An archive review from The Gingold Files.

By Michael Gingold · December 22, 2019, 12:55 AM EST
Night to Dismember DVD

Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on December 21, 2001, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.

“Chuck, will you keep quiet?” “You are so confused, it’s pathetic.” “[That’s] your favorite scene because you’re weird.” Thus speaks veteran exploitationeer Doris Wishman to her longtime cameraman Chuck, a.k.a. C. Davis (“Don’t correct me—I know your name!”) Smith on Elite Entertainment’s DVD release of A Night to Dismember, her 1983 horror film about a murderess who gets released from an asylum, only to go on a new chopping spree. “I don’t call everyone an idiot, only the people I like,” Wishman says, and she must like Smith a lot, because the two bicker like an old married couple throughout what the packaging calls “one of the most entertaining commentary tracks ever recorded!”

A rather presumptuous statement, that, but then these are the same notes that claim the film “approximates the twisted logic of a narcotic-laced carnal nightmare.” That’s a nice way of saying that Night (which stars porn actress Samantha Fox) is a complete mess, an incoherent assemblage of mismatched footage in which the little dialogue that exists is all post-synched, and the whole thing is narrated for that Creeping Terror feel. Critiquing Elite’s 1.85:1 transfer is probably an exercise in futility, though it should be noted that the mastering and colors certainly appear superior to the condition of the movie itself, and the mono sound is perfectly decent under the circumstances.

But it’s that audio commentary that makes the disc worthwhile, in part because it explains why Night looks so lousy. According to Wishman, a significant portion of the negative was destroyed at the lab by a disgruntled worker, leaving her to piece the film together from what was left (including outtakes). Beyond this, the track doesn’t tell you too much about the making of the movie (aside from where the locations were), but you certainly learn plenty about the personalities of Wishman and Smith.

The latter proves to be a good sport (“What makes you think you were such a great cameraman?” she snipes, and he shoots back, “Because you paid me”), reveals that he moonlighted from a TV career to work with the director, drops a couple of South Park jokes and at one point calls Night “a very Jean-Paul Sartre kind of movie.” The disc also includes a five-and-a-half-minute (!) trailer that alternates a cheesy, portentous narrator with footage (some of which isn’t in the film) that is in even worse shape than the feature.