Dementia 13 (1963)
By: Michael Helms on May 10, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
MRA (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 4:3. English 2.0. 74 minutes
The Movie
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring:Patrick Magee, William Campbell, Mary Mitchell, Luana Anders, Bart Patton
Screenplay: Francis Ford Coppola
Country: USA
AKA: The Haunted and the Hunted
Francis Ford Coppola squeezed out Dementia 13 from the Roger Corman production line when the opportunity arose at the tail end of the trans- European shoot for The Young Racers to re-utilise the same cast and crew and production facilities they'd been using in Ireland. Coppola beat out future Cannon Films honcho Menachem Golan (who had suggested making a movie in Israel) by tailoring the Dementia 13 script to Corman's requirements which was essentially to provide a Psycho knock-off.

A man and a woman on a jetty argue as they take a row boat onto a lake. Rockabilly is blaring from their transistor radio when the man has a heart attack. The woman promptly disposes of him (and the radio) overboard. The opening pre-credit sequence finishes with a great shot of the man hitting the bottom of the lake along with the radio which is still playing! What follows is the attempts of the woman, Louise (Luana Anders), to get the matriarch of her dead husband's clan the Hallorans to change her will. Louise fronts up to Castle Halloran only to discover a family more warped than she, living in thrall of the death of young daughter/sister Kathleen, many years previous. Kathleen had apparently drowned. The family holds a strange ceremony every year to commemorate the death. Flashbacks, nursery rhymes, a decapitation, a wedding and a home invasion by an axe weilding maniac follows as the film's central mystery is awkwardly unravelled and it all ends in tears.
Probably the worst transfer of the shoddiest black and white print we've yet to see commercially released on DVD. The only remastering from a print that may've played every drive-in from Peoria to Alice Springs, is the inclusion of the MRA logo as a watermark every few scenes. But that's really no distraction as print scratches and blemishes are the real attention grabbers here.
The sound is uneven (Coppola had apparently stuffed the sound on The Young Racers) and barely adequate and makes following the intricate plot turns as difficult as following them visually. Still, best sounding underwater radio in cinema history.
Extra Features
The Verdict
A proto-horror thriller that does demonstrate some masterfully constructed tension and murderous moments but they are few and far between and don't sustain interest in the hastily concieved plot. A curio at best and now more notable for the work of Jack Hill who's credited as writing and directing second unit before he went home to engineer his supreme exercise in family dementia, Spider Baby. Also of interest for the great work of the late, great, and highly under-rated composer, Ronald Stein.
Movie Score
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