DEMENTIA 13 (Blu Ray) Film Detective, available July 26,2016. Region Free. $14.99 /75 minutes. B&W. https://www.amazon.com/Dementia-Detective-Restored-Version-Blu-ray/dp/B01GQL7FC2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468009990&sr=8-1&keywords=dementia+13+film+detective
On the Tim Lucas extra of the recently released BLOOD BATH Arrow Blu Ray (https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/blood-bath/), we find that Roger Corman, as always, was looking for inexpensive projects that he could distribute through his Filmgroup company. Several of his protégés pitched ideas. One of them was a young Francis (Ford) Coppola, who, according to biographer Gene D. Phillips: “‘A man goes to a pond and takes off his clothes, picks up five dolls, ties them together, goes under the water, and dives down, where he finds the body of a seven-year-old girl with her hair floating in the current…then he gets axed to death.’ Corman responded enthusiastically, ‘Change the man to a woman, and you’ve got a picture, kid!'”*
The other ideas were ignored (among them one offered by Jack Hill) and Corman set aside about $20,000 to make the film in Ireland.
Corman already had some actors in Europe, and he wanted them used, which is why William Campbell, Luana Anders, and Patrick Magee hopped from YOUNG RACERS (Filmgroup,1963) over to Ireland to film DEMENTIA 13 (the two male leads would then jet over Yugoslavia for the troubled but fascinating BLOOD BATH, released in various incarnations and names).
UCLA grad Coppola had by this time only done some short student films, as well as work on two softcore comedies. Corman hired him and Coppola’s first job was helping edit and redub some of the Russian films Corman had acquired for U.S. distribution. He was working as a sound operator on THE YOUNG RACERS when he pitched his idea to the producer.
With his lead actors in place, Coppola and a small crew went to Ireland to make their Psycho inspired thriller. Luckily for them, Irish actor Patrick Magee was able to convince several members of Ireland’s Abbey Players to take small roles.
When they arrived, Coppola did not have a finished script in hand but had a secretary with him to dictate script ideas. He also met a British producer Raymond Stross (who owned a chain of British movie theatres as well as producing films like the Freddie Francis directed THE BRAIN (Raymond Stross Productions,1962 a UK/West German co-production), inspired by Donovan’s Brain by Curt Siodmak ). Somehow the director convinced Stross to give him matching funds, all of which Coppola deposited into his own bank account. Corman was furious that Coppola had sold off UK rights without telling him and wanted to withdraw his share of the funding, but since it was in Coppola’s private account, there was nothing that he could do.
A group of UCLA film students came over, including John Vicario, camera operator and Vicario’s girlfriend Eleanor Neil. Coppola eventually married Eleanor after the film wrapped.
When the film was finished, Corman felt that the film did not work, and so had Jack Hill brought in to film some additional (violent) scenes that were shot in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California. Hill received credit for second unit work on the picture.
When it was first released, Corman had a prologue filmed for a D-13 test, which involved an actor playing a psychiatrist ask the audience what scared them. (This prologue as well as an audio commentary by William Campbell were on ROAN’s 1996 DVD of the film .)
The story involves a series of violent murders that take place around Castle Haloran in Ireland. They all seem to start when Louise (Luana Anders), the American wife of John Haloran (Peter Read ) tries to hide John’s death by heart attack so she won’t be cut out of the will. Since he died while they were in the middle of a lake, she dumps his body overboard (an eerie scene, for she also dumps over a small transistor radio playing some rockabilly, it’s music garbles as they both float downward.
This leads into the impressive title sequence animation Paul Julian, who had also worked in similar capacity for Corman on ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (A.A.1957) and THE TERROR (AIP,1963). He had been a production designer on the Oscar nominated short film THE TELL TALE HEART (UPA,1953). Julian’s eerie art is well matched by the harpsichord and horn score by another Corman regular, composer Ronald Stein.
