Reality vs illusion. This is a topic that has been used in various films ranging from Total Recall, Rear Window, and The Cell to Memento and Mulholland Drive. Is what we see the truth just because we see it, or are our minds making us see what we want to see. The line between dreams and waking life sometimes is a fine one and this is the subject of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s classic exploitation film The Wizard of Gore.
I have seen this film many times and enjoyed it with varying degrees. It very much is a low budget gore exploitation film. After repeated viewing however, it becomes apparent that it is also a tongue in cheek study of our perception of reality vs. fiction and our tolerance as moral human beings toward real violence (road kill – as stated in the movie, gladiators, sports, etc) as apposed to that on the television or movie screen.
This film is hilarious, hideous, creepy, and forehead slappingly awful all at the same time. Music repeats itself over and over and over, most of the actors spit out lines like they just learned them, characters mash their faces together like they are kissing, and continuity between shots is atrocious. It is obvious that is was made on a shoestring budget, as most HGL films were, and probably filmed in a weekend. But regardless, he comes away with a fun and quirky little film.
The Wizard of Gore is about a magician named Montag the Magnificent (played with ominous voice and some great sideburns by Ray Sager) that holds magic shows in which he hypnotizes his audience and then gleefully tears (and I mean tears) female volunteers apart in the name of illusion. The audience doesn’t notice that he is killing the women because they get up off the stage in one piece without a scratch on them. Later in the evening however they turn up ripped to shreds. A TV personality and her sports reporter fiancé get entangled in to the whole affair by noticing a correlation between the women winding up dead and the participants in his daily shows (we talking about some Einstein’s here because any idiot would have figured this one out after the second one, takes them about 4). The TV lady keeps going back to see the shows because she wants to get him for an interview on her show. Montag has other plans though for that, which leads to our climax in which he plans on doing a trick on the TV audience across the nation.
This film was obviously the inspiration behind the infamous film Bloodsucking Freaks. They are both very similar in presentation, but Wizard of Gore doesn’t only revel in its own filth (which there is enough of believe me). There is comic relief between every murder/illusion act and it makes it a much more palatable film. Let me tell you though, when Montag is smiling ear to ear playing with some girls guts, or putting a railroad tie through some females head and gouging out her eyes, you start to wonder how far is too far.
HGL made films for the lowest common denominator of viewing audiences and never made any qualms about it. That is where his appeal lies, in that utter disregard for status quo ideals and rules. Most of his films follow that to the t. The Wizard of Gore however had a little more, and I mean a little when I say that, to bring to the table. If you enjoy a good low budget splatter film that doesn’t take itself that seriously get this. If you have seen Bloodsucking Freaks and didn’t like that because of it’s misogyny or intensity, this won’t win you over either.