The Wizard of Gore
The Wizard of Gore is a remake of a 1970 splatter film which was
directed by the godfather of gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis. Lewis had been
a pioneer in creating exploitation films of all types for the drive-in and
grindhouse markets in the sixties, and experimented with various formats
until he hit upon his own peculiar niche: gore. In the early sixties, the
movie codes and assorted local statutes covered nudity quite explicitly,
and made it difficult to get nudie films into enough venues to turn a
healthy profit. Gore was a different matter. Lewis and his partner, fellow
exploitation legend Dave Friedman, realized that simulated cinema gore,
however shocking it might be, fell nicely into the legal cracks and could
be screened just about anywhere, so they moved away from nudie films toward
splatter flicks. From 1963 to 1972, first with Friedman then on his own,
Lewis created a series of films which were essentially the first splatter
flicks to reach a wide audience in North America, and are now considered
the seminal classics of this horror sub-genre, including Blood Feast, 2000
Maniacs, and The Wizard of Gore.
Most of Lewis's films, to be brutally frank, are awful. 2000 Maniacs
and The Wizard of Gore, for example, start with solid ideas, but fail in
execution because of incomprehensible plotting, undeveloped characters,
micro budgets, amateur actors, and so forth. Because they are both
unpleasant and generally incompetent, they are virtually unwatchable (and
the use of "virtually" is charitable) to the average person, but genre
fans love them because they are outré, anti-establishment, and
in-your-face, and they were made that way in an era when nobody else was
as daring. If Quentin Tarantino is the messiah who mainstreamed B-film
violence, Lewis was his John the Baptist.
This film was an excellent candidate for a remake because, as
mentioned, The Wizard of Gore has an excellent basic premise. A Grand
Guignol magician named Montag specializes in underground performances
where he takes unwary members of the audience and subjects them to
torture, evisceration, dismemberment, and other grisly procedures to the
shock of the other members of the audience, who are then further surprised
and horrified by a black-out, followed by a dramatic "ta-da" in which an
unbloodied Montag and the unharmed "victim" are seen standing together on
the stage. The "hook" of the film is that the faux victims soon become
real victims, and they all come to grisly deaths in which they suffer the
precise bodily harm previously simulated in the stage show.
The remake is a solid genre film which was assembled by a pretty good
team. The cinematographer was Christopher Duddy, who has been James
Cameron's visual effects guy on many films, and has previously been the
cinematographer on some really solid mainstream projects like Thirteen
Days, the Costner film about the Cuban Missile Crisis. The stars of the
film are Kip Pardue, a solid young mainstream actor who plays the
investigator, and Crispin Glover, the dependable eccentric who is cast
perfectly as the mysterious Montag. The cast is filled out nicely by Bijou
Phillips and two genre veterans, Brad Dourif and an unrecognizable Jeffrey
The guilty pleasures of the genre are all present and accounted for.
The atmosphere is creepy; the gore effects are top-notch; the score and
sound effects are suitably eerie. There is also plenty of nudity along the
way. In a nice embellishment to the original, Montag makes each of his
faux victims strip on stage, just to demonstrate to the audience that they
will do anything he bids them do.
The solution to the mystery in the original film was one of those
circuitous "mind-fuck" explanations where little seems to make sense and
the line between reality and dreams is a thin one. The remake carries a
bit of that same vibe, with a lot of dreams, mental deterioration, and
drug-induced hallucinations mixed with the reality, but the director and screenwriter did try to come
up with a reasonable explanation which ultimately makes an effort to explain why
everything seems so confusing along the way. It is a bit disappointing
that the two main suspects in the murders (the magician and the narrator
who is obsessed with the case) both turn out to be puppets who are being
manipulated by two different minor characters, and I'm not convinced that
the various explanations would hold up to even loose scrutiny if the
details were to be examined piece-by-piece, but I don't think that really
matters. Most of the major details do fit the explanation, and the key
fact is that there is some destination eventually, and an atmospheric ride on
the way to that destination.
Comes to DVD Tuesday
- Unknowns: you will
see Bijou Phillips in a sex scene which is part of a jumbled montage of
sex scenes. Some of the other women are topless, but I'm pretty sure
Bijou keeps her top on.
Cantale (the "geisha") and some anonymous strippers.
- Nixon Suicide.
The Suicide Girls play the magician's victims.
- Cricket Suicide
- Amina Munster
(aka Amina Suicide)
- Flux Suicide.
This is the only one who provides full frontal and rear nudity.