotizes the volunteers and the rest of the audience so that don't see what he's actually doing up there. I guess the bloody version that we get to see is just Montag having his fun.

The only big thing that there really is to talk about with this movie is the gore. Don't get your hopes up too much about the acting because you will be very, very disappointed in that regard. The only real passable actor that I found here was the woman playing Sherry, and the worst out of the whole bunch was her boyfriend Jack, who has more than a few moments of downright douchebaggery with his horrible line deliveries. But I digress. The name of the game here is of course gore, as the title tells us, and with all the things I'd been hearing about Lewis's famous gore over the years, I was excited to see what he had to offer me.

Like I said before, though the gore and violence is very over-the-top and bloody and has eyeballs being squished and brains pulled out of heads, it's all really hilarious shit. Should I have been disturbed by some of the stuff I was seeing? Probably. But when you watch somebody stick their fingers into the eye sockets of something that is VERY obviously a doll head, how can you take that even remotely seriously? The only really well done effect I saw out of the whole movie was the girl who was impaled in the stomach by the punch press. Lots of bright red blood and slimy guts were there for sure, but the way she was squirming around with the thing in her stomach was actually pretty awesome. 

The funniest part is probably when Montag is about to perform his biggest trick to date on Sherry's daytime TV show. He's going to light them all on fire and apparently nobody has any problem with either him doing that or doing it in the middle of a TV studio. Anyway. Montag's also hypnotized everybody in the studio and everybody watching at home, but Jack manages to avoid this and goes to the studio to rescue his girlfriend. Montag ends up in the fire himself and we get to see his head get burnt to a crisp. Everybody standing around, again, doesn't seem to have any problem with this. "His power must have died with him. Hm." There is a freaking corpse burning in a fire. Must just be the same old shit with these people or something.

The ending also had me laughing at the silliness of it all but I still didn't care by then. Sherry was also an "illusionist" of some kind and now she's fucking with Montag? Sure! I'm with you. The Wizard of Gore is without a doubt a fun splatter movie that is kind of exploitation, minus the boobs. The gore makes for some excellent gags that are probably not supposed to be as funny as I found them, but that's just how I am sometimes. The acting and directing quality is... below par, to be nice, however it's something that is easy to overlook when you're dealing with all the other ridiculousness. 


  1. I love that you had a good time with this movie - as Herschell Gordon Lewis's movies can certainly be an acquired taste! WoG is one of the later ones - do check out his original trilogy (if you haven't already): Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs! and Color Me Blood Red. Gruesome Twosome would come next - and finish it all off with The Gore Gore Girls. (I can't WAIT to read your review of THAT one!)

    Spot on Michele!

    1. Those movies are all in my Netflix queue (except Color Me Blood Red, I'll have to look that one up) so I'll get to them eventually! I could do a Herschell Gordon Lewis week or something of reviews.

  2. The is a an interesting remake of this one, which is worth a curious look for its attempts to update this film and does feature Crispin Glover on top oddball form, it even has both Jeffrey Combs and Brad Dourif aswell to a lesser extend members of the Suicide Girls trying to act convincingly.

    Worth a look especially for its corkscrew like approach to the plot, but like this one it is disposable fun at best.

    1. Ugh. That Remake was just plain bad. I don't get what the point of it really was.

      Oh right- to cast Suicide Girls and film them in gore scenes. Sure.

      Even the good Actors like Combs and Dourif did nothing for me. Trust me- you won't be missing much.

      That said, definitely check out more HGL films. Anything after 1972 comes with a warning of 'It may suck though.'

  3. Greetings from a fellow Midwesterner. A few days ago I watched Blood Feast, having never seen HGL's gore films. Wizard of Gore was the first recommendation after that movie. It was so damn weird that I had to see what reviewers said; yours was the first blog accurately capturing the WTF-factor of this goofy little chestnut.

    Montag's speech about reality and illusion reminded me a little of the "Criswell predicts" ramble from Plan 9 From Outer Space. Even more than that were the jarring musical cuts between what the audience saw, and what Montag was doing to his victims on stage. They saw quiet tricks, while he was sifting through gibblets like a demented entrail panhandler.

    Have you considered reviewing any of the Mondo or cannibal films from Italy? Granted, not all Mondo films fit the horror genre, but they're certainly odd.

    -Matt from MN

  4. I don't think The Wizard of Gore is even close to being as WTF as Lewis can get - got more reviews of his stuff coming soon, hopefully. I'm not too familiar with Mondo films but I'm slowly working through a lot of the Italian stuff that I need to catch up on. Some of it's hard for me to really get into but I've enjoyed most of what I've seen. Thanks for dropping by, fellow Midwesterner!

    1. If you do want to get into Mondo films, let me know. I can suggest some *interesting* ones for you. Honestly, save for a couple parts, 'Mondo Cane' is the easiest introduction.

      That said, it doesn't truly prepare you for the insanity that would follow. It's tamer than the rest for sure.

      As for your Italian films, I have just one name: Argento. You can't go wrong.

  5. This is cool, seems a lot more organized, planned, and fair compared to the Wizard101 Award stuff that happened a few months ago.