review for The Wizard of Gore on AllMovie

The Wizard of Gore (1970)
by Fred Beldin review

Arguably the most interesting product from cinematic gorehound Herschell Gordon Lewis, The Wizard of Gore presents its Grand Guignol violence within a surreal, self-referential framework that stands out in any pack of cardboard slasher plots. The titular maniac prefaces his horrible on-stage acts by taunting his audience, challenging the space between reality and illusion, then proceeding to both exploit and satisfy their thirst for blood. The what, why, and how of Montag the Magnificent is never completely explained, with a bizarre nonlinear conclusion that places the audience right back in the theater, waiting for another gory magic trick. Ultimately, the viewers of the film are indicted along with the onscreen spectators, as guilty for the eventual dismemberments of Montag's victims as the evil magician himself. The desire for safe, sick thrills goes horribly awry and murder is the result. Written pseudonymously by the director himself, The Wizard of Gore could be taken as a pointed poke at the appetites of Lewis' own audience, and he served up a greater dose of cinematic carnage than his previous blood epics. While Lewis expressed displeasure with the film's special effects (many of which were compromised due to rushed schedules, budgetary limitations, and unforeseen accidents on the set), the squirm-worthy visions of eyeballs being dug out of heads and torsos torn open and rummaged through are more than adequate. As for the rest of the film, it's the standard Lewis collection of non-actors and clumsy cinematography, and it isn't unlikely that the script's elliptical qualities are due more to the hasty plugging of plot holes than any grand design. Still, the finished product has more heft than Lewis' other gore films and should be at the top of the list for anyone with interest in the director's career.