The Wizard of Gore
In exploitation kingpin Herschell Gordon Lewis' 1970 gross-out anti-classic, The Wizard of Gore, Montag the Magnificent (Ray Sager) is a magician who not only skewers, stabs and chain-saws girls, but gleefully churns his hands in their slime-dripping guts. The director implies that this is, in fact, something that every red-blooded American male secretly yearns to do. Lewis is a special sort of director.
Like other memorably monikered Lewis slaughterfests (Two Thousand Maniacs!, Blood Feast), Gore takes place in a closed universe that looks like a high-school educational film gone terribly wrong. Montag ends each performance with the hypnosis and disembowelment of a girl from his audience. A few jump cuts later, the girl appears uninjureduntil later that evening, when she unceremoniously deposits her innards on a restaurant floor. After another girl meets a similar fate, a TV-show hostess (Judy Cler) investigates, leading to the film's shock-a-rooni dénouement.
Some peoplemany of them Frenchhave accused Lewis of making a presciently postmodern meta-film. The scary thing is, they might be right (if only by default). Essentially, Gore consists of two repeating scenes: one of Montag yapping and then butchering a girl, and one of other characters talking about having seen him butcher a girl. Lewis shows alarming signs of consistency in his "incompetence," as he jump cuts from the gore (accompanied by ambient sounds of torture tools and a weird bell-tone loop) to shots of bored audience members gazing in no particular direction (accompanied by silence). It seems Lewis is a guy who can't match two friggin' scenes made on one set, right? But nohe repeats variations on these sequences in exactly the same wrong way all through the film.
One must also consider the brilliant way he makes up for his nonexistent effects budget. To achieve the effect of Montag's ever-inquisitive fingers gouging a girl's eyes out, Lewis goes from shots of girls who are made up to look like mannequins, to close-ups of Montag squishing the orbs of real mannequins, creating a seamlessly gross illusion. Plenty of overpraised auteursmany of them Frenchhave risen to fame by displaying less creativity.
To say that The Wizard of Gore renders coherent critical judgment moot is an understatement. At one point, Montag sneers, "How do you know that, at this second, that you are not asleep in your bed dreaming you are in this theater?!" Hell, you can't be sure you're on the same planet.