FEATURING: Ray Sager, Judy Cler, Wayne Ratay
PLOT: Montag the Magnificent operates a grand guignol theatrical act where he appears to chop up female volunteers onstage before viewers’ eyes; they return to their seats unharmed, but then die of the same injuries later that night.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It may be the most psychedelic gore movie H.G. Lewis ever made, but despite its pretensions towards making us question the nature of reality, Wizard really only makes us question our decision to watch a crappy H.G. Lewis gorefest.
COMMENTS: “What is a magician?,” grand guignol showman Montag asks his audience (minutes before decapitating himself with a guillotine). “A person who tears asunder your rules of logic and crumbles your world of reality?” Well, no, that wouldn’t be my first stab at a definition of “magician,” but Montag is on a roll. He goes on to ask his audience “how do you know that at this moment you are not asleep in your bed, dreaming you are in this theater?” This got me to thinking: how do I know I’m sitting on my couch watching a ham actor in an off-the-rack tux act like he thinks he’s performing Shakespeare in the Park after partaking of some serious backstage doobage? “All your life—your past, your rules of what can and cannot be—are part of one long dream from which you are about to awaken, and discover the world as it really is!,” warns Montag. Perhaps reality is a bad H.G. Lewis gore movie, and I am merely dreaming that I’m watching a bad movie, when in fact I will soon awake to find I am living in one? Maybe in reality people’s insides look like pig viscera stuffed into a plaster model and smothered in Heinz ketchup. Maybe when a magician—excuse me, one who tears asunder my rules of logic—gleefully roots around inside the torso of a corpse for five minutes, the amount of blood splashed on his shirtsleeves changes from shot to shot. Perhaps reality is full of abrupt edits, and the background music changes drastically with each cut, and maybe in the world as it really is the sound sometimes drops out, and some people’s dialogue is dubbed in in post-production, while others remain eternally mute.
Actually, the incoherent editing and choppy sound mix adds a surreal edge to what otherwise would be a simple bad movie endurance test. Wizard’s plot exists only as an excuse to string together Montag’s dismemberment sequences, which if you’re counting at home involve a chainsaw, spike through head, drill press through torso, and sword swallowing. “Isn’t there one lady among you who is considerate enough to satisfy her fellow human beings’ lust for blood?,” complains Montag.
Besides its visceral concerns, Wizard also has philosophical issues on its mind, although they are admittedly limited to the “dude, what if your whole life up to right now has just been one long dream?” sort of rumination. There’s a ridiculous “twist” ending to prove the movie’s solipsistic point, and Wizard‘s take on metaphysics is every bit as credible as its grasp of anatomy. ”You fool, what makes you think you know what reality is?” Montag proclaims. I admit, I can’t prove I should necessarily trust the evidence of my senses, but I do know this: I’m bored, therefore I am (watching an H.G. Lewis move).
You want to know what’s really terrifying about The Wizard of Gore? It’s not the rivers of gooey red blood; it’s the orange couches and purple sports coats. Sadly, we have become immune to the kind of violent shocks Lewis was trying to create in 1970. The butchery of our fellow humans seems quaint and laughable, while the early 70s fashion sense is what horrifies us.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: