Today I watched Herschell Gordon Lewis’ The Wizard of Gore (1970)
Herschell Gordon Lewis is most well known as the progenitor of the gore film and this entry into his ouvre is easily his most popular. The film follows Montag the Magnificent, a magician and the titular wizard of gore, as he performs a number of lurid magic tricks. These tricks involve brutally murdering women in variously gory ways, before they seem to just shrug off all the damage and return to normal. Local talk show host Sherry Carson is particularly entranced by these tricks and wants to bring Montag onto her show, but her boyfriend Jack is much more suspicious. When the women from previous shows begin to turn up dead in the same manner Montag seemingly simulated though, Jack’s theories begin to sound reasonable.
As his films are in incredibly bad taste and considering they predate the huge market for horror that exists today, Lewis was always working on shoestring budgets. So if you can’t stand cheap looking movies, maybe look elsewhere. That being said Lewis does know how to present his subject matter despite the economic shortfalls. His narrative shortcuts in particular are quite creative, even if the film makes very little sense. The combination of raw independent film style with this phantasmagoric plot of gore a hypnotism is really quite bizarre in the most entertaining way.
There is also a strong tongue in cheek element to these proceedings as Lewis is nothing if not self aware. Montag keeps going on about how vicarious humans are and how obsessed with carnage we are and all that as some kind of parody of the outspoken moral majority who condemned his earlier films. It is well known that the turn to gore films was, for Lewis, a genius way of keeping his career going, he knew full well that this was a niche to be filled. In that sense Montag is Lewis and the mockery he makes of human nature can be seen as Lewis’ own mocking. This notion of absurdity and mockery would continue in Lewis’ works that followed this as he became less and less able to take himself seriously. I would strongly recommend this film to all the gore hounds out there, more for it’s historic significance as it is pretty dated. It’s also a great example of creative low budget film making which should really be appreciated for it’s daring absurdity. 4/5