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by Pamela Torres
Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! Children of all ages! The All-American Schlockmeister H.G. Lewis proudly presents an amazing shockfest of Grand Guignol mayhem! Now, for those of you who have had your heads stuck in the sand for the last 40-plus years, Herschell Gordon Lewis grossed out generations of cult moviegoers with a crimson-tainted slew of zero-budget shockers, including TWO THOUSAND MANIACS, THE GRUESOME TWOSOME, and the notorious BLOOD FEAST. The latter was originally played in drive-in theaters way back in 1963 during the height of flower power and experimental drug use. But my most favorite of his films is a crackpot classic he directed in 1970; an outrageous offering of hocus-pocus homicide called THE WIZARD OF GORE! Actor Ray Sager puts a zany zest into his starring role as Montag the Magnificent, a cutting-edge illusionist who can pull something much deadlier than a rabbit out of his hat. For his live performances, he picks shapely young women out of the audience by bewitching them with hypnosis. Then, he has the unnamed assistants butchered right before our very eyes. In the first savage act, the mad magician bisects a redhead with a chainsaw (and this is only a couple of years before Leatherface came along!) Next, Montag hammers a metal spike through a lovely blonde's skull, scooping gray matter out of her hair! Later on, he has another unwilling participant messily disembowled on a punch press! Last but not least, Montag lacerates the tongues and tracheas of two ladies by forcefeeding them metal swords! By the time Montag takes his bow, each volunteer is magically restored and walks away unharmed. However, that false sense of security doesn't last very long because a few hours later, the victim comes apart at the seams...literally! Of course WIZARD OF GORE isn't just about guts and goofs. Actress Judy Cler co-stars as a gorgeous and outspoken talk show host named Sherry Carson. After dragging along her skeptical sports-loving fiancee Jack (Wayne Ratay) to one of Montag's shows, Sherry gets excited in trying to convince him to appear on her television program, "Housewives Coffee Break." At first, Montag is testy and refuses her offer, protesting like a Shakespearean diva. But soon he changes his mind as he aims to make Sherry his next corpse (this is indicated by the numerous mirages of dripping blood splotches fading on and off her right hand). When Jack reads a newspaper article about how each of Montag's volunteers are found dead, and that how they died is eerily similar to his stage antics, Jack joins the police department to investigate what he thinks is the work of a copycat serial killer. Meanwhile, Montag is busy stealing the bodies of all the dead girls from graveyards and the hospital morgue. Nobody knows WHY he does this, but at least these scenes are gloriously shot in KOOL-AID-VISION! When it comes to junk food cinema, THE WIZARD OF GORE has nothing to hide. First time viewers will be flabbergasted at the film's extremely close-up shots of mutilated organs and pumping ketchup arteries. During the opening credits alone, a cackling Montag beheads himself on a guillotine. On top of this, the acting is awful (in a good way, of course! I'm sure Brad Jones will agree with me!). Wayne Ratay's heroic portrayal of Jack is wooden at best and Ray Sager is such a hambone that he ought to be served with a peach-and-mango sauce! As for the ending...it had to have been tacked on at the very last minute because...well it's so utterly ridiculous!!

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