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  Wizard of Gore, The You'll Like It - Not A Lot
Year: 1970
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Stars: Ray Sager, Judy Cler, Wayne Ratay, Phil Laurenson, Jim Rau, Jim Alexander, Don Elliot, Karin Alexana, Jack Gilbreth, Corinne Kirkin, Monica Blackwell, Sally Brody, Karen Burke, Eric Kelner Raynard
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Let's go and see a show - how about a magic show? There's a new guy on the scene by the name of Montag the Magnificent (Ray Sager) and he's supposed to be really good. He begins his act with the usual conjuring tricks, but then starts his speech about how we cannot trust what we are seeing; how do we know, for example, that we are really watching Montag's performance? Could it be a dream? When he invites a young lady up on stage to be part of his act, is it authentic? As he saws her in half with a chainsaw, it certainly looks real...

Almost a decade into his movie career, Herschell Gordon Lewis was already an old hand at the business, specifically the exploitation business, and knew what it took to bring in strong returns on cheap product. When he wasn't making nudie movies, he would usually be producing his horrors, and while they were cheap and cheerful they also had a nasty streak that would prove influential on the genre for years to come. The Wizard of Gore was scripted by Allen Khan, but was recognisably in the Lewis style: lurid and needing no excuse to go over the top.

The gimmick this time around is that after Montag performs his bloody stunts on unsuspecting members of the audience - usually a young woman for that strong whiff of misogyny - they are magically restored and return to their seats. So far so good, but then, an hour or two later, the effects of the trick come back and they die for real, so that woman who was cut in two visits a restaurant and before she can even order, she has collapsed with her insides running out. This set up is repeated for the rest of the film, with some variations.

There are a hero and heroine, however, and they are Sherry (Judy Cler, who never acted onscreen again) and her boyfriend Jack (Wayne Ratay, who similarly, never graced the screen afterwards). Sherry has her own television show on what looks like public T.V. where she highlights entertainments, and after she has seen Montag's efforts she wants to interview him for her viewers. Montag is reluctant, but he will come round (or was he playing hard to get?) when he sees he can use his powers of hypnosis to wreak havoc, his motives being obscure at best.

Why is it called The Wizard of Gore - could it be a Wizard of Oz reference? If it is it's a strange one, but may be connected the cosmic, is it a dream? ending the film has tacked on. After Montag has killed off a few people through sword swallowing or, erm, an industrial hole puncher, he sets his sights on a larger arena. For some reason (i.e., the film would be over quicker) the authorities have not stopped his act in spite of the deaths occurring, which leads up the finale... and then a downright weird development that sees us having to question not only our reality but the reality of the film we have just watched. It's a novel way to finish, but doesn't really make up for the previous ninety minutes of terrible acting, poor staging and laughable effects, with Montag's style, best described as "declamatory" really grating. Still, Lewis was a pioneer, even if it was only the money he was interested in. Music by Larry Wellington.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Herschell Gordon Lewis  (1926 - 2016)

American writer-director-producer of low budget exploitation movies who helmed everything from nudist flicks to children's stories, but with the release of Blood Feast his reputation as the Godfather of Gore was made. He followed this with Two Thousand Maniacs!, Color Me Blood Red and The Gore Gore Girls, among others, then left the business to pursue a career in marketing; he returned thirty years later with Blood Feast 2. Lewis' generally poor production values, amateur actors and shaky plotting are all forgiven by his fans.

 
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