The Wizard of Gore
|The Wizard of Gore|
Original release poster
|Directed by||Herschell Gordon Lewis|
|Produced by||Herschell Gordon Lewis|
|Written by||Allen Kahn|
|Music by||Larry Wellington|
|Edited by||Eskandar Ameripoor|
|Distributed by||Mayflower Pictures|
The Wizard of Gore is a 1970 American splatter film written by Allen Kahn, directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis, and starring Ray Sager, Judy Cler, and Wayne Ratay. The 1970 film was one of the first to feature realistic deaths in the gory scenes.
Magician Montag the Magnificent delivers hectoring speeches about the nature of reality to his audience and then performs mutilation tricks on female "volunteers". The women appear unharmed immediately afterward but later collapse, dead, in public or at home—mutilated in the same grisly fashion suggested by Montag's stage tricks (cut in half with a chainsaw, drilled through with a punch press, etc.). Audience member Sherry Carson, a local TV talk show hostess, and her boyfriend Jack begin to suspect that Montag is somehow involved in the murders. Jack and fellow reporter Greg attempt to research the case but are unable to come up with any solid evidence.
Montag agrees to appear on Sherry's show to perform a fire trick; when the cameras roll, he hypnotizes not only everyone in the studio, but also the viewing audience at home. With a wave of his hand, Montag starts a blaze and is guiding Sherry and two plainclothes cops toward it when Jack intervenes and pushes Montag into the fire instead. Screaming, the magician dies.
Back at home, Sherry and Jack have a drink as they discuss their strange experience. Suddenly, Jack laughs and begins peeling his own skin from his face to reveal that he is actually Montag. "What makes you think you know what reality is?" he asks Sherry before disemboweling her with his bare hands. But Sherry, still alive and laughing maniacally, tells the baffled Montag that none of what has happened was real—and that even he is part of her illusion. "You are no longer even here," she informs Montag. "You'll have to start your little charade all over again."
"But I...I am Montag!" the magician stammers helplessly. Then he is back onstage, dazed, reciting the same speech that he delivered to his audience at the beginning of the film: "What is real? How do you know that at this second you aren't asleep in your beds, dreaming that you are here in this theater?" And in the audience an unimpressed Sherry turns to Jack, muttering, "You know what I think? I think he's a phony."
- Ray Sager as Montag the Magnificent
- Judy Cler as Sherry Carson
- Wayne Ratay as Jack
- Phil Laurenson as Greg
- Jim Rau as Steve
- Don Alexander as Detective Kramer
- John Elliot as Detective Harlan
In The Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis, Daniel Krogh notes that the film's graphic gore effects were accomplished with two sheep carcasses. The carcasses, which had to be carried around for more than two weeks while the film was being shot, were soaked in Pine-Sol. Krogh also describes how the chainsaw sequence was filmed: two women, one whose upper body was exposed and another whose legs were exposed, played the single victim. A fake midsection filled with animal organs, mortician's wax and condoms full of stage blood was placed between the two women. According to Allmovie, the film's special effects were compromised "due to rushed schedules, budgetary limitations, and unforeseen accidents on the set", and Lewis claimed to be unhappy with the final product.
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Allmovie called the film "arguably the most interesting product from cinematic gorehound Herschell Gordon Lewis", though a "standard Lewis collection of non-actors and clumsy cinematography, and it isn't unlikely that the script's elliptical qualities are due more to the hasty plugging of plot holes than any grand design."
In popular culture
The film was notably referenced and a scene is shown in the 2007 film Juno, when the main character finds a VHS copy of the film in the living room of the adoptive father. The two watch the film together after Juno shows interest, who then praises the "insanity" of the gore sequences.
- Thompson, Nathaniel (2006) . DVD Delirium: The International Guide to Weird and Wonderful Films on DVD; Volume 1 Redux. Godalming, England: FAB Press. p. 750. ISBN 1-903254-39-6.
- "The Wizard of Gore". The New York Times.
- Fred Beldin. "The Wizard of Gore (1970)". Allmovie. Retrieved 1 July 2012.