DirectorHerschell Gordon Lewis
Release Date(s)1970 (November 13, 2018)
Studio(s)Mayflower Pictures (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: B-
- Overall Grade: C+
Arrow Video re-releases two of their offerings from The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast multi-film boxed set with The Wizard of Gore, and as a sub-feature, How to Make a Doll. While the former is about a madman who hypnotizes and tortures his victims as part of an illusionary stage show, the other is about a college professor who builds a machine to create women out of thin air.
A few years had passed since Herschell Gordon Lewis had made a straight gore film as he was making other types of films like She-Devil on Wheels and Blast-Off Girls, so The Wizard of Gore was a return to form, showcasing a grisly amount of gore that actually topped his previous films, such as Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs!. Unfortunately, that’s all that the film has to offer for the better part of its running time. It has a double twist ending that doesn’t really work that well and leaves one feeling more confused than satisfied, but the rest of the movie is devoted to a Grand-Guignol type stage routine of the titular wizard performing heinous, murderous acts and a TV host and her sports column writing boyfriend trying to convince the police that what Montag the Magnificent is doing is no illusion – particularly when his volunteers turn up dead after each show.
On the other hand, at least it’s more entertaining than Lewis’ 1968 effort How to Make a Doll, which is a totally different experience. While it’s meant to be a light-hearted romp about a nervous young man having trouble meeting girls and actually creating them with a giant computer, it’s padded with long, uninteresting sequences of him being hooked up to the computer and having fantasies about women instead. It’s completely tedious and, in my opinion, one of the most boring films in the H.G. Lewis catalogue. And I’m not just saying that because it lacked many of his usual horror hallmarks, but it’s just not a fun movie. Instead, it’s 80 minutes of elongated hi-jinks that aren’t funny and characters that are incredibly unappealing.
The following text appears before the Blu-ray presentation of each film begins: “The Wizard of Gore (and How to Make a Doll) has been exclusively restored for this release by Arrow Films. The film was restored in 2K resolution from a 35mm print, as the original negative has been lost. Due to the rough condition of the film elements available, this presentation exhibits some color fading that could only be corrected to a minimal degree through digital grading. There are also incidents of heavy scratches and similar damage that have been left intact. There is occasional loose audio sync but this is as per the original source materials.” As poor as they’re described, these transfers are not so awful that they can’t be enjoyed. They’re full of these problems and more, but they’re still organic in appearance, even sourced from lower grade elements.
The audio for each film is presented via an English mono LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. Both are narrow presentations with only decent dialogue and score reproduction, but also contain many of the same weathered element problems as the video portion, including crackle, hiss, distortion, and dropouts. How to Make a Doll is actually the cleanest and clearest of the two with the least amount of problems, but it’s by no means perfect.
THE WIZARD OF GORE (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C-/C/C
HOW TO MAKE A DOLL (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): F/C/B-
Extras for this release include an introduction to each film by Herschell Gordon Lewis; an audio commentary with Something Weird Video’s Mike Vraney and Lewis; Montag Speaks!, a new 20-minute interview with actor Ray Sager; Stephen Thrower on The Wizard of Gore, an 11-minute interview with the celebrated author about the film; The Gore The Merrier, a 9-minute interview with Jeremy Kasten, director of the 2007 remake of the film; The Incredibly Strange Film Show, a 40-minute episode of the legendary documentary TV series hosted by Jonathan Ross about the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis; and a trailer for The Wizard of Gore. Not carried over from the Something Weird Video DVD and Image Entertainment Double Feature Blu-ray release is an Exploitation Art image gallery featuring promotional materials.
Arrow Video’s treatment of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ body of work is to be commended. Despite not being armed with the finest film elements available, they’ve still managed to cull together watchable presentations and secured Lewis’ films for the future, regardless of my critiques of them. If you’re like me and you couldn’t afford to fork over upwards of $300 for the aforementioned Feast boxed set, this is another great disc that’s a little easier on the ole wallet, and there are definitely more coming.
– Tim Salmons