Horror lovers gathered at the Mayfair Theatre Mar. 2 to see more than just a rare screening of the cult classic, The Wizard of Gore—they came to see the wizard himself.

Tall, lean, and imposing, Ray Sager, portrayed the villainous magician Montag the Magnificent in the 1970 gornographic classic.

Surprisingly, 42 years later, Sager had never seen the Wizard of Gore before.

“I’m being forced to watch it,” he joked. “I usually don’t watch anything I was ever in. Even if it was really good, I wouldn’t watch it.”

Director Herschell Gordon Lewis’ The Wizard of Gore consists of hammy dialogue, a mostly senseless plot, and gory psychedelic episodes, but it’s these traits that give the film its “kitschy” appeal, said Sager.

“It’s what we would call so bad it’s good,” he said. “It’s so over the top, you can’t take it seriously. What’s great about horror is that, for me, if you do it right, it’s the emotional response.”

The audience of about 50 hardcore fans were unabashedly excited about the evening’s event. In an homage to a scene in which Montag saws a woman in half, one fan walked in brandishing a handsaw and exclaimed, “I came prepared!”

Before the movie started, Sager told the audience how he would never have played the role of Montag had the original actor not broken down during shooting.

Sager said he was originally working on the film crew when Lewis asked him to fill in last minute for the main role.

“[The original actor] was the right look. . . but he was also a patient from a mental institution,” said Sager. Lewis offered him five times his salary.  “So I said, ‘Okay!’ I don’t even think I’d read the script.”

The audience clearly enjoyed the rare, uncut 35-millimetre reel of the movie, which is a part of the Mayfair’s Filmmaker in Attendance Series. While a minor malfunction with the reel caused a small delay during the screening, a spectator yelled, “It’s still better than watching a Blu-Ray!”

Every overwrought line and bungled delivery was met with applause, laughter, and chiding from the fans.

“I love all this cult stuff. It’s so ridiculous, you just have to laugh,” a fan said.

Even Sager, who for the most part seemed deeply absorbed in the film, couldn’t resist laughing at his more ridiculous scenes.

Nor could he resist taking a few jabs at himself after the screening. “I had no idea I had such long speeches. I have no idea how I actually memorized them. They just go on for ever!”

Sager then regaled the audience with several stories about the rushed shoot, which dealt with everything from antagonistic landlords to power failures. He wrapped up the evening by discussing what it was like to work with the pioneer gore director Lewis.

“One thing that Herschell always did was get his finger on the pulse. . . of what was going to happen next and being there before it happens. He was always trying to be ahead of his time.”

—Photo courtesy of ndh