Monday, February 17, 2014

A Night to Dismember (1983)

A Night to Dismember! Ain't that a fun title! But does this 1983 film made by notable sexploitation director Doris Wishman live up to that title? Not really, as there are no dismemberments, but otherwise...

According to Wishman, a disgruntled employee who just got laid off from his job at a film processing lab went back there and destroyed a whole heap of film, like he'd just seen Ju On: The Grudge 2. Because of this, only about half of A Night to Dismember survived, and Wishman cobbled together the remaining footage, got the actors back for voiceovers, filmed a couple of new scenes. With a backstory like that, you'd think that no matter what, this film would be dead on arrival, but surprisingly, it isn't!

A Night to Dismember is about the Kent family, which over the years, has been struck by several murders as various members of the family went homicidal. One such member, Vicki (Samantha Fox) is sent to an asylum after she supposedly committed two murders, and a few years later, she's released into the custody of her parents. Vicki's unlikeable brother and sister don't like the fact that she's been released, and scheme to have Vicki driven back to insanity. Meanwhile,  a new series of vicious murders crops up...

For a film with very little in the way of dialogue, the actor playing Detective O'Malley (IMDb doesn't credit him, so I don't know his name) who narrates over nearly the entire film, has a lot of weight on his shoulders, and thankfully he pulls it off.

The movie's editing is decent. A bit scattershot at times, which is understandable, given the circumstances.

The film tries to make up for the large lack of dialogue by having there be the musical score playing all the time, and it's WAY tonally off most times! For example, one scene has Vicki coming home for the first time in years, and she's nervous and highly strung-and thanks to the music that plays, it's the equivalent of hearing the theme of Welcome Back, Kotter! as Joe Zito goes crazy and gets torn apart by mannequins!

The scoring, while unsuitable for most scenes, is decent. In one part, there's a soundalike to the Caligula and Drusilla theme from Caligula, and in another, there's some good music during chase scene about half-an-hour in. Tonally fucked compared to what's onscreen at that time, but still, good...I wonder if it was original to the movie...

The gore is ok, and the editing in those scenes is so quick-cut that it doesn't focus on the effects long enough for you to have a giggle fit or anything.

It's a bid hard to gauge the acting, given that this was a film shot without sound that later got partially destroyed, but from the dubbed-in voices there are, they're ok, most of the time. Samantha Fox is a hammy as the sympathetic Vicki, but not bad. There is some terrible voice acting when Billy discovers his dead ====.

There are a couple of strange things about the movie, like when Detective O'Malley comes across a murder scene, and comes to the conclusion that Only a scorned lover/spouse could have murdered someone in such a brutal manner. What?!

Also, is the real identity of the killer supposed to be a mystery? Either there was a lighting fuck-up, because we can see the killer's face through the shadows (And even if we couldn't, we could still see the silhouette of her distinctive hair shape a few seconds prior) or said killer's identity was deliberately shown at that point. It's hard to tell

There are a couple of trippy dream sequences, which you'd probably think were made for a David Lynch movie. They're pretty decent.

And finally, call it the sap in me, but I didn't like what happens to Vicki in the end.

Ultimately, for a movie that was as screwed over as it was, A Night to Dismember holds up as a somewhat enjoyable horror flick. It's not great, but you could certainly do worse. Ever see the Crazy Fat Ethel quadrilogy?


  1. The title's awesome! I was hoping it was going to be something silly or a parody movie like 'Carry on Screaming' or 'Murder by Death'. ;)

  2. Haha, yeah, a title like that would lend itself well to a parody.

    I feel like rewatching Carry on Screaming now. I haven't seen it in years!

  3. I got it on DVD recently because an old friend of mine is quite obsessed with it... in particular with Fenella Fielding. I invited him around for a 'Carry on Screaming' film night. It's completely ridiculous, of course, but it's still great. I was chatting with Carry On fan, Croaky (@Petwill1), on Twitter about 'Carry On Screaming' and Fenella Fielding actually favorited our tweets. Hilarious!

    It's regularly shown on Channel 90/Gem if you want to keep an eye out for it. :)

  4. I'll make sure too! The 9 channels on my TV haven't worked for ages (there'd be sound, but just a black screen), and it about a year ago now, that I got a new DVD player, which as a recorder, hooks up with the TV, and also shows all the channels, and the 9 ones are working on it. So I've finally been able to continue watching Friends, Fu Manchu, Frank Sinatra, and Fenella Fielding!