I remember the first time I saw a Herschell Gordon Lewis film. It was Blood Feast, and it was sometime back in the early 1970’s. Lewis was ahead of his time and was doing extreme slasher before even mainstream slasher films were cool. It was shortly after that bloody experience that I saw the original Wizard Of Gore. Perhaps those experiences didn’t prepare me as much as I thought they would for the remake of Wizard Of Gore. I have to honestly say that I don’t really see the connection between these two films. Certainly the main idea of the magician remains, but little else of the original material survives.
In this version our main character is Ed Bigelow (Pardue). He and his girlfriend Maggie (Phillips) are invited to attend a magic show that appears to be all the rage in the goth crowd. At the show they are first disgusted with the Renfield antics of Geek (Combs) who opens for the main act, the magician Montag (Glover). Montag invites women from the audience to the stage where he performs all sorts of mutilations to their bodies. Once the “volunteer” has finished literally spilling her guts, the lights begin to flicker and suddenly the girl is absolutely fine. Gone is all of the blood and gore, and it’s as if nothing has happened. Soon after each performance, however, the stage victim turns up actually dead in the same manner as the stage show. Bigelow, who has been chronicling the events for his underground newspaper, begins to investigate the circumstances of the deaths only to find himself more closely connected than he realizes.
The film is almost like a drug induced nightmare. Images and lights appear randomly on screen, and often the screen itself appears to warp as if the boundaries between reality and fantasy are being blurred and more importantly crossed. The story is an absolute mess and far too contrived to be effective. The problem with so much misdirection is that before long you just give up trying to understand. Not long after that you simply stop caring. The only thing that keeps you engaged are some of the performances. Jeffrey Combs as the ragged Geek looks like a character out of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung. He reminds me so much of Dwight Frye that I do really get sucked into his character. Crispin Glover is a strange man, and so is perfectly cast as the over the top Montag. You get the uneasy feeling that he’s not doing a hell of a lot of acting here. That combined with his notorious creepy and belligerent reputation means he’s not the hardest working actor out there. When he fits a part, however, he really fits a part and was obviously worth the problems having him on set requires. If you’re looking for an homage to Lewis and his original film, you will be disappointed. If you’re looking for something totally surreal and very goth, this film will be right up your alley…dark alley that is. Hey, what can you expect from a film that includes the infamous Suicide Girls?
The Wizard of Gore is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This is a very dark film, both in subject and in its physical lighting. There is also so much color correction and digital processing that an evaluation of the print is difficult. It’s hard to imagine that most of the artifact look wasn’t actually cultivated. Black levels are all over the place. There isn’t a ton of detail. The entire film appears to morph and change so constantly that the only consistency to be found was its inconsistency.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track offers some nice creepy moments, particularly during the Montag magic shows. There’s some rather uneasy crunching and squishing sounds that are likely the most true to Lewis style moments in the film. Dialog is as clear, at least, as it’s meant to be.
There is a commentary track which has a crowd of crew along for the ride. I was disappointed that they talked very little about Lewis or the original material. They were candid about Glover and his reputation.
Deleted Scenes: There are eight providing over 26inutes of footage. You can view them on their own or with the play all option. There’s an introduction to each by director Jeffrey Katsen. It’s more of Combs and Glover for the most part.
Outtakes: This is the typical 4 minutes of mess ups, I guess.
The Making Of Wizard Of Gore: This 24 minute feature offers plenty of behind the scenes footage. I have to say they provide some wonderful detail on how things were done. It is very generous with these moments and interviews with key cast and crew.
Behind The Screen – A Look At The F/X Of Wizard Of Gore: Watching this film it’s obvious that both CG and practical f/x were used. Here you get another 13 minutes of how many of these things were done. The magic behind the magic, if you will.
From Volunteer To Victim: This piece centers on The Suicide Girls and how they got involved with the film.
How can you hate a film with plenty of blood and girls? There’s even blood wrestling. I can see that event catching on at your next horror convention. The film is more about a visual experience more than anything else. It appears to be more of a head trip than an actual gore film. Why do I get the idea that this is the kind of film some of you are going to tell me makes more sense if you’re stoned? But for me it was hard not “to feel something other than disgust…contempt”.