THE WIZARD OF GORE (1970): A CLASSIC NAME FOR A BAD FILM
Everything is off in this film. The sets are cheap, mostly filmed in someone’s garage or closed down nightclub. The actors were mostly recruited for a weekend gig from a passing carnival. The sound and film quality varies from shot to shot – none of it in the good category, most of it wavers between terrible and god-awful. The story feels like it was compiled from three different films whose pages got mixed up. And yet I thoroughly enjoy myself every time I watch this movie.
The purpose of this film was all in the title – splatter gore, exploitation, and cheap thrills.
This was part of the cheap-o drive-in circuit, the old time equivalent of direct-to-video market. Make something cheap, toss it out, and most likely there’ll be some return on the investment.
The plot is as follows: A TV talk-show hostess and her boyfriend investigate a shady magician who has the ability to hypnotize and control the thoughts of people in order to stage gory on-stage illusions using his powers of mind-bending. So while the audience thinks the subject is unharmed, he is really tearing them apart. But somehow this mesmerism allows the dead person to go back home, then fall to pieces. Later we see Montag collecting the bodies – for reasons which are not explained. No motivation for this character is ever given, so there’s absolutely no reason for any of this to happen – apart from gore, gore, and more gore. All of this wraps around into a twist ending that makes no sense, but then you don’t watch a cheapo splatter film to study the nuances of high drama.
One of the high points of the film, next to the gore, is the laughably bad acting.
Everyone seems to be cite-reading their lines off of cue cards. Adding to that joy, half the film sounds like it was miked in a bucket of lard. Each character’s voice is either too low and garbled or ridiculously loud.
The most egregious violator of the scene-chewing over-acting is Ray Sager who plays the antagonist Montag the Magnificent.
You have to hear it to believe how bad his acting is. Every word is loud and said without inflection. You will probably burst into laughter with every line he speaks. Strangely, he went on to have a successful career in television as a producer working on such diverse titles such as The Republic of Doyle, Spenser for Hire, and Prom Night III & IV.In his defense, Ray Sager wasn’t meant to be the lead, but stepped in when the original lead – whoever that was –
Of course, something this bad and wonderful had to be produced by the late, great, Godfather of Gore, Hershell Gordon Lewis.
He spent his film-making career specializing in cheapo horror flicks like this, in addition to Color Me Blood Red (1965), Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964), The Gore Gore Girls (1972) and Blood Feast (1963); as well as nudie cuties such as Daughter of the Sun (1962) and The Adventures of Lucky Pierre (1961). John Waters, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and James Gunn all claim to be inspired by his work.
The trailer for the film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.
Born into the blue-collar city of Buffalo, NY, Rex Hurst was traumatized as a small child by the suffocating rabbits scene in the animated adaptation of Watership Down. Ever since, his mind twists towards the macabre, until his inevitable blossoming as a horror and sci-fi writer. When not writing he is an assistant professor of composition, public speaking, and literature.
Rex Hurst is the author of the horror novels The Foot Doctor Letters: A Serial Killer Speaks Out; What Hell May Come & the sci-fi novel Across the Wounded Galaxy as well as several novellas. He is also co-host of the weekly radio show Write On SC. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, www.rexhurst.com, and What I’ve Been Reading blog- https://rexhurst.blogspot.com/