Francis Ford Coppola was working as an assistant to Roger Corman when he made this, his feature debut. The story goes that Corman let Coppola make the film so long as he could work around the shooting schedule of the film... more » they were working on together, and the results are impressive given the budget constraints. Or maybe because of the budget constraints. The story concerns the family at Castle Haloran, the secrets surrounding the death of young Kathleen, and an axe murderer who seems to be picking away at all present. Coppola's deft direction keeps this from being a routine ghost story, using light and dark in his compositions to create tension and suspense. The film has an interesting way of spanning the traditional ghost story and the more modern gore-fests that we're used to. I have one bone to pick with the manufacturer of this disc: the transfer to DVD was made from tape. This is evident from the way the frames roll repeatedly during the last 15 minutes of the film, and the tape bunches a few times leaving video artifacts. DVD consumers want all the benefits of this medium, and not to have the degraded quality of tape preserved on it. If this is the only way you can get this film, at least the price is reasonable. It's also packaged as a Fright Night Horror Classic along with Night of the Living Dead and Revolt of the Zombies. --Jim Gay« less
"This is not the best horror movies I've ever seen, but one of the best films in terms of *atmosphere*. The frightening parts about it are less in the film itself than what the film suggests--the really psychotic point to which codependency can build, obsession, and a host of other disturbances, none of which involve the supernatural but suggest it. Along with the Vincent Price films he did, this is the best film you'll see that Roger Corman was involved in. Luana Anders is, ironically, the strongest presence in this film. Thing is, she doesn't last very long, and the viewer isn't all that devastated when she does disappear. A scheming, money hungry witch, she preys on the co-morbidity of an elderly woman to the point of sadism. A young girl dies tragically at a young age. An Irish family living in Nowheresville idealizes her mysterious death to the point of madness. Someone is responsible, and we eventutally find out who. There are a few 'jump out of your seat scenes', one of them being the untimely (and grisly) death of Anders. It's been awhile since I've seen this film, but much of the imagery (dolls, truly 'demented' childhood memories, and the last exclamation by the ultimate culprit: "DON'T TOUCH THAT!") have remained with me. This is an odd blend, Corman and Coppola. A worthwhile old cinematic antique of misery."
In Search of the Perfect Dementia
Eric Huffstutler | Richmond, VA United States | 03/10/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is for the elusive Roan (Troma) DVD of "Dementia 13" (1963) issued in 2001. The movie itself has fallen into public domain years ago and was said by the producer Roger Corman, that the original elements have been lost. This is not the case but there was bad blood between Corman and Francis Ford Coppola (director) producing this movie that he may have simply swept it under the rug leaving us with a generally shared master that over the years has been well worn. There are tell-tale signs that one original print master was used and others made from it hinted by damages in the same exact spots.
The Roan version is said to be "The Best" out there but it is far from perfect. The compression level is better than all others with blacks being solid. The audio level is low and there is a lot of "screen door" veil over the lighter solid areas. This is the Holy Grail of Roan DVDs and fetches high prices. It has the odd and rare movie trailer along with a couple of lame extras and a so-so commentary. Supposed to be widescreen, you hardly notice due to the odd ratio (supposed to be 1:66 but closer to 1:50). Another version put out by the now defunct Diamond Entertainment is identical but shows some compression yet acceptable unless you view it on a 1080p HD set. Even the Treeline version that comes in the 50-Movie packs (now Mill Creek) has a very good transfer considering but again minor compression artifacting (even viewed in HD). These two can be great alternate choices over the hard to find Roan and a LOT cheaper. Only hardcore buffs should invest in the Roan version.
By chance an eBay seller had one at a descent non-gouging price so I landed on it quickly to add to my collection. It will be my #1 copy right now until an official release (if ever) comes from MGM and you can throw away all the others not mentioned above. I have compared at least 8 different versions and the above three are the best out of the bunch!
Too bad that Roan has gotten out of the 'B' horror movie business restoring the lesser known and nearly forgotten public domain titles from decades past. Many were top notch but again, Roan's "Dementia 13" does fall a bit short which may be one reason it was short lived and now scarce?
Eric S. Huffstutler Richmond, VA "
"And Here Comes the Chopper, to Chop Off Your Head..."
Bruce Rux | Aurora, CO | 09/07/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Francis Ford Coppola's first film of note, graduating from the tutelage of schlock-meister Roger Corman. It was made hot on the heels of Hitchcock's more famous Psycho, and is very similar in content and style.Con-woman Luana Anders' husband-married-only-for-the-family-money dies before she can be included in the will, causing her to seek out a new scam. Deceased hubby's wealthy Irish family is more than usually superstitious, yearly celebrating with a morbid ceremony the date that their matriarch's youngest daughter, Kathleen, drowned in the lake out back. Anders poses as a medium and stages a few tricks to make herself look good to the rich matriarch, who buys her act. Eldest son William Campbell knows she's a phony, and kid brother Bart Patton has been generally kind of creepy ever since the day Kathleen died - which makes it kind of a toss-up as to who follows Anders out to the haunted lake one night, and cuts her up with an axe...This movie succeeds on its acting and its atmosphere, which are terrific. Anders was good in everything she did, and this was probably her best role. Campbell never disappoints, and Patton is wonderfully intense and unsettling. The always creepy - and always good - Patrick Magee is on hand as the family doctor, who seems to know a great deal more about the recent mysterious disappearances (Anders isn't the only one who goes missing) than he's letting on. The music score isn't quite as frightening as Bernard Hermann's for Psycho, but it's damned close - the opening theme and credit sequence are terrific, even for American International Pictures, which was usually good in that department. Anders' murder scene will haunt your nightmares about as bad as Janet Leigh's in Hitchcock's film.Well worth the time and trouble, especially for fans of film noir."
