Is it magic? Or wholesale slaughter? Montag the Magnificent (Ray Sager), The Wizard of Gore, is a seedy small time magician with a shocking stage act. Hypnotizing pretty young women from the audience to be his obedient vol... more »unteers, Montag then proceeds to mutilate them in a series of Grand Guignol illusions. A woman is cut in half with a chainsaw, another is drilled through the stomach with a giant punch press, a metal spike is driven through one gal's head, and two ladies are forced to swallow swords. Trouble is, after the show, the "illusions" become all too horribly real. Blood, guts, and offbeat surrealism in another crackpot classick from "The Wizard of Gore" himself, director Herschell Gordon Lewis.« less
Pamela Scarangello | Middletown, NJ USA | 12/31/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been providing my own horror reviews for many months now, and I feel that the best way to end 2003 is to critique a movie by the Godfather of Gore himself, H.G. Lewis. His greatest project is none other than "The Wizard of Gore," an outrageous cult masterpiece of murderous, magical mayhem! Filmed in 1970, it's one of the first fright films to present sickening onscreen violence as its main attraction. At the same time, the acting is unbelievably campy. Star Ray Sager brings forth a zany zest to his sly alter ego, Montag the Magnificent; I can best describe his acting as that of a horribly hilarious ham!
The basic synopsis is this: Montag earns his reputation as a cutting-edge illusionist (in more ways than one!). During each performance, he picks a young woman from the audience, bewitching her with hypnotic powers. Then, he butchers his pretty assistant right before the crowd's eyes. By the time he takes a bow, the victimized volunteer is magically restored and walks away unharmed. However, no one realizes that Montag's sadistic lust for blood is real, and that on the same night, every victim comes apart at the seams...literally!
Throughout the film, each trick becomes more gruesome than the last. In the first act of extreme gore, the mad magician cuts a redhead in half with a chainsaw (and this is before Leatherface came along!) Next, Montag hammers a metal spike through a lovely blonde's skull, scooping bleeding brains out of her hair! Later on, he has another female volunteer disembowled on a punch press! Last but not least, Montag forces sharp swords down two women's throats; each screaming victim has her tongue and esophagus savagely sliced open! Meanwhile, a gorgeous and outspoken talk show host named Sherry Carson (Judy Cler) is anxious to have Montag appear on her television program, "Housewives Coffee Break." At first, Montag is testy and refuses her offer, protesting like a Shakespearean diva. But he soon changes his mind as he aims to make Sherry his next victim (this is indicated by the numerous mirages of her bleeding right hand). Seizing her opportunity, Sherry regularly attends the theater to experience brand new illusions, dragging her skeptical fiancee Jack (Wayne Ratay) with her. At first, he's not at all enthused at having to sit and watch Montag over and over again. However, is interest in the weird wizard's work increases as he tries to rationally figure out how the tricks were done. When Jack discovers in the newspaper that each of Montag's volunteers are murdered, and that their deaths are eerily similar to how they were killed onstage, he believes that a psychotic serial killer is copying Montag's magic. Eventually, Jack joins the police department to investigate the baffling murders. I will not bore you with any more details. Let's just say that the film's conclusion will emit plenty of smoke and no mirrors!
To truly disgust and flabbergast the viewer, Lewis required the film to feature extreme close-up shots of mutilated organs and pumping arteries. He made sure that when it came to cinematic shock and sadism, "The Wizard of Gore" had nothing to hide. In the opening credits alone, Montag beheads himself on the guillotine, leaving moviegoers gasping for more. What makes Lewis's direction quite interesting, however, is how he carefully splices together TWO versions of Montag's tricks. On the one hand, the film's audience views his act as nothing more than an innocuous illusion. But on the other hand, WE as outside viewers witness the grisly reality behind the red curtain; we are the ones who truly see the blood puddles and hear the shrieks of terror! That concept makes "The Wizard of Gore" work. Buy the DVD while you can. You won't want to miss this humorous slice of hocus-pocus homicide!"
