Last Run Theater – The Wizard of Gore from Freaky Fright Flick to Cult Class-Sick: Various Showings 1973-1982
2-19-82, Chicago – The Wizard of Gore was one of the films that Horror fans were talking about in a time when you had to be lucky to see what it was all about with mentions then-recent shout out by Bill Landis in his newsworthy list of Top 10 sleaze films causing further interest timed perfectly with a few showings in the Early 80’s of which this was a highlight that made those watching for the first time know of they were a part of the scene. In Dearborn, it would also play a couple of theaters around that time perfectly set at Midnight, and I’m sure other cities would also get this film playing somewhere that still had four-walled Late Shows (by then usually at malls) which confirmed Lewis’ standing as a Cult Movie Legend who was just starting to know about his following years after his then-last film, 1972’s Gore Gore Girls, beginning with a 1981 appearance in NYC’s Greenwich Village area which had the oft-mentioned reception that reminded him of an Adolph Hitler Rally and the showing of a beat up print of this class-sick film (the way he tells it is hilarious and heart warming). Those attending were the few and the dedicated who knew that there were films stronger than the Friday the 13’th films that had the polish but without the feeling that you were watching something sick, disturbing, and raw – all the elements that made one proud to be a gore hound.
While Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs! returned to the Drive In screens regularly like a release of a Beatles compilation through the years, possibly making some people feel nostalgic and ready to puke at the same time (The cheesy exploitation release of The Beatles’ Reel Music also did just that to music fans in 1982), there were other films from his history that played the Midnight Show circuit like evil ghosts of Exploitation past. Occasional sightings of films like The Gruesome Twosome appeared here and there through The 70’s, usually during Halloween and in The South where Lewis’ business was at it’s best and where many of his connections in the film industry were possibly with prints to pull out of storage from time to time. Although the Lewis put prints of his film up for collateral for the infamous Car Rental service which went under by 1974, there were those who knew his shock shows would do well at the right times playing to a new group of people who were going to find out that the films which predated the Last Houses and Dead Things that flooded the theaters through The 70’s lived up to the dis-reputation.
After it’s initial run from Late 1970-Early 1971 and during Lewis’ time away from movie making, The Wizard of Gore was possibly the one most picked outside of the “Gore Trilogy” to play the shows that needed something weird and wild to bring the audience in. According to the Boxoffice Booking Guides, it was picked up by Apache Films in 1977 along with American Raspberry (rejected by Warner Brothers and later to be known as Prime Time) and The Best of Laurel and Hardy, but it was handled better when Shock Films picked up the rights to it. With it’s surreal gruesomeness, cute damsels in distress, and over the top madness with Ray Sager memorable as Montag the Magician, this was a film that seen as a “Jinxed” picture by it’s Director and a freak flick to fill the screens by programmers, but also as an experience by Horror movie fans who were spreading the word like the movie did with the gore.
Opelousas, Louisiana, 3-2-73 and El Dorado, TX, 8-26-73 – A couple of showings were paired up with the Gore-Nography experience of scream Bloody Murder, aka The Captive Female.
4-23-73, Ft. Lauderdale, FLA – A small ad with three good films. The Scars of Dracula is an under-rated Hammer film while Mark of the Witch is a 1970 film made in Texas that has a small following as well. All 1970 releases three (or really two and a half) years on.
5-25-73, Tallahassee, FLA – Using the ad mat for Horror Hotel for this show.
2-24-73, Hartford, Connecticut – Like WTTO in Toledo, WPOP was an AM radio station that played the hits and hosted the occasional movie show. this was in the station’s final years in Top 40 ending in 1975. Today, is a News station. I wonder what the AMA were doing co-hosting this one, though!
7-3-74, Greenville, SC – YIKES! Children Under 12 admitted free to this show!
Clovis, New Mexico with fake R rating, 4-13-77 – The Yucca Drive In was a good place to be if you were in the mood for the wild shows (or the Wild Thing away from the parents) and Horror was always a good bet to keep the place running. Here was a show featuring Lewis’ two 70’s class-sicks that was one of the perfect matches ever which played a few screens in the NM/Texas area – a runner up by a bloody hair strand was putting The Gore Gore Girls with Joel Reed’s Incredible Torture Show aka Bloodsucking Freaks in the San Antonio market. Judging by the use of the ad mat for Count Dracula’s Great Love and The Vampire’s Night Orgy (itself a well-traveled double bill), there might not have been any advertising left for either film.
4-6-77, Alexandrea, Louisiana – $2 a carload!
5-13-77, Orlando, FLA – A classic Friday the 13’th show with two Lewis films and three more fright flicks that make a fantastic dusk to dawn show.
7-2-77, Jacksonville, Mississippi – the Paramount Theater was facing it’s final days with shows like this. I wonder what the reaction was. This was the ad that made me keep looking for more shows, seriously!
Ft. Lauderdale, 9-16-78 with Fake R rating – Playing the Kung Fu house circuit by this time. Nothing wrong with that as Montag’s style was his own more literal kind of chop-chop.
Ft. Meyers, Florida, 10-31-81 – Doctor Butcher and The Wizard of Gore at the Airport 9 – YEAH!
Alexandrea, Louisiana, 7-31-82 with Fake R rating – A great show of low-budget Horror flicks that might be called an all-weirdo-star-review! The creepy and hilariously bad Don’t Go Near the Park, the WTF cheap Italian Exorcism of Demon Witch Child, the Michael Findlay low budget Upstate New York Horror of Shriek of the Mutilated, and Veronica Lake in Flesh Feast Directed by Brad “Blood Freak” Gritner all joined in with the Wizard. Looks like a video party playlist of some readers!
Akron, 9-21 and 9-28-84 – The re-release of When the Screaming Stops was a shock show hit in some cities that led to some class-sick programs in a year when these films were finding less screens to play. Screaming…, originally called The Loreley’s Grasp, was promoted with the classic “Red Alert before the shock” gimmick not in the original cut and filled with good gory moments and a cool 70’s style which made it perfect to program with The Wizard of Gore in the show. The Gala Twin knew it’s audience would go for this.