Blu-Ray Review: Wizard of Gore & Gore Gore Girls

Something Weird re-releases two cult classics from The Godfather of Gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis. Are they worth a second look?

Devon Ashbyby Devon Ashby

 

Timed with cosmic perfection to coincide with the unexpected rediscovery of three of the director’s lost prints, Something Weird Video’s Blu-ray two-pack reissue of the always adorable H.G. Lewis favorites Wizard of Gore and Gore Gore Girls is currently available for purchase. Known for his cheesy humor, low production values, and gut-churning explosions of viscera and Karo syrup, Lewis, in his own day, was truly the Godfather of Gore, as enthusiastic revivalists of later generations proclaimed. Although his films might now appear plodding, silly, and amateurish, their tactless will to please and can-do tenacity allow them to retain uncannily quaint appeal, even to jaded viewers of the now.

Gore Gore Girls was Lewis’s last feature before a lengthy retirement, from which he has only just recently emerged with a shot-on-DV Blood Feast sequel, Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, in 2002 and Troma-esque gore comedy The Uh-Oh Show in 2009. Gore Gore Girls was shot in 1972, but veers in directions similar to his later work, retaining Lewis’ standard affinity for attractive ladies copiously slathered with animal guts, but injecting a contemporary infusion of jiggling naked boobs, and pointedly less contemporary doses of eye-rolling burlesque hall humor.

The plot is minimal to the point of minimalism, as is usually the case for Lewis – a sexy young female reporter and a distinguished Sherlock Holmsian mastermind detective team up to solve a string of brutal killings targeting female strippers employed by a specific night club. The machinations of the protagonists, however, are largely utilized for hokey comic relief and story padding – there’s no question the latex prodding, gore oozing, dubbed-scream orgy of pig intestines and smashed cow eyeballs gleefully loading every crevasse of the screen during the murder sequences are the movie’s real thematic centerpieces. Plus, as mentioned above, this movie is singular in the H.G. Lewis gore oeuvre for also having naked chicks.

Wizard of Gore is a slightly earlier film from 1970, and lacks the exposed nipples and gyrational partial nudity of Gore Gore Girls, but it makes up for these with its extreme, existential indifference to engaging screen action. It is like a bizarre experimental film, intercutting ponderously intense sequences of people strolling innocuously to their parked cars or speaking directly into the camera lens, with lingering, fetishistic sequences of pulse-pounding disembowelment and face mutilation.

Like Gore Gore, Wizard is sparsely plotted, and involves a plucky woman television personality who teams up with her police officer boyfriend to solve a string of brutal killings targeting female volunteer audience members for a popular stage magician named Montag. Apparently the film’s social influences were vast because the plot of VHS gore classic Bloodsucking Freaks, which was shot six years later, more or less perfectly mirrors the plot of Wizard, except that Freaks has other stuff in it too, like midgets, penile dismemberment, and a lady with a dartboard painted on her ass.

Something Weird shelled out for commentaries on both movies, as well as a slideshow image gallery and a nice reel of trailers for Lewis’ other works. Like them or not, The Gore Gore Girls and The Wizard of Gore have earned their place in the canonical lore of low-budget sleaze filmmaking, proudly trumpeting their indifference to story, meaning, social decorum, or artistic value, and oddly achieving a highly specific and undying breed of sublimity because of it. Without Lewis there might never have been such an absurd glut of straight-to-DVD slaughter content for the young and tasteless to enjoy in the modern era, and for doing so much to set the ball rolling, we surely owe him a somber hat-tip.