My favorite H.G. Lewis film
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 12/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1963 Herschell Gordon Lewis, an independent filmmaker best known for making limited release cutie pictures, changed forever the face of American cinema when he released "Blood Feast." This film, about as low budget as you could possibly get even in the 1960s, began the era of the gore film. While it would be quite some time before Hollywood caught on to the fact that certain segments of movie audiences hungered for films containing nauseating scenes of explicit violence, H.G. Lewis took one look at the receipts for "Blood Feast" and decided he better quickly make another movie similar to this one. What followed was a series of gruesome zero budget shockers, films like "The Gruesome Twosome," "A Taste of Blood," "2000 Maniacs," and this exercise in extreme bloodletting, "The Wizard of Gore." Lewis went on to make one more gore film, the downright offensive "The Gore-Gore Girls," before retiring from the film business in order to launch an advertising career. It wasn't until 2002 that the director returned to form with "Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat," a movie which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Godfather of Gore still has what it takes to gross out an audience."The Wizard of Gore" introduces us to Montag the Magician, played with wooden effect by Lewis crew regular and sometime actor Ray Sager, a guy clothed in a cape and top hat who likes to thrill his audiences with bizarre magic tricks. The shows take place in what looks like a school auditorium, with Montag spouting philosophical musings about the nature of reality before beginning his gruesome act. These performances, which always involve young female "volunteers" pulled from the audience by Montag's hypnotic powers (!), seem to thrill the audience. By turns Montag saws a woman in half with a chainsaw, pounds a stake through a head, performs a sword swallowing trick, and perforates a torso with a punch press. This guy really packs 'em in, although what the audience sees isn't necessarily what is really going on. Montag's powers of hypnosis allow him to "trick" the audience into seeing a simple, bloodless act. In reality, the magician's antics result in lengthy scenes of gory violence best left unelaborated on here. Again, the audience in attendance sees none of these stomach churning activities. Not until his volunteers leave the show and the hypnosis wears off does the magician's sinister work become all too apparent. Wouldn't you know it? Women who take part in Montag's show later turn up dead bearing wounds remarkably similar to what would have happened if they had been cut in half with a chainsaw, had a stake pounded through their head, swallowed a sword, or been punch pressed. A feminist reporter who has a local television program happens to see Montag's first show, learns about the mysterious deaths of the volunteers, and wants to know more about this somber figure. She visits the magician back stage but finds the man dismissive until he notices she wears the "bloodmark" (sure, this doesn't make sense but it never makes sense in the movie either) and offers her free tickets to the next show. The reporter makes sure to bring her obnoxious boyfriend to all of the performances, a man who quickly becomes suspicious of Montag's cold manner and the mounting death toll of women associated with the magician's magic act. Intermittently, we see Montag stealing the corpses of his victims in order to place them in some mausoleum (?). The conclusion to the film finds the icky illusionist attempting to take his show national, so to speak, before coming face to face with somebody who challenges him on his own terms. "The Wizard of Gore" contains all of the hallmarks fans of the master have come to know and love: bottom of the barrel acting, glacial pacing, cheesy yet oh so effective special effects, and head scratching plot elements. What, exactly, is the meaning of the red tinted scenes showing Montag strolling through a cemetery with a corpse thrown over his shoulder? Who knows? Lewis never explains why this activity takes place so I guess we shouldn't ponder its implications too much. The acting is painful to watch, especially Sager's turn as the master illusionist with a taste for blood. This guy is so wooden, the pancake makeup on his face so heavy, that you will laugh at his histrionic delivery more often than not. Less amusing are the sadistic gore effects. Although many of the props used for the film are obviously fake--note the mannequin head used in the spike scene and the guillotine sequence in the beginning--it is the way Lewis allows the camera to linger on the unfolding violence that makes you cringe as you watch this movie. Only the director's final film exceeds the general nastiness seen in "The Wizard of Gore." The Something Weird DVD release is a great catch for Lewis fans. While not as extensive as the extras included on the "2000 Maniacs" disc, this movie still sports an in depth commentary where we learn a lot about the production of "The Wizard of Gore" from H.G. Lewis himself. The director tells us how Ray Sager ended up with the part of Montag, warns viewers not to read meaning into any of his films, and explains how he wanted to really up the gore quotient in the final scenes of the film. Unfortunately, the print used for the DVD looks like the same scratched, grainy, torn version I own on videotape. "The Wizard of Gore" is a must have for H.G. Lewis fans and we can only pray that a remake/sequel will be forthcoming soon."