Returning to the story, Louise convinces the family that John was called away on business. There we are introduced to the matriarch of the family, Lady Haloran (Eithne Dunne ) who seems to be cut from the same cool cloth as Judith Anderson was as Mrs. Danvers in REBECCA (Selznick ,1940).
Every year they have a ceremony that is a macabre memorial to a sister Kathleen, who drowned seven years earlier. Lady Haloran holds a strong powerful hold over her two sons, Richard (William Campbell), a sculptor (a passion that he also had in BLOOD BATH) who wishes to marry Kane (Mary Mitchel), another American woman, and younger brother Billy (Bart Patton), who still misses his little sister.
The ceremony of the three family members ends as it does every year, with the mother collapsing at the daughter’s gravesite. This year the ceremony is observed by Louise, who gets the idea that she might drive the older woman mad so she can break the will in case John’s body is discovered. This sets off a series of violent murders by axe.
Family friend, Dr Justin Caleb (Patrick Magee) begins to suspect that the murders are a result of the death of young Kathleen. The thing is, who is the killer?
The film is an effective gritty little who done it, with a lot of wonderful visuals and a strong cast, particularly actress Eithne Dunne. The Northern Ireland born actress had joined the Abbey Theatre in 1939 . She had appeared on Broadway in 1946 with Burgess Meredith in PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD .
However, American actor Karl Schanzer does the worst Irish accent ever as potty game poacher Simon (Schanzer had appeared in Coppola’s nudie cutie TONIGHT FOR SURE (Premier,1962) as well as SPIDER BABY (American General,1968).
Though obviously inspired by PSYCHO(Paramount,1960), it also made me think of many of the Hammer black and white psychological thrillers, especially PARANOIAC(Hammer/Universal,1963).
700-year-old Howth Castle near Howth Road, Dublin, Ireland adds major production value to the film, and is practically a character in the story. The castle was later used for some flashback scenes in DUCK YOU SUCKER (U.A., 1971). The locale of James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake “is Howth Castle and Environs. Legend has it that due to an affront to a guest in 1576, an extra plate is set out at every meal, a custom still honored at the castle today.
Additional scenes were shot at Ardmore Studios in Ireland. The film was allocated nine filming days, but additional shooting days were required, especially for the reshoots by Jack Hill.
Though critical reviews were mixed at the time of its release, but the film was not very expensive and so easily made a profit. The film was also released in the U.K. as THE HAUNTED AND THE HUNTED. The BBFC made several cuts, ironically the footage shot by Jack Hill was among them. These cuts were later restored to British prints.
The Blu Ray from FILM DETECTIVE is huge improvement from previous released copies of this film that I have seen. No longer will you need to watch all those dark muddy public domain prints that have long been available. Details are sharp though at time grain seems to exist in the original negative. This is supposedly the first time that the film has been released in its proper 1:78:1 aspect ratio.
The mono sound is clear though a bit low, a problem easily corrected by increasing your television volume.
While appreciative of such a lovely print, I do wish that FILM DETECTIVE had gotten someone to do a commentary track for the film,or ported over the extras from Roan’s out of print DVD (Campbell’s commentary and the D-13 prologue) .
That said, the most important thing is that this film can finally be seen in a viewable version.
Kevin G Shinnick
*-Godfather: The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola ( University Press of Kentucky )- by Gene D Phillips .Page 22
DEMENTIA 13 (Filmgroup,1963) Blu Ray released by Film Detective
Producer: Roger Corman
Associate Producer: Marianne Wood
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Screenplay: Francis Ford Coppola
2nd Unit Writer and Director: Jack Hill
Cinematography: Charles Hanawalt
Film Editing: Stuart O’Brien, Morton Tubor
Art Direction: Albert Locatelli
Set Decoration: Eleanor Neil (Coppola)
Sculptures: Edward Delaney
Music: Ronald Stein
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), Barbara Dowling (Kathleen Haloran).
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