Tag Archives: Herschell Gordon Lewis




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.


“…a sleazy, surreal treat.”—Bill Gibron, Pop Matters (essay)



This post was written in contemplation of the Juxtaposition Blogathon at Pussy Goes Grrr.

In 2008 documentarian Mark Hartley scored an unanticipated film festival hit with Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!, an examination of obscure Australian exploitation movies of the 70s and 80s.  (Striking while the iron was hot, Hartley rolled out a spiritual sequel of sorts with Machete Maidens Unleashed!, which braved the even more bizarre jungle of Filipino exploitation cinema).  2009 saw another surprise critical success in Best Worst Movie, the story of the disastrous making, and triumphant cult legacy, of the ultra-ridiculous vegetarian-goblin horror movie Troll II, which managed to score an astonishing 95% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer.  Whatever the reason (maybe its the flowering of seeds planted by Quentin Tarantino), at this moment in time mainstream critics seem eager to recognize, examine, and even embrace the pleasures of schlock.  Since the last horror/exploitation doc cycle—the duo of The American Nightmare (2000) and Mau Mau Sex Sex (2001)—came about a decade ago, it appears the time is ripe for another down-home survey of the dark and shady sides of American cinema.

Still from Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009)The thesis of Nightmares in Red, White and Blue, the 2009 examination of the American horror film, is that particular social conditions and historical anxieties shape the nature of the shock genre from decade to decade.  Brian Yuzna asserts that the variety of disfigured, limbless freaks specialized in playing in the twenties were inspired by the horrors of World War I and the sights of returning veterans maimed by modern munitions.  The viewpoint that American horror is strictly linked to American angst breaks down fairly early Continue reading DOCUMENTARY DOUBLE FEATURE: NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE AND BLUE (2009)/AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE (2010)


DIRECTED BY: Lee Demarbre

FEATURING: , Sasha Grey, Jesse Buck, Michael Berryman,

PLOT: An incompetent horror director discovers he can make realistic gore effects by killing

Still from Smash Cut (2009)

his critics and co-workers and using their severed body parts as special effects.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: With Smash Cut, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter auteur Lee Demarbre pulls back the weirdness and takes a step towards the conventional (to the extent that a comedic tribute to Herschel Gordon Lewis’ cheesy gore films, featuring a main character who considers a dead stripper in the trunk of his car to be his muse, can be considered mainstream).  The results are, frankly, a little boring, though camp gorehounds might find some entertainment here.

COMMENTS:  The one sentence plot synopsis tells you all you need to know; there are very few story surprises as Smash Cut unspools.  You can figure out that the diabolical director starts to enjoy killing as his megalomania grows, finds it increasingly difficult to cover his tracks as the bodies pile up, and is eventually thwarted by the clean-cut young heroes.  Since we know what’s coming, it’s crucial that Smash Cut deliver on the gags (especially the weird gags), and unfortunately this is where the movie falls down on the job.  The best parts are the two films-within-the-film, perhaps because they push their deranged style to its limits and stay true to their own madness.  The first is director and future serial killer Abel Whitman’s trashterpiece Terror Toy, featuring a ragdoll clown murdering a busty psychiatrist with an ink pen and one of the worst “dangling eyeball” scenes you’ll ever witness.  The second featurette is a silent art film created as a mousetrap to try to play on the felonious filmmaker’s sense of guilt.  In between those two highlights are some interesting, mildly absurd touches—for example, a “suicide” by harpoon and a minor character who sets army men on fire—and a lot of deliberately unconvincing, campy gore effects (though the scene where Abel extracts eyeballs with a box cutter delivers a significant cringe factor).  The acting is inconsistent, which is not necessarily a problem in the overall spoofy enterprise, but Continue reading CAPSULE: SMASH CUT (2009)