Friday, November 27, 2015

A NIGHT TO DISMEMBER (1983)



My first dose of Doris Wishman came in the form of 1983’s A Night to Dismember—and my brain is still wigging out. Wishman claims that the original negative was destroyed by a disgruntled film lab employee, so she had to spend a few years re-writing and re-editing the film. If this claim is true (I’m skeptical), given what we are left with it’s a wonder Wishman didn’t just scrap the entire movie.
     But if she did, we wouldn’t be left with a film that is so far past Z-grade that it loops back around to A.
     The following is what I’m guessing is the plot. The thing is so cobbled together and incoherent that not even God Himself could figure it out. But I did the best I could.  A Night to Dismember begins with the title set against the backdrop of a stormy sky with some excellent music playing, a track that really sets the mood for what is to follow—rather, what we wish would follow. It’s all downhill from here. Cue the discount Robert Stack narration which tells us about the Kent family, a family which is “cursed.” The voice, belonging to detective Tim O’Malley, informs us of the “murders and deaths” that befell the Kent family. Brother Fideous is caring for his two daughters Susan and Bonnie. Susan, the oldest, murders Bonnie in the bathtub because Susan feels that her father favors Bonnie. After dispatching her sister, Susan dies by “accidentally falling on the axe.” Broderick Kent calls detective O’Malley and tells him that he came home and found his wife Lola murdered. Under questioning, he admits that he hired an ex-con to kill her because she was insured and he needed the money. He commits suicide in prison. Adam Kent’s daughter Vicki murders two neighborhood boys and is sent to an institution. Five years later, she is released, supposedly cured. But is she? Cue the violent murders and red herrings!
     What sets A Night to Dismember apart from pretty much every slasher I’ve seen is its style—but this is a perfect example of style over substance. Quick: name a slasher movie that is entirely narrated, cobbled together to create a disjointed and confusing narrative and features tons of stock music which is often completely at odds with what is going on on-screen (if you managed to name any, please send
me the title and I’ll check it out). Though it has the sure mark of ineptitude, it lends a lot of hilarity to the proceedings. Observe! As Vicky is chased through the woods by a zombie accompanied by (I’m not kidding) some soothing elevator music! Behold! As two people (Frankie and Sandy) make out while two people from an entirely different film are spliced in, also making out! See! One of the cheesiest, slo-mo murder scenes ever committed to celluloid! Watch! As Vicki runs in circles from Detective O’Malley, going up and down the same staircase and through the same door, and we are supposed to be convinced that an average two story house has this many doors and staircases!
     The fact that the film was shot with no sound provides great opportunities for atrocious dubbing, also at odds with the actor’s emotions and expressions. One scene which stands out is when Vicki tells Frankie that she is all better now while wearing an expression that says “I’m gonna cut your head off and fuck the stump.” Hm, not quite sure I believe you being cured, Vicki.     
     The editing, both picture and sound, prove that blind and deaf monkeys are perfectly capable of doing a human’s job. Sounds vanish and reappear between shots, picture editing is choppy at best; the goddamn elevator music abruptly changes, sometimes during the same shot.
     And speaking of that damn elevator music, there are several tracks that sound like they were lifted from an 80’s porn. I kept waiting for the drug-fueled fucking and sucking to start but—alas!—no such love going on in this picture. Shit, once it was over I had to crank one out to an 80’s porn because I felt like I owed them a load. Um, anyways…
     As mentioned earlier, Wishman claimed that the incoherence and cobbled-together nature of the picture was the result of a disgruntled film lad employee. I’d be inclined to believe Wishman if I hadn’t watched her 1965 picture Bad Girls Go to Hell, which features many of the same issues: stock elevator music, bad dubbing and illogical actions on the part of the characters. However, that one is far more coherent than A Night to Dismember and shows that Wishman at least knew what she was doing.
     All in all, were it not for the movie’s stupidity and sloppy composition/directing, A Night to Dismember would be a pretty forgettable slasher save for one death scene that is memorable by virtue of being impossible. But I won’t spoil that for you. As is, the film will provide a solid hour (the film’s less than seventy minutes long) of laughs, head-shaking and facepalming. And seeing as it is available on YouTube for free what do you have to lose (not counting your dignity)?
Insert your own menstruation joke here.

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