A Night to Dismember – USA, 1983

‘Lust, betrayal and dismemberment…’

A Night to Dismember is a 1983 American horror film directed by Doris Wishman from a screenplay by Judith J. Kushner, her niece. It stars Samantha Fox, Diane Cummins and Saul Meth.

The film tells the story of one gory day in 1986 in the small town of Woodmire Lake. In the course of this day, all but one member of the Kent and the Todd families are brutally killed and dismembered. The gruesome events are recounted in voice-over by a police detective…

Review:

An auteur in the truest sense of the word (even if we’re talking trash auteur), Doris Wishman was one of the pioneers of the nudie cutie genre. She was responsible for such early sixties pics as Behind the Nudist CurtainGentlemen Prefer Nudist Girls and the almost surreal Nude on the Moon (yep, nudists on the moon), before exploring the gritty underbelly of so-called ‘roughies’ (sleazy adult dramas with elements of both sleaze and violence) via Bad Girls Go to Hell, My Brother’s Wife and Another Day, Another Man.

The latter lowbrow black and white sexploiters provided Wishman with the perfect opportunity to show off her penchant for bizarre camera angles, huge close-ups and on-the-hoof location filmmaking. Naked or semi-naked ladies (cue lotsa retro panties, bras and stockings) are used and abused by lustful, greedy men. Combined with a docu-drama approach, disjointed narrative, voice-overs aplenty to make up for actors shot with no sound (to save on the budget), the seedy results are heady stuff!

Wishman really hit the sexploitation heights in the sleazy seventies with legendary spy spoofs Deadly Weapons and Double Agent ’73, both featuring the awesome Chesty Morgan, a permanent feature in schoolyard lore at the time and possessor of unfeasibly enormous mammary glands. The real clincher was that Chesty used her massive boobs to smother to death her enemies!

Already a certain je ne sais quoi laced her work, with the aforementioned non-synchronised sound, editing by chainsaw and foot fetishism amongst other endearing traits adding to a general sense of “what the hell?!”

And as for her 1976 sex-change “documentary” Let Me Die A Woman, once seen, never forgotten… She was even forced to churn out an anonymous porno production, but even that contained other-worldy elements. Shot as Come with Me, My Love, distributors soon changed the title to something more likely to appeal to the raincoat crowd, The Haunted Pussy. Needless to say, Wishman is perhaps the epitome of the long lost era of the grindhouse and New York’s 42nd Street.

Even by her own high standards, A Night to Dismember is a veritable jaw-dropper. Lensed mainly in 1979 yet unreleased ’till 1983, the mind-boggling truth behind the genesis of this gem becomes evident on listening to the highly amusing commentary track provided by Wishman and her director of photography, C. Davis Smith.

Essentially, the film lab lost a large proportion of the negative and the weary director was forced to assemble a new plot around the odds and sods that remained, relying on overblown narration to fill in the huge gaps in the story. She failed, dismally.

What remains is an incomprehensible, choppy, half-film about the nutty Kent family and their bid to send loopy Mary (adult movie actress Samantha Fox in a non-speaking role) over the top. Sounds simple? Not when the voice-over rarely matches the on-screen “action” and any notions of narrative filmmaking are conspicuously absent!

Shoddy attempts to emulate the gloopy gore seen in the likes of Herschell G. Lewis’ movies only adds to the appeal. And who’d have thought that back in 2001 Elite Entertainment would ever have released this supposedly ‘lost’ atrocity on a widescreen anamorphic DVD, with extras!

Buy DVD: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

Yet, here lies the whole charm of the piece. If you’re suitably inebriated and in need of a quick celluloid fix, A Night to Dismember certainly hits the spot. Indeed, it’s so short (69 minutes) and enjoyable that you might just be tempted to put yourself through the whole thing again to listen to Wishman (confused yet stoutly confident) and Smith (snide asides a go-go) sling it out on the commentary track. Then again, life is short…

Will Holland, HORRORPEDIA

NB. Wishman’s problems with A Night to Dismember caused her unofficial retirement from the movie industry until fan encouragement brought her back behind cameras for 2001’s Satan Was a Lady. The delightfully titled Dildo Heaven swiftly followed and she was shooting a sexy thriller, Each Time I Kill, when she unfortunately died in Autumn 2002.

Other reviews:

“Those who love the idiosyncratic touches of Wishman will find her fetishes pushed into overdrive here. Furniture, feet, and badly lit close ups often pop into view, while the use of senseless narration to comment on every single banal action produces levels of hilarity that can only be achieved by accident.” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital

“Fans of strange and desperate filmmaking are likely going to get something enjoyable out of this train wreck. Some may even go so far as to spin it to be some surreal, accidental accomplishment. Others beware. There are frequent jumps in the picture and on the soundtrack. The generic, light stock music is incidentally inserted in regardless of the tone of the scene.” Justin McKinney, The Bloody Pit of Horror

” …if you’re really hunting for bad, bad movies then drop anchor here, it’s truly unbelievable. Everything seems to have gone wrong: the music changes completely in a snap from sort of jazzy gameshow theme to tuneless stringy shrieks but almost never attuned to what’s supposed to be happening on screen; the effects work is horrible and the camera work all over the place.” Hudson Lee, Vegan Voorhees

Buy: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

Cast and characters:

  • Samantha Fox … Vicki Kent – Blue VoodooThe Devil in Miss Jones Part II; Dracula Exotica
  • Diane Cummins … Mary Kent
  • Saul Meth … Adam Kent
  • Miriam Meth … Blanche Kent
  • William Szarka … Billy Kent [billed as Bill Szarka]
  • Chris Smith … Sam Kent
  • Dee Cummins … Vicki Todd
  • Larry Hunter … Larry Todd [billed as Norman Main]
  • Mary Lomay … Ann Todd
  • Rita Rogers … Aunt Bea Todd
  • Nina Stengel … Nina
  • Frankie Sabat … Frankie
  • Alexandria Cass … Nancy
  • William Longo, Jr. … Timmy
  • Robert DeRosa … Marty
  • Heather Sabat … Sandy
  • John Szarka … John

Wikipedia | IMDb | Image credits: The Bloody Pit of Horror

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