31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.
Unwatched Garagehouse Blu
Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
#13. The Dismembered (1962)
When the words “lost” and “film” appear together I sign the dotted line. I love the sense of time-capsule re-discovery that goes along with these types of releases, like they’ve just been unearthed and no one on the face of this earth has seen them in 50+ years.
When the term “regional horror” also appears between “lost” and “film,” I get anticipatory goosebumps.
After ordering The Dismembered aka Oswald, You Botched It Again! from DiabolikDVD earlier this year, I held off watching this particular Garagehouse release until it was high time for the @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Challenge.
I didn’t know anything about the movie other than what I’d read on the Garagehouse website. A horror-comedy filmed in Philadelphia in 1962, The Dismembered was making its home video debut on Blu-ray, mastered from director Ralph S. Hirshorn’s only 16mm print.
If that Blu-ray cover and the tease of a forgotten regional, low-budget horror-comedy doesn’t interest you, you might just be a Halloween grinch.
After a successful jewel heist, the mastermind thieves hide out in an old house haunted by a few demented spirits whose only joy in this world is dispatching unwanted guests with the most gruesome methods at their disposal. The catch is that the methods at their disposal are more Tom & Jerry than Edgar Allan Poe, and the cantankerous spooks are competing with the undead from a nearby cemetery to see who gets the young men first.
I have no way of knowing if Stuart Gordon happened to see a copy of this film, but if he had, I imagine this became juicy fodder for Re-Animator. Ralph S. Hirshorn had a camera and some ingenuity and a bunch of willing conspirators and goddammit they were going to make a movie. The low-budget nature of the production emphasizes the humor over the horror, but the film’s not lacking in the kind of grotesque macabre that could have been found in any number of AIP horror films of the era. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die seems relevant.
Dismembered body parts that make up the title of the film roam the house, but they’re more Thing from the Addams Family than the occupants of any of the murderous hand pictures such as The Beast with Five Fingers (1946), Mad Love (1935), Idle Hands (1999), The Hand (1981)… holy hell there are a lot of murderous hand movies. As I was saying, the dismembered bits and pieces torment like mischievous, rogue spirits from a rather morbid Scoooy-Doo Where Are You? episode.
From the goofy, opening credits The Dismembered revels in its low-budget constraints, goading its viewers to come along as willing conspirators in the shenanigans. As the production clearly lacked any financial backing whatsoever, that’s not a bad opening play. The film’s self-awareness becomes, in fact, its greatest asset.
The community theater spooks morbidly plotting to kill the bank robbers dress like they walked into a Goodwill and asked for the vintage section, and the practical effects are virtually non-existent. The dismembered appendages that wander in and out of frame are tossed by off-screen stagehands and when they travel, they distinctly ambulate as if tied to fishing line. The oozing mush that passes as a murderous brain becomes the star of the production, but I won’t spoil that particular effect with gory details.
I don’t mean to suggest that there’s a lack of talent involved. Hirshorn clearly had talent and it’s a shame that he never really had the opportunity to deliver on that potential. After directing The Dismembered and a competent short film from 1959 called “The End of Summer,” Hirshorn shipped off to Hollywood on a deal from Columbia, but returned to Philadelphia shortly thereafter as a result of the death of his father and the subsequent failure of the family business. It’s impossible not to wonder what he could have done with money and talent, but then again Hollywood has crushed plenty of creative spirits that just wanted to make movies for the fun of it.
Horror fans should be well versed in the language of low- or no-budget filmmaking. An average viewer would likely dismiss this film after approximately 15 minutes of its modest 65-minute runtime. But we’re not average viewers. We’re veterans that relish the enthusiasm of the men and women who pieced their films together with only blood, sweat, tears and a wicked sense of humor.
It’s no small miracle that The Dismembered has returned from the grave after all these years — and fans of classic film would be well-served to seek out this release. Support independent DVD and Blu-ray distributors that go above and beyond in bringing you lost gems like this. It goes without saying that this is not objectively great filmmaking. The value lies in the willingness of the viewer to embrace The Dismembered‘s goofball charms for what they are — pure cheese and self-aware schlock. if you do that, I bet you’ll enjoy Ralph S. Hirshorn’s The Dismembered just as much as I did.
30Hz Movie Rating:
Garagehouse’s Blu-ray features a remarkably clean scan of a 50+ year old regional horror picture filmed on 16mm. That we even have the opportunity to see The Dismembered is beyond comprehension. Make sure to listen to the audio commentary by Ralph S. Hirshorn himself and Philadelphia indie filmmaker Andrew Repasky McElhinney.
2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon
#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972) / #8. The Black Cat (1934) / #9. The Raven (1935) / #10. Friday the 13th (1980) / #11. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) / #12. Body Snatcher (1945) / #13. Dismembered (1962) / #14. From Hell It Came (1957) / #15. Symptoms (1974) / #16. Eating Raoul (1982) / #17. Spellcaster (1988) / #18. House (1986) / #19. The Old Dark House (1932)