Friday, August 2, 2013
The original "The Wizard of Gore"
By Steve D. Stones
Over the years, gore specialist Herschell Gordon Lewis has not spoken fondly of his 1970 film - The Wizard of Gore. He claims he was unable to achieve the believable gore effects that he wanted in the film. His watershed gore film - Blood Feast, from 1963, broke all the rules for what was acceptable in showing extreme violence on the screen. His reputation for showing some of the most gruesome and over-the-top gore effects soon earned him the title of "The Godfather of Gore."
Blood Feast broke all the rules of tasteful entertainment in showing a woman's leg sawed off in a bath tub, a young girl's brain removed from her head, and another woman's tongue ripped out. Lewis is responsible for more sick-to-their stomach movie goers at the movie house as Russ Meyer was responsible for sexually arousing male viewers with his films at the drive-in movie circuit of the 1960s.
Like so many of Lewis' gore epics, The Wizard of Gore suffers from technical problems and strange, kitsch ridden acting, particularly from actor Ray Sager, who plays Montag The Magician in the film. Montag is not your usual dog and pony act wizard. He actually shows his illusions without any barriers blocking the audience's view.
In the opening act, he cuts off his own head with a cheap looking, cardboard guillotine. The head that rolls into a basket below the guillotine is obviously a rubber stage prop that looks nothing like actor Ray Sager, giving the viewer a taste of Lewis' tongue and cheek effects.
Next, Montag asks for volunteers from the audience to perform his gruesome illusions. The volunteers are conveniently women, and appear in a zombie-like trance. In one act, Montag saws a girl in half with a chainsaw, then pushes her innards around with his hands in extreme camera close ups. Another volunteer is punched through the stomach with a punch press. A third victim has a spike nailed through her head.
Each victim lives through the act, then later dies after leaving Montag's theater. Audience members are puzzled as to why each woman walks away from the illusions unharmed.
Lewis' next gore epic is the much less entertaining Gore Gore Girls from 1972. Lewis retired from the film business in the 1970s, and worked in the advertising industry for many years. He is now back in the director's chair directing new gore films. For further information about The Wizard of Gore and the career of Herschell Gordon Lewis, read the two very informative books: "A Taste of Blood" by Christopher Wayne Curry and "Herschell Gordon Lewis - Godfather of Gore: The Films" by Randy Palmer. Something Weird Video in Seattle, Washington has also produced a documentary about Lewis. Be sure to have a vomit bag on hand if you watch any of Lewis' gore films. Happy Viewing! (or should I say - Happy Vomiting!).