Film Review: The Wizard of Gore (1970)

Also known as: House of Torture (reissue title)
Release Date: October 23rd, 1970
Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Written by: Allen Kahn
Music by: Larry Wellington
Cast: Ray Sager, Judy Cler, Wayne Ratay

Mayflower Pictures, 95 Minutes


“You’ll be all right. Listen, as soon as I get you to your apartment, I’ll give you the Emergency Special: Half gin and half vermouth. We’ll sprinkle the vermouth over a female toad and we’ll drink the gin.” – Jack

I thought I had seen this movie long ago but I guess my memory played tricks on me. I’ve seen several clips over the years and honestly, a lot of the splatter porn stuff from this era, especially Herschell Gordon Lewis’, kind of blends together in my brain.

That being said, this is more of the same while also being somewhat original in how this is all presented and the bonkers, clunky story used to string the violent bits together.

Honestly, this plays more like a porno flick that pretends like it has a plot, pretends it has some “acting” and pretends it has some narrative elements that “proves” it’s not just gratuitous shock value shit.

It’s hard to tell if this film thinks it’s smart or if it’s actually just parodying the smarty pants art-house cinema that was becoming a thing. The plot feels like it was crafted by a meth addict that was influenced by David Lynch without understanding any of the guy’s nuance or style. Granted, this exists seven years before Lynch’s first film, Eraserhead.

Anyway, the story does that “is it real?” or “is it all in your head?” gimmick. I think it’s trying to take itself somewhat seriously and Lewis is trying to show that in spite of his shocking imagery, he’s a legitimate filmmaker and this is higher brow art than anyone is willing to accept. I’ve had Lewis fans try to convince me that the guy was a cinematic mastermind for years but nothing they have said has made me see their “light”.

The thing is, I do like Lewis, I’m okay with his work but if I’m being honest, it’s all just schlock-y, gratuitously gory shit. This film is no different and the plot is so batshit insane that it actually makes it even harder to suspend disbelief, making it more difficult to just open yourself up to the spectacle of it all.

I’m also not a gore hound, as a movie needs more than discount meat from the butcher being brutalized for it to mean something.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other Herschell Gordon Lewis films.

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