An independent director who also distributes their films understands that they have to make sure that they know the audience that’s pay to see their films. They didn’t have a studio pay them big bucks for them to make a movie and take the loss if the film dogged in theaters. If they wanted to make another film, they had to get the profit rolling from their current feature. Their names served as beacons to attract a crowd that has expectations. Russ Meyer played to an audience that wanted certain qualities exhibited by the lead actress. Radley Metzger lured in eyes that wanted a sophisticated European Erotic perspective. John Cassavetes brought in the art house folks that wanted emotional rawness from the cast. Herschell Gordon Lewis tapped into people that had a taste for blood. After the successes of Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs!, he kept the fluids flowing off the screen and earned the nickname “The Godfather of Gore.” The Wizard of Gore gives a magic performance that wasn’t going to be found on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Montag the Magnificent (Ray Sager) gives a speech about what is reality and how do we really know what is happening before us. The magican invites a woman out of the audience out of the audience to serve as his assistant. He straps her down on a table and saws her in two with a chainsaw. At first it seems rather messy as her guts are all over the place, but very quickly the audience sees that this was just an illusion. She’s in one piece and alive. How did Montag do it? After the show the woman goes to a nice restaurant, but as soon as she gets to her seat, her internal organs hit the table like a Scottish buffet. This event brings the attention of local TV reporter Sherry Carson (Judy Cler). She approaches Montag to learn his secrets. What she ends up getting is an up close view of Montag’s next delayed victim. Can she find out how he does it and stop his dark magic from claiming another volunteer from the audience?
Who hasn’t made the joke about what would happen if a magician screwed up and really cut a woman in half during a performance? Of course in 1970, cinema was still relatively tame in America when it came to show off the gore. Which made Herschell Gordon Lewis the perfect guy to finally give a grotesque view. He’s the man who made Egyptian caterers and Southern celebrations drip red. He had built an audience that wanted to squirm at the sight of bodily organs dripping with blood on the big screen. He doesn’t disappoint here as he yanks a brain out of a woman’s skull. This is not the David Copperfield story. The Wizard of Gore is the kinda film that people who get annoyed by TV magicians can embrace and show to friends.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The film was transferred from various elements because the negative was lost. But compared to previous editions, the image doesn’t have too many imperfections. The audio is Uncompressed PCM Mono. Lewis shot on a tight budget so things can sound rather rough with a touch of echo. The movie has English subtitles.
How to Make a Doll (80:45) is one of Lewis’ lesser efforts from 1968. This was his version of The Stepford Wives. It’s gore-free and bikini fun.
Audio commentary with Herschell Gordon Lewis and Mike Vraney allows the director to recount all that went on in his version of magic cinema. He doesn’t hide how he got his bloody tricks on the screen.
Introductions from Lewis are on both films.
Montag Speaks (19:33) catches up with Ray Sager. He’s reveals how Col. Sanders was involved in the film.
Stephen Thrower on The Wizard of Gore (10:20) lets the author of Nightmare USA put the film in its context.
The Gore the Merrier (9:05) interviews Jeremy Kasten, director of the 2007 Wizard of Gore remake that starred Crispin Glover as Montag.
The Incredibly Strange Film Show (40:33) is part of the cult documentary made by Jonathan Ross in 1988. You might have seen Ross on The Great Big Quiz of 2013. Ross gets to talk to Herschell Gordon Lewis and gets deep into his whole career. At this point, Lewis was out of filmmaking and offering advice on how to direct advertise. This is a great bonus feature as Lewis speaks of his tapping into the gore to get an audience. He also mentions how tough it got to find screens even if he could attract an audience.
Original theatrical trailer (5:04) has Lewis play on the introduction of Frankenstein with a man warning the audience about the upcoming film.
Arrow Video presents The Wizard of Gore. Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis. Screenplay by: Allen Kahn. Starring:Ray Sager, Judy Cler, Wayne Ratay,
Phil Laurenson & Jim Rau. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 94 minutes. Released: November 13, 2018.