Elite Entertainment presents
A Night To Dismember (1983)
"After being away for five years, the outside was confusing to Vicki."- narration
Stars: Samantha Fox
Other Stars: Diane Cummins, Saul Meth, Miriam Meth, Bill Szarka, Chris Smith, William Longo Jr.
Director: Doris Wishman
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (gore, violence, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:08m:41s
Release Date: 2001-10-30
DVD ReviewExisting over the years strictly as a VHS rarity, sexploitation director Doris Wishman's 1983 gore-filled acid dream A Night To Dismember is about the truly dysfunctional (re: murderous) Kent family, layered in genre infamy by the casting of porn star Samantha Fox in the lead role. Released on DVD in 2001 by Elite, it exceeded expectations with the inclusion of a terrific Wishman commentary, but just what attraction this film might have held has unfortunately deteriorated into being an amateurish joke, like an Ed Wood wannabe.
Even by her own admissions, Wishman maybe wasn't the most polished director to helm a film, but throughout the 1960s she rose to prominence in the sexploitation field by churning out a large number of unconventionally structured genre titles. Her trademark camera work, isolating sporadically on inanimate objects for no particular reason, combined with her female perspective (by no means ordinary, but female nonetheless) in what was largely a man's world at the time helped elevate her to cult status amongst genre fans. Wishman was still making films, at the age of 80, right up to her death, with 2001s Satan Was A Lady, without a doubt one of her strongest works.
But that leaves the gore-filled mess of A Night To Dismember as a quirky blob on her filmography, a sloppy effort that is horribly edited and driven by more narration than I think I have ever heard in a film before. There is so much narration, allegedly given by a police detective, that at one point the narrator starts adopting different voices and inflections, speaking for the characters onscreen. Even as retro-kitchy cool, what with Wishman's penchant to use odd stock music beds (sometimes two playing on top of each other), it is a really tough sell to make it through this in one sitting.
Wishman ladles on the gore with a trowel, with numerous severed heads and limbs, plenty of free-swinging axes and even an icepick or two, but this looks like it was shot by an 8-year-old, and not one of the revered pioneers of the sexploitation genre. The "is she crazy or not" plot, with Samantha Fox as the just-released-from-the-insane-asylum Vicki Kent, lurches with spasmodic jerks and fits, with a narrative that is largely incomprehensible.
Completists will want this one (certainly worth it just for the commentary), but it's really an awful film.
Doris, what the hell happened?
Rating for Style: D
Rating for Substance: D
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Sure, Elite has issued A Night To Dismember in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, but the print is so beat to crap that it almost is inconsequential. Scratches, splices and grain are a constant, and often times dialogue jumps in mid-sentence.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: The audio is presented in very raw English mono, full of clipping and occasional distortion. Audio levels fluctuate wildly throughout, though the dialogue is generally understandable (at least when the splices make them discernible).
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Doris Wishman, C. Davis Smith
Extras Review: The commentary from Doris Wishman and director of photography C. Davis Smith is the real reason for genre fans to seek out A Night To Dismember, as it is not only a rare treat, but it's a blast to listen to. This might not be the most polished film or even the best of her long, strange career, but you'd never know it from the effusive chatter of Wishman's track. As a history lesson on the inner workings of one of exploitation filmmakings most unique directors, this particular commentary gives Wishman a rare opportunity for fans to hear her speak her mind.
In addition to a very strange promotional trailer, the disc is cut into eight chapters.
Extras Grade: A+
Final CommentsEven though I'm a big fan of rule-bending sexploitation director Doris Wishman, A Night To Dismember exists more as a rare curiosity than a really watchable film, unless you're looking for a Plan 9 From Outer Space sort of experience.
However, Elite's inclusion of a Wishman vivaciously open commentary, along with director of photography C. Davis Smith is the only reason to own this, which for genre fans is going to the only enjoyable aspect of this release.
Rich Rosell 2005-04-15