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Future film-making legend Francis Ford Coppola makes his big-screen directorial debut with this cult horror classic, available for the first time in spectacular High-Definition Blu-Ray. Following the abrupt death of her husband from a heart attack, the scheming Louise Haloran (Luanda Anders) travels to her in-laws estate in Ireland, only to find herself trapped in a creepy, decrepit castle with her ex-husband s demented family. Upon arrival, she is introduced to a pair of maladjusted brothers (William Campbell, Bart Patton) and a distraught mother-in-law (Eithne Dunn), still grieving for the daughter she lost in a drowning accident many years earlier. When a mysterious axe-wielding psychopath enters the fray, leaving blood-spattered corpses in his wake, the family s doctor (Patrick Magee) takes it upon himself to try to get to the bottom of things--before it s too late! The making of Dementia 13, meanwhile, is a tale unto itself. An aspiring film-maker fresh out of UCLA, Coppola found work under the tutelage of B-movie legend Roger Corman, doing sound, editing and various other tasks. After finishing a film called The Young Racers under budget, Corman opted to use the leftover funds to finance a low-budget thriller to cash in on the success of Alfred Hitchcock s Psycho. Coppola quickly delivered a script to Corman s liking, promising plenty of nudity and gore. Corman gave him the green light. Despite the meager budget, Coppola made the most of his resources, re-purposing both sets and actors from The Young Racers, while employing the sort of creative lighting, camera angles, and storytelling that reveals an early glimpse at the great filmmaking that would follow with such titles as Apocalypse Now and The Godfather trilogy.
Top customer reviews
Dementia 13 isn't likely to ever reach cult status, but it is worth viewing to see an early example of Roger Corman's work and because it's the first film ever directed by Francis Ford Coppola (who went by Francis Coppola in the credits). To keep the suspense going, try to guess who the ax murderer is. There are several suspects, and it's not at all obvious.
Trivia: "Castle Haloran," where the movie was filmed, is actually Howth Castle in the Dublin suburb of Howth.
DVD transfer is weak and grainy. It is watchable.
Recommended to PG-13 audiences.
For those of you unfamiliar with the background story, here it is. Coppola was in Ireland in 1963 doing sound on Roger Corman's THE YOUNG RACERS when Corman gave him the opportunity to direct a low budget (estimates vary between $20,000 and $40,000) horror film using the same actors. Featuring several nearby outdoor locations and shooting interiors at the local Ardmore Studios, Coppola made this film in just a couple of weeks. It was released in America and did very well indeed while making money for American International Pictures overseas as well. The plot concerns a series of grisly axe murders commited during a family get together honoring the memory of a dead girl. Memorable scenes include an underwater grave, the murder of a local poacher, a nursery rhyme, and the aforementioned midnight swim. Regarding the DVD, the picture quality is quite good and the sound a tiny bit soft on occasion but clear overall. Too bad there are only Spanish subtitles. Along with HD Cinema Classics' other Filmgroup (Corman's shadow company) release THE TERROR, which was made the same year with a lot of the same technical people and also a victim of bad public domain copies, I'm glad to see these celebrated Corman "C" pictures finally receive their due.
Obviously influenced by Hitchcock's "Psycho", Coppola's horror mystery was filmed on location in Ireland, one of the shooting locales for "The Young Racers". The plot focuses on an extremely dysfunctional family who gather in a creepy Irish castle for a yearly memorial to a young girl who drowned. Neurosis, greed and subterfuge go full on with the unexpected arrival of an axe murderer, and it's up to the village doctor (?) to determine why key characters have suddenly gone missing.
At just over an hour long, "Dementia 13" is just the right length; there is no unnecessary exposition, no wasted scenes--it is a lean, mean little thriller with violence, gore and what passed for nudity onscreen in 1963. The acting is uniformly good, with Luana Anders giving a terrific performance as a conniving wife who's not above using superstition and suggestions of the supernatural to play on the emotions of her grieving, half-mad mother-in-law. Of equal note is Patrick Magee's performance as the village doctor, himself fairly mad, and not a little reminiscent of Marlon Brando during one of the "interesting" phases of his career. The rest of the cast acquit themselves nicely, and an atmosphere of dread is conveyed throughout the film, from the eerie opening credits, right through to the shock ending. There are some truly chilling scenes that are simpy unforgettable: Anders roaming the dark corridors of the castle at night, entering a room full of child's toys that suddenly seem to take on a life of their own; the mother stumbling across what appears to be the body of her long-dead daughter in a woodshed--that is, in short order, chopped to pieces by the axe-man; and the final scene where the identity of the killer is revealed. But it is Ander's midnight swim that is justly notorious: stripping down to bra and panties she dives down, makes a terrifying discovery at the bottom of the pond, only to resurface and come face-to-foot with something even worse--much worse. It's the scariest scene in a creepy, scary movie that is much better than its brief original run, and the subsequent inferior prints would have you believe. A classic of low-budget horror from a burgeoning artist in his youth.
Most recent customer reviews
A couple walk on a dock then get into a rowboat. Louise talks to John about his mother’s will. John’s heart affects him, he collapses!Read more
The legend behind DEMENTIA 13 is well known among movie and horror film fans.Read more
The picture quality is excellent.Read more
Not sure why the lead main female characters looked almost exactly alike with hair and facial features.Read more