Bindy Sue FrÝnkŁnschtein | under the rubble | 01/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Louise Haloran (Luana Anders) accompanies her husband John (Peter Read) on a moonlight rowboat ride around the lake. Well, John's heart gives out and he drops dead in the middle of the lake! Devoted wife Louise dumps his carcass overboard and begins scheming immediately how she can worm her way into her mother-in-law's will. Louise pretends that John has gone away on a trip, and shows up at the family castle in Ireland to put her plot into operation. Upon arrival, Louise finds a family in the throes of insanity, as the matriarch, Lady Haloran (Ethne Dunn) has never fully recovered from the drowning death of her young daughter Kathleen. Every year since, the family gathers at Kathleen's grave, and tosses flowers by the tombstone until Lady Haloran collapses to the ground. Louise arrives just in time for the seventh annual observance of this macabre ritual! She realizes that mum is extremely vulnerable, and sets out to gain her confidence. She convinces her that she has heard Kathleen's voice in the castle. Louise places some of Kathleen's dolls at the bottom of the pond (where the drowning occured), weighted down by a wrench. She sees a most terrifying sight down there and re-surfaces, only to be hacked to death by a shadowy figure with an axe! The dolls pop up the next afternoon, sending mother completely over the edge. Her doctor, Dr. Caleb (Patrick Magee) tries to solve the mystery of the dolls, as well as Louise's sudden disappearance. A trespassing rabbit hunter is also dispatched by the axe maniac in grizzly, head-rolling fashion. William Campbell plays Richard Haloran. Bart Patton is his younger brother, Billy. Mary Mitchell is Kane, Richard's bride-to-be, who is the only ray of sunshine in this otherwise dark, gloomy place. Coppola offers some fine direction, and his story is full of nice creepy touches. This film was made for about the cost of the catering service in most modern day productions! It shows again, like in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, CARNIVAL OF SOULS, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, ETC., that money isn't everything in movie-making! Highly recommended..."
The influence of "Psycho" was very strong
Baron Sardonicus | Pennsylvania | 06/05/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"[Note: possible Spoilers to follow. Fair warning, dear reader.]
It can't be sheer coincidence that Francis Ford Coppola made a film in 1963 (his first film where he was at the helm) that involves a fairly ordinary girl who does a bad thing involving greed and then half an hour into the film is hacked up. In "Psycho", the character of Marion Crane was murdered suddenly in the motel shower; in "Dementia 13", Louise is killed unexpectedly in the pond on the grounds of the cavernous family estate, Castle Haloran. The murder scenes are actually rather alike in certain ways if you compare them: a lone blonde woman in water is surprised by an obscured maniac seen only in shadow. It should be noted that there's more blood when Louise is done in, compared to Hitchcock's carefully orchestrated shower scene where it only seems bloody when Marion is stabbed.
Even the musical score is in some ways a copy of "Psycho"; although "Dementia 13" features a harpsichord along with its ominous strings.
The plot basically involves a strange family in Ireland and the lunatic amongst them with a penchant for ax wielding. In America, Louise has conveniently watched John, her surly oaf of a husband, die... and then she covers up the incident in order to still inherit from his sickly mother's estate when the woman passes away. There are several suspects in this slightly gory whodunit: is it the sullen older brother, or the icy mother who seems slightly cuckoo, or maybe the smarmy and obnoxious doctor, or could it be the poacher?
The movie has a few decent touches peppered throughout which make it ever so slightly better than other similiar fare of that period. For example, Coppola is often careful and dramatic with lighting. A child's toy bear or monkey takes on an eerily ominous presence when lit from beneath. And the underwater shots are nicely handled. Also I must admit that some of the camera angles are unexpectedly unique.
What makes "Dementia 13" just a cut above the rest (pardon the pun, hee hee), you might ask? Perhaps the saving grace of the film was Luanna Anders, who plays Louise. She is a very capable actress who made a few B-pictures during this time, including Roger Corman's "The Pit and the Pendulum". In "Dementia 13" you both like her and loathe her; you understand her but you hate what she does. And Anders is great with expressions, and vocal cadences. Other actresses wouldn't make this role quite so believable and natural. She is just as good as Janet Leigh, as far as I'm concerned. If it weren't for Anders' solid performance here, I'd have dismissed this film hastily and never returned.
So my take on Dementia 13 is basically this: a more graphic variation of Hitchcock's Psycho, but much more a whodunit, set in a castle in the countryside. It's a decent spookfest. But it doesn't offer very much that's dramatically different or refreshing when compared to other horror movies of the early 1960's. It's not quite as fun or involving as other similiar mood pieces, such as "Paranoiac". But it's not bad for a first film by a young director."