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Dementia 13: The Film Detective Archive Restored Classics Edition Blu-ray Review

Dementia 13 (1963) movie poster Dementia 13

Theatrical Release: September 25, 1963 / Running Time: 96 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Writer/Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: William Campbell (Richard Haloran), Luana Anders (Louise Haloran), Bart Patton (Billy Haloran), Mary Mitchel (Kane), Patrick Magee (Dr. Justin Caleb), Eithne Dunne (Lady Haloran), Peter Read (John Haloran), Karl Schanzer (Simon), Ron Perry (Arthur), Derry O'Donavan (Lillian), Barbara Dowling (Kathleen)

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Everyone who's found themselves making a film for B-movie king Roger Corman has been able to take solace in the fact that Francis Ford Coppola began his career in the very same fashion and less than a decade later, he was directing what is widely considered one of the greatest American films of all time.
A number of esteemed filmmakers got their foot in Hollywood's doors by starting with a low-budget genre production for Corman, who is still purveying schlock today at age 90. Among them: Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Joe Dante, Jonathan Demme and Ron Howard. But Coppola's meteoric trajectory is the one by which all others are measured.

While a grad student at UCLA Film School, Coppola made his feature debut on the Western softcore film Tonight For Sure. Then, he picked up writing and directing credits for recutting a German film and adding some sex scenes. Though that flopped, Coppola was hired as Corman's assistant and asked to re-edit and dub another foreign film, this one a Russian sci-fi movie that became the monster flick Battle Beyond the Sun. Coppola held crew jobs on three subsequent Corman productions, before getting persuaded by Corman to make his own low-budget horror movie using funds left over from one of their other collaborations. With a budget of just $40,000, Coppola wrote and directed Dementia 13, completing the production in a mere nine days.

Dementia 13 cannot hide its economical nature, but that does not stand in the way of telling a reasonably compelling story set in an Irish castle. The film opens with a married couple bickering over the will drawn up for the man's mother that will leave everything she owns to charity. The man, John (Peter Read), suffering from a known heart condition, promptly drops dead on his boat and for some reason, his young wife Louise (Luana Anders) dumps the body and pretends he's still alive.

Louise Haloran (Luana Anders) throws her dead husband off the boat in the opening sequence of "Dementia 13."

Louise heads to the Castle Haloran, where the family matriarch (Eithne Dunn) is performing her annual tribute to her youngest child, a daughter named Kathleen who drowned years ago. Trying to prey upon Lady Haloran's superstitious nature, Louise instead winds up dead.

The family doctor Justin Caleb (Patrick Magee) shows up hoping to solve these mysteries. Instead, someone else is killed, this time by decapitation at the hands of same axe-wielding, ahem, psycho. While John's brother (William Campbell) is marrying his fiancιe, danger looms and questions linger.

There is nothing in Dementia 13 to suggest better things were on the way for its writer-director. As far as 1960s B-movies made on shoestring budgets, I'm sure it's far from the worst of its kind. But it's a film that struggles to hold your attention beyond its hook of an opening scene and the plot seems blatantly derivative of gothic horror tales from two decades earlier like Rebecca and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, not to mention Alfred Hitchcock's still fresh in mind Psycho.

Louise (Luana Anders) does a little digging and prodding into the very superstitious nature of Lady Haloran (Eithne Dunn).

Nonetheless, after Coppola and Corman clashed (with the producer bringing in Jack Hill to film additional sequences), the movie recouped its modest expenses and Coppola, after penning some scripts, would proceed to direct You're a Big Boy Now and Finian's Rainbow for Warner Bros. Pictures, before beginning perhaps the most prolific decade any filmmaker has ever experienced,
which saw him co-writing Patton, adapting The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, and also both writing and directing the enduring Best Picture nominees The Conversation and Apocalypse Now.

It is what came next for Coppola that has kept Dementia 13 somewhat known and somewhat respected. The director struggled at the beginning of the '80s with his costly flop One From the Heart and, despite some commercial successes, he's never regained the clout and stature of his '70s heyday. He's barely gotten a film in theaters since revisiting and reworking an old triumph in 2001's Apocalypse Now Redux. Still, the first two Godfather films alone would be enough to secure Coppola permanent cinematic immortality and it is fascinating to see the humble and fairly unremarkable work that predated this Italian-American maestro's first two masterpieces.

Dementia 13, whose title is never explained but is certainly not a sequel to 12 movies, is in the public domain. It is freely available on YouTube, where it has racked up 10,000 views and its DVD releases are too numerous to mention. The film first came to Blu-ray in a 2011 combo pack from a company called HD Cinema Classics. That is still in print as is the double feature pairing it with The Terror, a Corman horror film on which Coppola performed more than a week of uncredited direction in Big Sur. While it's tough to imagine much clamor for a new Blu-ray edition of Dementia 13, the film gets that this week from The Film Detective, who reissues the film under its Restored Classics and The Film Detective Archive banners.

Dementia 13 Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
2.0 DTS-HD MA Mono (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: July 26, 2016
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Blue Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

A 53-year-old movie that cost just $40,000 to make raises one set of expectations. The Film Detective's "Restored Classics" raises quite different ones. Gladly, Dementia 13's Blu-ray falls more in line with the latter.
Billed as 1.78:1, the black and white frame actually measures closer to 1.85:1. That's a bit perplexing given that IMDb cites the film's original aspect ratio as 1.66:1. But there are no real concerns, framing or otherwise. The visuals occasionally create a ghosting effect, which you especially notice on scenes of white against black. The footage's age and frugality is never a mystery, but the results are quite satisfactory, all things considered. The monaural 2.0 DTS-HD master audio is thin as expected, but also adequate.

The Film Detective's Dementia 13 Blu-ray menu looks a lot like the cover art.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Don't expect bonus features to distinguish this edition, as there are none of those. (By comparison, the HD Cinema Classics combo had the trailer, a restoration demo, and an art postcard.) Like the cover, the basic, static, silent menu surrounds the poster art in black. The only option it extends besides "Play" is the ability to turn on or off the English SDH subtitles supplied. The menu even forgoes a scene selection.

No inserts or slipcover accompany the standard blue keepcase.

Kane (Mary Mitchel) gets schooled by family doctor Justin Caleb (Patrick Magee).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Dementia 13 is noteworthy for being one of the first films directed by the briefly outstanding Francis Ford Coppola and for being made for next to nothing. It holds up about as well as an early '60s B-movie can, but it still may strike many modern viewers as too slight and far from shocking. The movie still warrants a look for anyone with an interest in either Coppola or Corman and this Blu-ray edition might be the best way to experience it, though I can't say that for sure.

Buy Dementia 13: The Film Detective Restored Classics Blu-ray from Amazon.com

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Related Reviews:
Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection • The Godfather Trilogy • New York Stories • Peggy Sue Got Married
Also Directed by Francis Ford Coppola: Bram Stoker's Dracula • John Grisham's The Rainmaker • Jack
Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel • Rebecca • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Produced by Roger Corman: The Cry Baby Killer & The Little Shop of Horrors • The Intruder • Eat My Dust
New to Blu-ray: The Ratings Game • Gang Related • Elvis & Nixon

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Reviewed July 24, 2016.



Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1963 American International Pictures and 2016 The Film Detective. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.