Color, 1970, 71 mins. 14 secs.
Directed by Doris Wishman (as Louis Silverman)
Starring Juan Fernandez, Linda Southern, Larry Hunter, Olive Denneccio, Sandy Eden, Kim Pope
Image Entertainment (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
Percy did it funnier, Sex and Zen did it sexier, but The Amazing Transplant did it first, and in the exploitation biz' that's all that really matters. In 1970 lunatic artisan Doris Wishman decided to tackle the sensational concept of the penis graft, and while the results aren't nearly as scandalous as the sordid subject matter would suggest there's still an abundance of deliriously dished-out depravity for admirers of her reckless charms to cherish.
Right from the beginning you can tell this ain't your usual case of penis envy. Uninhibited Mary is relaxing in bed practicing some strange stringed instrument when she unexpectedly receives a phone-call from ex-beau Arthur. He desperately wants to visit and despite her initial assertions against the meeting ("It's Saturday, and the only day I'll have to shop.") she eventually relents. Bad move. Arthur comes over, and after confessing his love and offering a marriage proposal proceeds to tear Mary's clothes off and strangle her. In a matter of minutes the entire city somehow knows of the murder (probably due to the hilariously informative radio newscasts that are sure to repeatedly point out Mary was nude), and Arthur is nowhere to be found. His Uncle Bill, conveniently a cop, pleads and grovels to be put on the case ("He's my dead brother's kid!") and is granted 24 hours to uncover his whereabouts. Wasting no time, he immediately begins seeking out and questioning the women in Arthur's little black book (including future porn gal Kim Pope), and they all have an incredibly similar story to tell. It seems dear shy Arthur wasn't all that shy, and after working his way into each of the women's homes he exploded in a carnal frenzy, forcing himself upon them, regardless of their not-so-convincing struggles ("Stop, you're mad... you're tearing my clothes."). So why is reclusive Arthur, who was previously quite unlucky when it came to the opposite sex, now a rape-happy psycho? It seems he so admired his friend Felix' prowess with the ladies that when a "deadly virus" suddenly knocked him off Arthur blackmailed the family doctor (who's an illegal abortionist on the side) into performing a previously unheard-of procedure ("I want you to put Felix' penis on me!"). Unfortunately the stiff's stiffy not only granted Arthur the sexual suaveness he craved but it also brought Felix' freaky fetish into play ("Whenever he saw a girl wearing gold earrings he would get terribly excited."). So who is truly at fault for Mary's death? It all ends with a shot that'll make you throw your remote at the TV. Seriously.
With the exception of the titular operation the bulk of the film seems to be inspired by the then-current Boston Strangler case, yet for a film so rife with rape, The Amazing Transplant remains astonishingly inoffensive. Perhaps it's due to Doris' patented filmmaking formula, which transforms even the seediest concept into a non-stop barrage of groovy lounge tunes, horrendous fashion, and laughably dubbed conversations. If a more accomplished director was in charge we could have possibly ended up with another sadistic sleazefest a la I Spit on Your Grave, but instead The Amazing Transplant is about as good as can be expected for a movie where the actor's lips rarely match their dialogue. Most exploitation fans will already know what to expect, as Wishman's cinematic excursions are the absolute definition of "love-it-or-hate-it" cinema, with both factions usually citing identical reasoning behind their stance. The total avoidance of sync-sound (which results in endless camera shots of feet, plants, and various other inanimate objects, conversations where the listener is focused on, etc.) and the refusal to play by the basic rules of filmmaking will have her followers jumping for joy. However, gorehounds looking for some mondo-styled surgery footage will be disappointed, as Doris didn't try her hand in that field until she helmed Let Me Die a Woman eight years later.
Electric Video first unzipped their VHS of The Amazing Transplant in 1981, attempting to pass it off as a Jack the Ripper inspired slasher flick -- a ruse which undoubtedly melted the mind of any teenager expecting to rent something akin to Friday the 13th. The title quickly disappeared from sight, and wasn't heard of again 'til famed drive-in critic Joe Bob Briggs scheduled to include it as part of his "Sleaziest Movies in the History of the World" video series. Unfortunately this release never saw the light of day; rumor has it the investors found Wishman's outing to somehow be TOO sleazy -- a bit ironic given their moniker. Exploitation heroes Something Weird Video came to the rescue and put The Amazing Transplant back into circulation, and while I don't have access to SWV's original VHS release for comparison, on DVD The Amazing Transplant looks better than it has any right to. Transferred directly from the original negative, colors are bright and vibrant (essential for the kitsch 70's décor) and the image is as crisp and sharp as frequent collaborator Chuck Smith's haphazard photography permits, allowing every scar, zit, and cellulite dimple to be examined with utmost clarity. Although some slight print damage is noticeable throughout it only becomes bothersome for a stretch between 23m02s and 38m04s when a collection of thin white vertical lines appear and run rampant. It's not the end of the world, but it should be noted. The mono audio track is basic but clear, with the occasional crackle and pop giving away the film's vintage. Before you go rushing to the store, however, you may want to know that SWV's DVD is, well... circumcised. The disc's running time is almost 7 minutes shy of Electric Video's 77m53s length, and upon comparison several set-pieces are either shortened, wholly missing, or presented in alternate versions! The cuts actually start pretty early on, during the opening sex/murder of Mary Thorne that thrusts the plot into motion. What sex you ask? Exactly. The entire forced fornication and the majority of the strangulation is missing from the DVD, which in turn eliminates the motive for the killing itself ("Poor sick Arthur..." "I'm not sick! I'm like other men!"). The next omission is a lesbian interlude that takes place before Uncle Bill delivers a mislaid package to Arthur's upstairs neighbor, though when reinstated this bit actually destroys the subsequent scene's punchline! The third deletion involves some bewilderingly casual chitchat unfolding during the operation scene, eliminating close-ups of the plainly visible penis. While Arthur and Bill are talking on the steps the fourth chop is made, completely getting rid of a flashback sequence where Arthur and his perpetually off-screen boner donor Felix talk about the worries of impregnating girls, during which the secret side-job of Dr. Meade is revealed. Lastly, the threesome near the end contains some additional sexual grinding on the tape. Strangely, this menage-a-trois unfolds in black + white on disc, but in sepia-tone and color on Electric's release. It's surprising that Something Weird Video didn't notice their DVD's exclusions, and it's a shame since I honestly feel these segments need to be intact for true appreciation of the film. But the question remains - if the footage isn't currently on the negative then where is it?
