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The Wizard of Gore

USA 1970
produced by
Herschell Gordon Lewis, Fred M. Sandy for Mayflower Pictures
directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
starring Ray Sager, Judy Cler, Wayne Ratay, Phil Laurenson, Jim Rau, Don Alexander, John Elliot, Karin Alexana, Jack Gilbreth, Corinne Kirkin, Monica Blackwell, Sally Brody, Karen Burke, Eric Kelner Raynard, Sheldon Reis, Julie Yager, Charlotte Bell, Alex Ameri, David Atlas, Patty La Du, Stephen Field
written by Allen Kahn, music by Larry Wellington, special effects by Herschell Gordon Lewis (as Sheldon Seymour), Allison Louise Downde, Robert Lewis

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Montag the Magician (Ray Sager) stages one of the most amazing and most shocking acts there is: Night after night, he mutilates and kills one of the members of his audience in a very violent way - like sawing a woman in half with a chainsaw, let a woman swallow a sword and then cut her up from the inside, driving a spike through a woman's head or punching a hole in a woman's chest with a punch press. Thing is, after these women are quite obviously killed, they show up alive and unharmed and able to take their bow - it's all just mass hypnosis, or so it seems at least ...

Especially daytime TV-host Sherry (Judy Cler) is fascinated by the magician and visits him night after night with her boyfriend reporter Jack (Wayne Ratay) and she also tries to get him onto her show to do a trick. Jack however is less than impressed by Montag, but what's more disturbing is that all of Montag's volunteers die the very same way they did on stage only hours after the performance, but obviously without even being assaulted. Jack starts to investigate, and after some time even the police becomes interested in his ideas, but it seems impossible to pin the killings on Montag - or anybody else for that matter.

So the police decides on a desperate measure: To use Sherry as bait when Montag performs one of his tricks on her show ... Thing is, this time around, Montag thinks bigger and he wants to burn the whole studio audience - in which he almost succeeds, if it wasn't for Jack, the only one who has looked through his hypnotizing techniques, and he can push Montag himself into the fire just before Montag can volunteer the audience to go into it. With Montag burning to a cinder, his power over the audience is gone, and everything's back to normal.

Later that evening, Sherry and Jack discuss the case and Sherry recounts the many loose ends of the case (and the film), like how did Montag do it (mass hypnosis is not good enough an explanation), why did he do it, why did he steal his victims' corpses, why did he burn in his own fire that was actually just an illusion, ... All of a sudden, Jack removes his mask from his face and he turns out to be Montag - and immediately he starts dismembering Sherry with his bare hands (!) - but at one point Sherry just starts to laugh and claims she has magic powers far greater than his - and all of a sudden, we are back at the performance that opened the film, only this time, Sherry is far less fascinated by Montag ...

 

It's very easy to dismiss this film, probably Herschell Gordon Lewis' goriest, as a sick and violent piece of trash. But while not completely wrong, this is also unfair to the film that is so over-the-top it simply can't be taken all seriously anymore. Ray Sager's overacting and the relish with which he plays with his victims' guts are pure self-irony, as is the totally nonsense ending and the film's many loose ends that are actually addressed in the movie. Simply put, the film offers too much of everything and should therefore be taken with the humour it deserves.

That said, if blood and guts aplenty are not your thing, of if you insist on taking your gore flicks seriously, stay away from this one. If you are into the bizarre however and can laugh about (cheaply made) gore effects then this one is definitely recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD