Taken from my website Slasher Movies Uncovered...
A while back, I got the chance to interview Herschell Gordon Lewis. Ever since that day, I wanted to be able to review one of his movies. Now thanks to Amazon, I have this opportunity. "The Wizard of Gore" is one of the most iconic films that Lewis made, because of its dark nature and extreme gore that had never been seen before. I liked the movie a lot, because it was very original, and it had pushed boundaries like no other.
The beginning of the movie introduced the viewer to Montag the Magnificent; a magician on tour. He raises the question of what magic really is, and engages the audience instantly. He then does a shocking trick with a guillotine, and appears to take his own head off. To the audiences' surprise, the head wasn't real, and he was completely fine. After this, he announces his next trick, which is to saw a living woman right in half. He takes a volunteer from the audience, and completes the illusion. The weird thing is that we don't actually know if it was just a trick, or if it was real. Even though all of the blood and gore is right in front of us, the woman appears completely fine moments later. The next thing we know is that this same woman is found dead of the same wounds at a restaurant went she to. This intro was pretty thrilling, because everything as macabre and dark, and it was just really well done.
The rest of the movie follows this pattern, where a seemingly harmless trick by Montag actually ends up being a secret murder. I find this plot extremely original, and it's weirdness intrigued me. I honestly don't think anything like this was done before, and even if someone tried to repeat it in the future, it couldn't be the same. I think the craziest element is that the audience of the magic show never really sees how morbid he is being, because it brings a supernatural idea that bends things a lot.
The movie really lived up to its title, because even 45 years later, this film is still outrageously gory in all standards. Guts fly, and blood pours, and in the most morbid ways too. I can't believe that any man could've thought of being this innovative, and it impressed me a lot with how much he pushed the boundaries. Even though the blood looks fake, it doesn't take away from the nastiness at all, and I find it to be one of the craziest movies ever.
Along with the blood, the tactics of killing were extremely brutal and sadistic. Punch presses were used, mallets, swords, etc, and they were done in ways most people wouldn't even think of. Herschell did an amazing job with spicing up the genre with these ideas, because I feel that they influenced a lot of people in the future.
The acting was nothing spectacular, as it was obviously low on the agenda for Lewis' vision. Regardless, there were still some good performances that worked well for the movie. The greatest of all was Ray Sager in the lead role of Montag. He did a really awesome job at portraying the sadistic nature of the magician, because I could sense the darkness from a mile away. His voice in the monologues was very powerful also, and he was just really professional.
The film was on a very low budget, yet Lewis did a great job of making the product look pretty amazing. I thought the red tinted graveyard scenes were a great touch, because it made everything much more psychedelic, and it also made things more mysterious. The idea of switching back in forth from seeing a murder, to going to what looked like the harmless stunt was not easy to complete without looking dumb. I thought this was done well, because it had a very eerie and disturbing way about it that successfully made the viewer extremely confused.
The ending of the movie was quite a surprise, and while it could've been better, I still liked it a lot. I thought that the last minutes were very worthy of leaving the viewer in shock, because it was a plot twist that I wouldn't have expected at all.
The only thing that I thought the film was lacking was its pacing. Sometimes the story went too slow for my taste, and in others it really breezed through important things. For instance, the movie spent way more time with dialogue than showing scenes in graveyard, which could've possibly added to the suspense with more screen time. While this did not ruin the film at all for me, I just think that it was something that could've definitely been improved upon.
Overall, this was a very fun movie. It wasn't the best I've ever seen, but it was an original, extremely gory, and crazy movie. I definitely recommend it to all horror fans that can take the violence, because it was pretty iconic in the genre's history for sure. It has also made me look forward to watching many more Herschell films in the future, because it was a piece of art for sure.