One of Lewis' darker efforts not even counting the gore
Scott Jeune | kerhonkson, ny | 04/26/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In "Wizard of Gore" Montag the Magnificent dispatches hypnotized women with slop happy glee while the audience is hypnotized into thinking they are watching a standard issue hypnosis and magic act. Other people have talked about the acting, the really bad pancake makeup on Montag, and the ending which basically makes this film the Florida drive-in circuit version of "The Matrix" (I was waiting for Montag to ask the heroine of the film which pill she'd take- red or green?). But aside from that, the most pervasive element of this film to me is the bleak nihilism within it. There is only one emotion in the film- Montag's, when he is tiptoeing through the organs. Otherwise he acts as somnabulistic as the women he dispatches. The boyfriend in the film spends most of his time yelling things into the phone while he tries to stop his girlfriend from just about EVERYTHING!! By the way, has anyone noticed that halfway through the film He turns into the panicked girlfriend while She turns into the main catalyst for the plot. At the same time she is an accomplished television host with a dollop of women's liberation to boot. Was this Lewis' appeasement to the viewing public (and more often than not, the not viewing public... if you've ever run into them outside a theatre,you know what I mean)? If so, I'd have to say that with me it works, and it was something I hadn't noticed when I'd seen the film many years earlier as a teen... it makes an interesting bridge piece between the wigged collegiates of "The Gruesome Twosome" and the 'women's liberation' scene from "The Gore-Gore Girls". But I'd really have to say that this is Lewis' most humorless and darkest film; most of them have the sickening violence in the same way that the Three Stooges would build up to a pie fight. By the way, I haven't gotten around to the commentary (but intend to), and about that, remember: ALWAYS BUY LEWIS FILMS WITH THE COMMENTARY. Rumor around is that he doesn't have the rights to the films anymore but he does to the newly recorded commentaries- so, basically, if you are buying a Lewis film with no commentary, the man sees none of your cash."
SPLATTER comes to DVD
frankenberry | Los Angeles, CA USA | 04/30/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Herschhell's ultra-bad, but very gory and entertaining "The Wizard of Gore" has been given a good DVD release through Something Weird - IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT. The transfer is quite sharp (no compression artifacts like on the "2000 Maniacs" DVD) and the print used is pretty clean (a few scratches and some slight wear around reel changes)...overall looks really nice for such an old low-budget film. There's lots of gore in this one too...much more than in his other gore movies (except for "Gore Gore Girls" which is ultra-sick...can't wait for that one!). The "Wizard" is Montag the Magnificent and he's a maniacal magician who likes to mutilate young lovelies during his stage act. You'll see a woman's brain get spiked out of her head, a pipe machine drill through a woman's intestines, women's tongues and throats mangled by swords, and eyes poked out of their heads! Ya, it's all pretty fake, but it's still pretty incredible to watch. The DVD features another interesting commentary track with H.G.L. and Mike Vraney (Herschell keeps referring to "Montag the Magician" instead of "Montag the Magnificent"!), the original theatrical trailer (not in the best of shape), and another gallery of HGL exploitation art (different from the first 3 DVD's which all had the same stuff). Overall a very good purchase for HGL fans and fans of early gore movies."
ADK | Royal Oak, Mi. United States | 11/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love when an actor (?) brings such dedication to a role and Ray Sager approaches his Montag role as though his life depended on it (he was hired for the lead day before shooting began).
The Wizard is not filled with highspeed, action hero, death defying stunts or rapid paced scenes. Instead we get Montag giving a Shakespearean worthy monologue to you, yes you!
First time I played this disc my sides were hurting from laughter.
Cute females, grinding gore, twisted ending and bottom of the barrel budgeting make this a new favorite for me.
Watching it again, this time with the H.G. Lewis commentary makes it even more entertaining.
Oh, the glorious days of real time special effects and two-bit acting.Forget about the outlandishly budgeted hollywood gloss junk made for the masses. This is a prime example of creative, esoteric, humerous, low budget filmaking. Shakespearean gore."