Sunday, May 1, 2011

#268. The Wizard of Gore (1970)

Directed By: Herschell Gordon Lewis

Starring: Ray Sager, Judy Cler, Wayne Ratay

Tag line: "Is it magic?  Or Wholesale Slaughter?"

Trivia:  A scene from this movie was shown in the 2007 award-winning film, JUNO

At first glance, The Wizard of Gore appears to be a typical Herschell Gordon Lewis film, complete with bad acting, choppy camerawork, and plenty of eye-catching gore. Like the director's Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs, this movie oozes red stuff by the bucketful, and will certainly entertain all you horror fans who like your films soaked in blood. Yet The Wizard of Gore does offer an additional surprise for its audience, one that proves just as exciting as all the on-screen mayhem.

Montag the Magician (Ray Sager) has a very unusual act; he invites young girls up on stage, then proceeds to butcher them in the most gruesome ways imaginable. When the act is over, the girl, none the worse for wear, simply walks away.  Yet before the night is out, she will be dead, her body bearing wounds similar to the ones she received during the show. Sherry Carson (Judy Cler), who hosts a morning television program, has been hard at work trying to secure an interview with Montag, but her boyfriend Jack (Wayne Ratay) is a bit leery of the magician, and, with the help of the local police, launches an investigation into the grisly murders of Montag's “volunteers”.

When it comes to Herschell Gordon Lewis, I admit I'm a definite fanboy. What his movies lack in performance and cinematic craft, they more than make up for in spectacle and “Holy Shit” moments of blood-stained carnage. Yet The Wizard of Gore does offer something more besides, something I would have never anticipated going in. As I said, the acting is bad, yet there is one performance that, while certainly not “good” in the classical sense, proved more than simply effective; in fact, I'd call it downright hypnotic! I'm speaking of Ray Sager as Montag the Magician, a turn so flamboyant, so incredibly over-the-top that I simply could not look away. Each line the actor delivers isn't spoken, it's shouted, and usually with such bravado that you start to believe every word passing his lips is of the utmost importance. In one of the film's earliest scenes, Montag invites a young girl (Karin Alexana) up on-stage. With a single look from the magician's piercing eyes, the girl enters a trance-like state, and has to be helped up onto a table where she's immediately strapped down. The illusion we're about to witness is Montag's personal spin on the “sawing a woman in half” routine, yet we fear for the worst when the magician walks off-stage and returns a few moments later wielding a chainsaw. Before getting down to business, Montag addresses the audience. “You were expecting a mere handsaw” he scoffs, “and a covered wooden casket?!”. As we soon realize, nothing about Montag's act is traditional, and neither, for that matter, is Ray Sager's performance.

According to Lewis, Ray Sager, who normally worked behind the scenes on his films, was a last-minute replacement when the original actor hired to play Montag quit just before the start of filming. Sager certainly made the most of the situation, and, much like the character he played, managed to conjure up a fairly impressive illusion of his own.



Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. this is Marvert from the States and I like H.G. Lewis, his band of horror brought it to the next level.

You might want to check out 2,000 Maniacs by him, so good.

The dogs theme was unique and it was a pleasurable experience. Very good.

So long for now

Dave Becker said...

@Marvert: Thanks for stopping by!

I agree with you; Lewis was a pioneer in horror whose films can still shock you to this day.

I've actually seen TWO THOUSAND MANIACS, and I agree it's a great HG Lewis film. I did post my thoughts on it here:

Glad you enjoyed the dog theme. I liked a few more of those films than I thought I would!

Thanks for the comment, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

ShockMeister a few things;
- Excellent-excellent episode 12 very entertaining.
- Looking towards your french film ratings. I know you probably picked some keepers you always do.
- Its been awhile since I seen this I will be buying it.
- Do not watch the remake of Wizard of gore with Krispin Glover it is bad.
Bye Bye; Nieva

Dave Becker said...

@Nieva: Thanks for stopping by!

I'm glad you enjoyed episode #12, and I think we have some good movies lined up for #13 (at least I hope so, anyway...can't wait to hear what the other hosts think!).

For me, any HG Lewis film is a keeper, yet it's disappointing to hear that the remake isn't any good (Along with yourself, I've heard some pretty negative things from a number of sources). I usually like Crispen Glover, and I admit I'm interested to see what he'd do with the role of Montag, so I'll probably check it out at some point (though my hopes aren't high).

Anyway, thanks for the comment, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Tommy Ross said...

Wizard Of Gore and Gore Gore Girls both must-haves! And I agree with you, Ray Montag did an outstanding job especially filling in at the last moment, he made that part totally his and that's all an actor really needs to do, despite his talent or the caliber of material given him/her.