The Wizard of Gore


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

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 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 and ageless 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 Combs.

I found the film a bit too self-consciously hip (the investigator/narrator, for example, deliberately wears 1965 styles and uses no technology more recent than that), but 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.

Some spoilers ahead

The solution to the mystery in the original film is 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.


  • Widescreen anamorphic
  • 8 Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Audio Commentary with all major contributors
  • Making of Wizard Of Gore
  • Behind The Screen: A Look At The Effects of Wizard Of Gore
  • From Volunteer To Victim: The Suicide Girls In Wizard Of Gore
  • Storyboards Comparison
  • Still Gallery


There are no major reviews online. The film was reviewed, often quite favorably, by several genre sites which are linked from IMDb.


7.3 IMDB summary (of 10)
  an amazing score for a hipster version of a splatter flick


Straight to DVD


Luna Cantale (the "geisha") and some anonymous strippers show their breast in Dr Chong's club.

The Suicide Girls play the magician's victims.

  • Cricket Suicide - breasts
  • Nixon Suicide - breasts
  • Amina Munster (aka Amina Suicide) - breasts
  • Flux Suicide. This is the only one who provides full frontal and rear nudity.

Various unknowns show breasts in fleeting montages.

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.



Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Solid genre fare.