A Night To Dismember (1983)

JULY 3, 2008


It wasn’t long into A Night To Dismember that I realized I was in for something truly special... maybe 2 minutes tops in fact. As I watched a rapid fire collection of scenes with little cohesion speed by, endlessly narrated (by a guy that sounds like Charles B. Pierce) to hide the fact that there was no source audio, I decided that the film was simply divine. And it just got better as it went on, peaking at the halfway mark when the narrator describes a dream sequence thusly: “Vicky felt as though someone faceless was making love to her in bright flashing colors that were changing from one second to the next.” Of course, this is precisely what we are seeing, which leads me to believe that they stuck some guy in a booth and had him narrate whatever he felt like saying as this incoherent and mute film played before his hopefully astonished eyes.

And if you wonder how the narrator (a character in the film) could possibly know what she was dreaming, fear not – he even explains that. At the very end of the film, as a sort of cinematic P.S., he informs us that every single character in the film kept detailed diaries, which he presumably stole.

At first, I actually thought the film was some sort of joke by film students, where they just took assorted footage that they found and assembled a loose narrative from it, similar to what Joe Dante did with The Movie Orgy. But apparently, what really happened was, a fire at the film lab destroyed nearly half the footage, and director Doris Wishman couldn’t afford to reshoot all of it, so she made do with what was left. Apparently, incoherency and ineptitude was her style (I’ve never seen any of her other films – most of which seem to be pornos), so whether the fire story is true or not, I don’t know. It’s probably the only bit of actual trivia to be heard on the entire commentary track, most of which is simply Wishman yelling at her cameraman for ruining the movie and asking him if he likes whatever nonsense happens to be on screen. I can’t tell if she’s seriously under the impression that she’s made a good film, but she’s at least 80 at this point (she was born in 1918 and they reference South Park and Everybody Loves Raymond on the track – dating it late 90s, early 00s) so maybe she’s just senile.

I also love that a film without a single moment of source sound actually has a credited sound man (plus a boom operator!):

Was this before or after Civil War allegedly took his life?

As for the movie itself, you got me. It’s another one of those “evil family members plot to make another family member crazy” movies, in theory. Many scenes don’t quite fit into this plot, but whatever. After a while I stopped trying to understand what was going on and just focused on the movie’s real charms – hilariously dubbed dialogue (which is very rare anyway – most of it is narrated), cutaways to things unrelated to what is going on, frequent murder/nude scenes featuring the absolute worst fake violence ever (one scene involves a guy being lightly tapped with an axe – and then his head just falls off).

The music also deserves a mention. It seems to be all library music, and in several cases, I can only assume they didn’t even get the whole track. At one point, we hear the same 30 second loop 3-4 times over a single scene; it cuts off abruptly and starts over. And it’s not appropriate to the scene either. In fact, none of the music seems to fit with the onscreen action – we have goofy cartoon style music over dialogue scenes, “Sweeping shot of a vista” style stuff over the kill scenes, etc. Again, all part of the unparalleled charm of A Night to Dismember.

Like Cathy’s Curse and Scream Bloody Murder, this is one of those wretched movies that I love anyway, and rejuvenates my drive to do this whole Horror Movie A Day thing. There’s no way in hell I ever would have seen this were I not forcing myself to watch one every day. Bless my random whim!

I want to point that about half of the trailer isn't in the film, and seems to be advertising a movie with a different plot entirely to boot. Again, part of the charm.

What say you?


  1. I don't believe a word of the fire story, since all Wishman movies I've seen are floating in the same goo of incomprehensibility. I'd think she just didn't have enough money to make the film she originally wanted to and just had to stop. Which seems to be the story with every of her horror films.
    I don't know about her porn, either. I only heard it was mostly produced for the elusive foot fetishist market.
    I had much the same reaction to "A Night To Dismember" as you did, so it has a place in my appreciation next to "Manos - The Hands of Fate" and "Shriek of the Mutilated".

  2. I would wholeheartedly recommend you check out both of the Chesty Morgan films made by Wishman: Double Agent 73 and Deadly Weapons, as well as the gloriously sleazy, scummy 42nd Street favorite, Let Me Die a Woman.

  3. I remember seeing something about Wishman on an episode of HBO Real Sex. I don't recall much other than she was very old and still making very kinky, very terrible movies. John Waters is also a big fan.

  4. Wait, where did you find this for online rental? I've had it in my Netflix "saved" queue for a while now, and it's still showing as "unknown availability"...

  5. Score one for Blockbuster!!! :)

  6. I've been searching for a VHS copy of this for awhile. If anyone has one for sale, please email me.




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