Keeping with tradition, Something Weird Video has thrown a few thematically related supplements into the mix. In addition to the original trailer for the main feature (which offers brief snippets of the missing moments), you can find theatrical previews for several other Doris-directed oddities. Represented are her Chesty Morgan breasterpieces Deadly Weapons and Double Agent 73, their pseudo-sequel The Immoral Three, and the marvelously trashy The Love Toy spot (which features several of the same cast members as Transplant). Two short subjects are onboard as well; a Navy scare film titled "Sex Hygiene" (19m42s) which warns seamen about the perils of unprotected sex (approach with caution: it contains enough STD-ravaged genital manhandling to keep even the most jaded viewers squirmin' in their seats), and "Penis Facts 1952" (7m15s), a ragged-looking curio documenting the different forms of the male sex organ. Nice to see I'm average. - bruce holecheck
Color, 1983, 72 mins.
Directed by Doris Wishman
Starring Samantha Fox, Diane Cummins, Saul Meth, Miriam Meth, William Szarka, Chris Smith
Elite Entertainment (DVD) (US R0 NTSC / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Even among the deranged wilds of Doris Wishman cinema, A Night to Dismember holds a special place as the single most incoherent, lunatic chunk of random footage to ever bear her name. (Or any of her pseuedonyms, for that matter.) Wishman shot the film in 1979, only to lose the footage for her final cut due to a lab mishap. Using trims and alternate takes, she then assembled an entirely new narrative to appease her backers, though the result no doubt left a few jaws scraping the floor. This is no mere bad movie, afflicted by some minor inconveniences as wooden acting and and hapless direction; here we have something almost breathtaking in its inability to assemble two coherent shots together. As the babbling opener informs us during a random string of unlikely deaths: "What makes this story so strange is that all of the murders and deaths happened on October 15th. What makes this story even stranger is that most of the murders and deaths happened to the Kent brothers and their families."
Told in fractured narration by a police detective who sits at a table answering the telephone, the rough sketch of a plot concerns these ill-fated Kents whose most publicly loony member, Mary (porn actress Samantha Fox), has been released into the care of her oblivious parents and her two scheming siblings, Mary (Diane Cummins) and Billy (William Szarka). Both of them conspire to drive Mary back into the nuthouse - or frame her for murders - or something... Meanwhile a series of gory murders send the local population into the morgue, leaving our narrator to investigate by watching Mary do an impromptu striptease at her window. Endless fantasy/nightmare sequences, random chases, and a schizophrenic soundtrack consisting of looped dialogue, warbling Muzak, and random animal noises(!) pad out the proceedings until the whole nightmarish experience limps to a close.
Those who love the idiosyncratic touches of Wishman will find her fetishes pushed into overdrive here. Furniture, feet, and badly lit close ups often pop into view, while the use of senseless narration to comment on every single banal action produces levels of hilarity that can only be achieved by accident. It's impossible to evaluate Fox's performance since she never utters a word of dialogue, but she does seem to run and look around nervously well enough. Another porn veteran, Henry Paris regular Levi Richards, also turns up uncredited during the opening montage only to hang himself for no apparent reason. (He also appeared in Come with Me, My Love, a.k.a. The Haunted Pussy, reputedly one of Wishman's rare ventures into hardcore.) Gorehounds in search of some mindless bloodletting will find plenty of the red stuff on display here as Wishman apparently tries to outdo her buddy H.G. Lewis; though poorly shot and entirely unmotivated, most of the effects are actually pretty impressive for the time, including one needle through the neck gag that almost looks real. Just don't say you weren't warned...
Very briefly released on video (possibly bootlegged), A Night to Dismember has been nearly impossible to see, remaining an odd footnote in Wishman filmographies and interviews. Now this patchwork atrocity has been released on DVD courtesy of Elite, who have probably done the best they could with a film made up of scraps. The visual quality ranges from shot to shot depending on the inconsistent lighting and film stock, and it all has a grainy and washed out appearance. That said, it's still miles ahead of any videocassette versions, which were too murky and blurry to watch. The 1.85:1 framing sometimes looks tighter than what Wishman may have intended, but considering her inability to compose a formal shot, the real aspect ratio is anyone's guess. The disc contains an inane promotional trailer apparently shot before the movie was even made, but the real extra of note here is a commentary track with Wishman and her longtime cinematographer, C. Davis Smith (who decided to go the XXX route after Wishman bowed out). The cover boasts that this is one of the most "entertaining" commentaries ever recorded, and, well, who are we to argue? For the entire running time Wishman verbally berates her associate ("Stop interrupting me!" is a frequent order) and gushes about the results she achieved under the circumstances. Somehow it's comforting to hear that her commentaries can be as delusional and head-spinningly weird as her movies themselves. It's also worth noting that Wishman's once-lost original cut of the film resurfaced online much later and is a far more coherent viewing experience.