• Dismembered, The



    Released by: Garagehouse Pictures
    Released on: April 25th, 2017.
    Director: Ralph S. Hirshorn
    Cast: Frank Geraci, Tim Sheldon, Kate Shaffmaster, William Lane
    Year: 1962
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    The Movie:

    Never herad of Ralph S. Hirshorn’s 1962 feature film The Dismembered (also known as Oswald, You Botched It Again)? Don’t feel bad. Since it was made in 1962 it’s definitely faded into obscurity – it never had a VHS release, let alone a laserdisc or a DVD. It doesn’t appear to have been on television and really, it’s been missing in action for the better part of a half century. Thankfully those good people over at Garagehouse Films found out about it and after a few screenings here and there, have opted to bring this quirky low budget horror comedy to Blu-ray.

    After some astonishingly strange opening credits, many of which are quite funny, the movie proper begins with a bizarre jewelry heist where three thieves watch outside as a crowd gathers around an ambulance. Once they’ve got the goods, these nogoodniks make a drive out into the country to hide out in an old abandoned house – but before they get there, they see a mysterious, beautiful woman appear – and then disappear – in the middle of the road.

    Once they make their way into the old house, things start to get even more bizarre – see, what these hardened criminals don’t know is that the place is haunted by a few grumpy ghost s – an army guy, an older simple man, and a lady in fancy dress. They decide that those intruding should be taken out quickly and in increasingly ghoulish fashion – hey, when you’re one of the ‘undead’ living in an old house in the middle of nowhere you get your fun when you can. They’re clearly taking some amusement in all of this. Making matters worse? Well, there’s the not insignificant matter of the restless dismembered corpses making their way over to the house from the nearby cemetery…

    If there’s one word to best describe this movie, it’s quirky. Clearly not meant to be taken all too seriously, there’s a lot of bizarre, goofy humor here. It’s all on purpose, mind you, this is made obvious right from the start and confirmed again in the commentary (more on that in a bit), but this is, at least up until the last fifteen minutes, much more of a comedy than a horror picture. Those last fifteen minutes though? That’s when the film earns its title and the dismembered actually manifest – at this point in time, all bets are off and the movie takes some decidedly strange twists and turns. Before it’s all over, however, it ends on another humorous note, and a fairly good one at that.

    This was made locally by a less than super experienced cast and crew with very little money, so don’t expect loads of effects work. However, what does appear on camera works quite well. The ghosts that our trio of crooks deal with for the majority of the picture are simply regular people in old-timey dress, so don’t go into this one expecting spooky spectral manifestations, but the house used for the shoot really does make for the perfect location for all of this zaniness to play out. At sixty-five minutes in length, the film is smart enough not to overstay its welcome. It does take a little bit of time to get to the right pace, the first half moves a little slowly, but the second half definitely makes up for it.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Dismembered makes its home video debut on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition “transferred & digitally mastered in 4K from the director’s only 16mm film print” framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. This doesn’t look perfect – contrast is iffy in some spots and a few of the darker scenes are a bit muddy – but it does look pretty good, all things considered. Detail is decent, impressive in some shots and a bit softer in others, but the authoring here is solid. This looks like film – there’s a fair bit of grain, some mild print damage here and there, but no digital trickery in the form of obvious sharpening or noise reduction.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track is “digitally remastered from the original optical tracks.” There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided. The audio quality is essentially on par with the video, meaning it’s not reference quality but for an obscure micro-budget feature made more than a half century ago sourced from the only existing elements? Yeah, this is fine. You can understand the dialogue well enough and the film’s bizarre piano-heavy soundtrack even sounds punchy in spots.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary with director Ralph S. Hirshorn moderated by Andrew Repasky McElhinney, the director of Chronicle Of Corpses. This is an interesting talk that details the history of the picture, how and why Hirshorn came to direct the film, who he was able to recruit to do what and quite a bit more. He talks to McElhinney, also a Philadelphia native, about the locations used for the film, about the effects work and about the intentional comedy being a big part of what they were trying to pull off here. It’s a pretty active track, the moderator keeps the director engaged and on target throughout, and as such it’s a nice lesson in the history of this almost forgotten film.

    Also included on the disc is an eleven minute short film entitled The End Of Summer that Hirshorn made in 1959 while at Yale. This is an odd little short that was, according to the opening credits, based on the writing of the Marquis de Sade, but those expecting wild perversions may be disappointed. Instead of that we get an interesting little surreal tale where, on the last day of summer, a girl drags her sled around seemingly in anticipation on winter. As she does this she explores various locations (including the Philadelphia Art Museum stairs that would later become iconic when used in Rocky) and meets some strange characters. Hirshorn and Andrew Repasky McElhinney provide optional commentary over this film as well. They cover the locations, how specific shots were setup, casting friends and family in the picture and whether or not that guy at the end of the movie is Jesus.

    Outside of that, look for trailers for Garagehouse Pictures releases (Ninja Busters, Trailer Trauma and Trailer Trauma 2), menus and chapter selection. On the flip side of the custom cover art from Stephan Romano are some interesting liners notes by Dan Buskirk that provide some interesting insight into Hirshorn’s studies, how they led to a job at Columbia Pictures, how The Dismembered ties into that job and what happened to the man since leaving the position.

    The Final Word:

    The Dismembered works in the way that a lot of low budget regional pictures work – it wears its poverty row origins on its sleeve but it was clearly made with heart and a fair bit of inspired creativity. A quirky mix of horror and comedy, it’s worth checking out for fan of oddball, quirky films and the Blu-ray release from Garagehouse is not only a great way to do just that, it’s also the only way!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!