Review Date: February 3, 2002
Released by: Elite Entertainment
Release date: 10/30/2001
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
In 1990 I was a regular viewer of The Incredibly Strange Film Show
on the Discovery Channel. Here, I saw documentaries on some of my favorite directors like George A. Romero and Sam Raimi. It was where I was first exposed to the work of John Waters, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and even Jackie Chan. And some directors I'd never even heard of, like Ted V. Mikels and one Doris Wishman. Doris Wishman made "nudie" and "bad girl" movies, virtually plotless films that usually took place in a nudist camp. Now, 12 years later, I've finally seen a Doris Wishman movie, thanks to Elite Entertainment. Should I thank them profusely, or does someone at Elite deserve a pop in the mouth? I haven't decided yet.
OK, this is gonna be tough. Let's see what I was able to figure out plot-wise. Um, several people of the Kent family get killed. Supposedly, it's because the family is cursed. Vicki Kent (porn actress Samantha Fox, but not the singer) is released from the insane asylum. Her sister Mary (Diane Cummins) and brother Billy (Bill Szarka) want to send her back to the asylum, and concoct a plan to get Vicki re-committed. People die. Vicki eats ham. Family members read newspapers. Vicki has sex dreams. Ghostly figures rise from the lake. A detective answers the phone a lot. And if this sounds incoherent, you should watch the movie, 'cause you ain't seen nothin' yet\u2026
I've heard this movie described as a cross between Ed Wood and Herschell Gordon Lewis, and that's a pretty accurate assessment. From the Ed Wood side, you get stock footage and inept filming. Day becomes night from shot to shot, often in the same sequence. Supposedly dead bodies are still moving. And from Lewis, you get gore. Tons of gore. Unfortunately, there's none of the creativity Lewis showed in his murder scenes, but at least there's enough stage blood to go around. Doris actually does give ol' H.G. a run for his money in the gore department.
I really can't go any more into the plot, because there simply isn't one. Now, in all fairness to Doris Wishman, 60% of the original film was lost. What we have here is what's left over, as well as some of the outtakes. Wait, did I say "some?" This movie is every second of footage (sometimes repeated) that was shot, whether it's relevant or not.
Now, the way Ms. Wishman composes a story this way is with an omniscient narrator. Thus, she can use anything, as long as the narrator tries to tie it in to the story. Ed Wood didn't get this much use out of discarded footage. The reason she can do this is that this is basically a silent film, and all of the sounds are dubbed later. She very rarely even tries to dub in dialogue. Almost all of the sound is the narrator, some stock music, and the most hilarious sound effects ever done. If Doris can't get the sound of a dog barking, someone just does his best impression of it. When someone on screen tears up a piece of paper, you can actually hear the dubbing person hit the microphone as he does the same.
But the funny thing is, I think everyone should see this movie. And not just to share the misery of the 69 minutes I spent watching it. This is just plain hilarious. I don't know if Doris wants me laughing with her, or AT her, but I was definitely laughing. From what I learned on The Incredibly Strange Film Show
, her movies are not to be taken seriously (as if anyone could take a movie titled A Night to Dismember
seriously anyway). So this is not a film to watch late at night with the lights off. This is one for when your friends come over, with the intoxicant of your choice (not that I encourage drug or alcohol abuse). You'll get a few yuks, trust me.
Once again, we have the issue of a DVD with less than stellar picture quality, but that's due to original elements. I have no idea what A Night to Dismember
was shot on, whether it's 16mm, or possibly even 8mm. Either way, Elite has made this look about as good as it can, but don't expect miracles. It's grainy, murky, and dull. At least it's enhanced for 16x9 TVs, and in 1.85:1 widescreen. Hard to say if the soft matting improves or degrades the composition. Ha. Like there was composition to begin with\u2026
As to be expected, the Dolby Digital mono sound is fuzzy and inconsistent. Of course, this again falls on the shoulders of the filmmakers, and not Elite Entertainment, Most of the sound is stock music with the voice-over by the narrator. There are a few attempts at dubbing dialogue, mostly done by Doris herself. The music is often inappropriate for the scene, and sometimes ends abruptly. The volume level fluctuates wildly. Effects dubbing is laughable, with the above mentioned man-made dog barks. I'll admit that I've never thought of the logistics of dubbing before seeing this movie. When a movie is dubbed, it has to sound like the sounds are generated from the screen characters, not like some disconnected off-screen voices. Dynamic range is critical. If any aspiring filmmakers want to know how dubbing should NOT sound, this is a textbook example.
For such an oddball obscure movie, Elite did a nice job with the supplemental features. Most prominent is a running dialogue with director Doris Wishman and cinematographer C. Davis Smith. It's an awfully fun commentary for an awful movie. Much of the discussion is playful bickering between the two participants, as well as constant admonishing of Ms. Wishman for touching her microphone. Above all, we get some of the history behind the film, and how much of the footage was lost. And Doris might not be done yet. If anyone wants to help fund a movie called "Axe of Violence", I'm sure she'll take any and all donations.
We also have a trailer for A Night to Dismember, and this is really interesting. For one thing, Doris makes her trailers before she even makes the movie (this is discussed in the commentary), and the trailer is really just an ad pitch for investors. And since the movie was basically re-done due to the lost negatives, the movie that the trailer describes is certainly a lot different than the finished product. Whether or not would have been better is arguable, but it is different.
A Night to Dismember
is about the craziest movie you'll ever see. The plot is incoherent, the gore is comical, and the sound effects are side-splitting. I'd never imagine this film ever coming to DVD (Especially from the same company that once released classics like Night of the Living Dead, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Evil Dead
, and Re-Animator
). But Elite has given us this movie nonetheless, and this disc probably looks better than the way it looked in the theater (did this movie even get shown in a theater?). If you've seen all of Ed Wood's and Herschell Gordon Lewis' movies, you might as well move on to Doris Wishman's as well.
Movie - D
Image Quality - C
Sound - D
Supplements - B+
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- 8 Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Mono
- Audio Commentary with Doris Wishman and cinematographer C. Davis Smith
- Promotional trailer