THE DISMEMBERED (1962) Blu-ray
Director: Ralph Hirshorn
Garagehouse Pictures

Garagehouse Pictures digs up a long-lost horror comedy (and its seasoned director) with their Blu-ray of THE DISMEMBERED.

After executing a heist of the jewelry collection belonging to the mayor's wife, a criminal trio – mastermind Max (Ray Thorne), smooth operator Carlo (Frank Geraci, CONFESSIONS OF A PSYCHO CAT), and oafish Jerry (Tim Sheldon) – manage to escape with a police escort under the guise of ambulance drivers with an ailing patient. They turn off the main road and decide to use an abandoned mansion as a hideout until the heat dies down. Max almost runs them off the road when a young woman (Barbara Scialla) in Victorian clothing appears in the middle of the road and just as suddenly disappears. This apparition proves to be the lesser threat, however, since the mansion was once a home for the aged, and some of the residents are still there in spirit form – militaristic Tommy (Martin Jackson), poisonously sweet Effie (Kate Shaffmaster), fair-minded Henry (Oliver Nuse), bungling Oswald (William Lane), and a meek old woman (Anna Rudolf) whose catchphrase is "I Don't Vant To" as she is billed in the credits – and have a habit of getting rid of visitors in the most horrible ways. Likewise, the criminals are the lesser threat compared to "that bunch across the way" over in the graveyard also known as The Dismembered.

A Philadelphia-lensed regional horror comedy, THE DISMEMBERED plays more like a Poverty Row effort from the 1940s like SPOOKS RUN WILD than something along the lines of THE ADDAMS FAMILY TV series or Jack Hill's SPIDER BABY. The film's "unsophisticated story and screenplay" strives for black comedy, as do the "ghastly musical improvisations" of the Main Street Ghouls – but pretty much gives up during the climax. Performances are amateurish but never bad while the hauntings are on the technical and stylistic level of THE GHOST OF HANLEY HOUSE's closing doors and offscreen screams, with The Dismembered as Dime Store Halloween severed body part props propelled along by fishing wire (although this part is played more for laughs than terror). What atmosphere the film does possess is entirely from the cinematography that is workmanlike but benefits from the beauty of monochrome when the lighting is adequate. As with Garagehouse's previous release THE SATANIST, THE DISMEMBERED is more interesting as a film previously thought lost, and as yet another regional genre pic come out of the woodworks.

Garagehouse Pictures' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen Blu-ray – bearing the title OSWALD, YOU BOTCHED IT AGAIN! – is derived from a new 4K scan of the director's own 16mm print since the 35mm camera negative and any prints are considered lost. The image is nearly spotless with the only rough edges coming from the original photography and the heightened grain of the reduction. The LPCM 1.0 mono track is derived from the optical track and is fairly clean, with the dialogue, effects, and avant-garde music coming through cleanly. There are no subtitles.

Director Ralph S. Hirshorn appears on a new commentary track moderated by filmmaker Andrew Rapasky McElhinney who became acquainted with 16mm enthusiast Hirshorn as one of the programmers of the Chestnut Hill Film Group where the director has exhibited films for over 40 years. We learn that Hirshorn won a film award for a short (see below) which landed him a job as a reader at Columbia Pictures on the West Coast. He shot THE DISMEMBERED before leaving for Hollywood as a calling card in hopes of eventually winding up in the director's chair at the studio. He spent four years in Hollywood before returning to take over his late father's still-thriving insurance business. He admits that he set out to make a "bad horror movie" and that some of the film's tongue-in-cheek aspects were added in post. McElhinney asking Hirshorn for the addresses of locations still standing or torn down is off-putting at first until one realizes that he too is a Philadelphia-area filmmaker who was able to conjure up a unique setting for his period horror film A CHRONICLE OF CORPSES in the same territory.

Extras also include Hirshorn's award-winning 1959 short film "The End of Summer" (10:35) –purported to be based on the writings of the "Marquis de Sades" (sic) – in a little girl drags around her sled around the city on the last day of summer and observing adults engaging in bizarre behavior. The short is also accompanied by commentary from Hirshorn and Rapasky, and their discussion of the shooting reveals more cinematic makeshift inventiveness than evident in the main feature. Also included are Garagehouse Pictures trailers for previous releases NINJA BUSTERS, THE SATANIST, and the first two TRAILER TRAUMA releases. Most informative is an essay by Dan Buskirk on the reverse of the cover which discusses both the film and short, as well as the circumstances that lead to the rediscovery of Hirshorn's print of the film and the screening of the film which lead to this Blu-ray release. (Eric Cotenas)