B&W, 1962, 64 mins. 32 secs.
Directed by Ralph S. Hirshorn
Starring Frank Geraci, Tim Sheldon, Kate Shaffmaster, William Lane, Martin Jackson, Raymond Thorne, Oliver Nuse, Barbara Scialla
Garagehouse Pictures (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

The DismemberedThe DismemberedProving that the regional horror well will apparently never run dry, Garagehouse Pictures has unearthed this oddball Philadelphia-shot comic horror offering that aims shoots for the macabre tone of Charles Addams but comes off as something utterly bizarre and all its own.

After posing as ambulance drivers, three jewel thieves on the lam-- Jerry (Sheldon), Max (Thorne), and Carlo (Geraci) -- decide to hole up in a spooky, abandoned old house and play checkers all night while hiding from the cops. However, it turns out the premises is populated by some homicidal ghosts who have been itching to take out some humans, including longtime spectral residents Effie (Shaffmaster), Oswald (Lane), Tommy (Jackson), and Henry (Nuse). After a committee meeting, the ghosts decide to team up and take out the crooks one by one, but things don't go as planned -- including a botched attempt to brain one of them with a flowerpot dropping from the second floor. The oldest and clumsiest of the ghosts, Oswald keeps getting blamed for the failed murders, and complicating things is the presence of some chopped-up zombies in the nearby graveyard, the titular "dismembered." The DismemberedThen there's a spooky undead girl (Scialla) in period dress who keeps showing up, and soon the thieves The Dismemberedare stuck in a very long night as the ghosts find ways to turn the humans against each other in a deadly battle of wits with the murderous body parts next door.

Weird, hokey, and endearing, this one feels like the filmmakers were aiming for something in the vicinity of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Spirit Is Willing, or The Curse of the Living Corpse -- except this precedes all of those! The production was mounted by Yale graduate and local film enthusiast Ralph S. Hirshorn, who brought together friends, family members, and local TV crew personnel for a quick shoot; it definitely feels like something cobbled together cheaply and quickly given that it takes place almost entirely in one location, but that's really a huge part of its charm. Adding to the fun is a crazed soundtrack by the "Main Street Ghouls" featuring a wacko piano-driven main theme and some eerie electronic noodlings that anticipate Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things. Crazy, crazy stuff, and how can you resist a movie with dialogue like "You know, Henry, it gets more difficult each year being a The Dismemberedghost?"

Garagehouse Pictures brings this film to region-free Blu-ray for its first-ever home video release in any format; it's also the first chance most people will have to see it at all given that the film was essentially abandoned after post-production and only screened a handful of times in the following decades. The sole surviving 16mm copy was unearthed and looks quite good here under the circumstances; it feels like watching a fresh print, with grain intact and a really nice grayscale bearing its origins in mind. The English LPCM mono audio also sounds solid given that the original dialogue recording isn't the sharpest in the world. Incidentally, the actual on-screen title is Oswald, You Botched It Again!, a running gag line in the film. Hirshorn appears for a new audio commentary as well with moderator Andrew Repasky McElhinney (A Chronicle of Corpses, Georges The DismemberedBataille's Story of the Eye), who instrumental in getting the film back out to the public. The chat has a lot of ground to cover in just over an hour and provides some much-needed The Dismemberedbackground about the production, which was mounted for about $5,000 and used as much local talent as the self-deprecating director could scrounge up. He also chats about how the film was finished while he was off in Hollywood after getting a job at Columbia and points out the architectural minutiae of the main house location. Both of them return for an optional commentary for Hirshorn's 1959 short film, The End of Summer (10m35s), an evocative little short (produced with the Yale Film Society) showing off vintage Philly locations as a young girl spends an afternoon towing her sled through a variety of locations leading to a bizarre, supernatural(?) spiritual finale. Also included are bonus trailers for Ninja Busters, The Satanist, and the first two volumes of Trailer Trauma. The disc also comes with a sleeve sporting new artwork by Stephen Romano and in-depth liner notes by Phawker.com's Dan Buskirk, who lays out Hirshorn's background quite thoroughly and is recommended reading before you watch this truly unique film, which is perfect for busting out each Halloween.

Reviewed on May 2, 2016.