The 13th Floor

The Horror-Comedy You’ve Never Seen: Exploring Recently Unearthed Film THE DISMEMBERED

As horror fans, we are always on the quest to discover elusive horror gems, constantly searching for lesser-known and hard-to-find titles. I had heard past whispers about a regional horror film called THE DISMEMBERED. Years ago, I was doing a research project on early horror comedies and found mentions of this obscure 1962 film out of the Philadelphia area. Previously, THE DISMEMBERED had been impossible to find, with many referring to it as a “lost film.” But thanks to the recently formed boutique label, Garagehouse Pictures, it’s now available on Blu-ray.

THE DISMEMBERED is unlike any movie I’ve seen before. Yes, it is campy and b-grade (people die with their eyes crossed), but there is also a fascinating charm to it. The plot revolves around a group of jewel thieves who decide to hide out in an abandoned house next to a graveyard. But, the house is already occupied by a group of ghosts. The ghosts are “old timey” and unionized, with all decisions and hauntings being put to a group vote. Eventually, they decide to kill the invasive gents in the most horrible ways possible.

After several failed attempts and a good bit of humor, the thieves and ghosts alike are haunted by disembodied hands, feet, and even a crawling brain. The movie is accented with an amazing improvisational jazz score that pushes the quirkiness of the film. Sure, some of the acting is community theater-grade, but there is also a magnetism that kept me watching, making me want to ignore the flaws.

A clear labor of love, THE DISMEMBERED was made in 1962 by Ralph Hirshorn who gathered the crew from a local children’s TV show along with a mix of amateur actors and teachers from his old High School. Filmed in 35mm, the bulk of the movie was shot around the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia, PA. One of the Associate Producers, Carl Lerner, stepped in to handle the post production, and Hirshorn credits him for providing a lot of the film’s distinctive style, including the humorous opening credits (self-aware like DEADPOOL) and the snappy jazz score which is one of the major highlights of the film.

After completing the film, Hirshorn took a job with Columbia Pictures and left for Hollywood. While Hirshorn found success as a line producer in the industry, THE DISMEMBERED struggled for distribution and was soon forgotten. After a few years, Hirshorn moved back to Pennsylvania and took over his family’s insurance company. He also went on to found the Chestnut Hill Film Society of Philadelphia which specializes in regular screenings of rare and hard-to find film titles. Eventually, a fellow filmmaker was helping Hirshorn move and found the film canisters for THE DISMEMBERED. They convinced him to screen the film publicly which helped to bring awareness and get the film released to Blu-ray.

This rare gem is now available on Blu-ray from Garagehouse Pictures. For more info, head to their company’s Facebook page here.