johnlink ranks DEMENTIA 13 (1963)

Another B-movie ranked! Though DEMENTIA 13 is not just a low-budget and short feature length film to fill the bottom half of a double feature. It is also a B movie which was made by Francis Ford Coppola a decade before THE GODFATHER. Coppola was in Ireland working on a film called THE YOUNG RACERS by Roger Corman. Corman allowed Coppola to borrow his camera equipment (and his actors) to make DEMENTIA 13 around the schedule of THE YOUNG RACERS. Now that is true B-movie film-making!

I watched DEMENTIA 13 (1963) on 6.8.12. It was my first viewing of the film. I watched it in HD on YouTube, commercial free, right here .

Coppola was clearly influenced by PSYCHO in making this film. The first act of DEMENTIA 13 loosely hangs around the neck of Hitchcock’s classic. A woman is trying to get herself some money, only she ends up on the wrong end of a psychopath’s blade. In PSYCHO she shocking water scene happened in a shower, in DEMENTIA 13 it happens in a pond.

Every character in this is slightly twisted with the possible exception of the family doctor and a fiancée. The mother and both brothers at this Irish castle have major issues stemming from a seven-year-old drowning of a little girl. The groundskeeper seems off, the local poacher is delusional, the aforementioned doomed woman has no problem making an accidental heart attack victim appear to be alive for her own purposes, even if that victim just so happens to be her husband.

Coppola goes for shock, and he gets it. A butchering of a woman is unfamiliar to early 60s audiences. Seeing that body turn up later is equally so (even if doing this sort of trick became horror cliché). A beheading is especially surprising in its blunt violence. This sort of thing just did not permeate much of early 60s film, though Coppola’s work under Corman must have influenced some of these decisions.

This violence works though. The story is almost too character driven, to the point that the identity of the killer is not much of a surprise. In fact, if anything, Coppola takes too much time trying to make this a family drama, especially after the impressively callous tease of an opening scene he gives us.

To see DEMENTIA 13 is to see a future master filmmaker finding his way. While there is much good work on display here, this is a very raw film. He has three great scenes which tease that genius to come. The opening, the pond killing, and the beheading. There is more killing to be witnessed, and it is sort of odd that the only great scenes involve death, but the strength of those scenes is all about the build of suspense.

Glad I saw this. Impressed even if I wasn’t entertained. Certainly worth seeing once.

SCORES

FILM: 6; MOVIE: 5; ACTING: 6; WRITING: 5; BONUS: 1

The bonus is for the great music. HALLOWEEN certainly borrowed some ambiance from DEMENTIA 13.

6+5+6+5+1=23

FINAL SCORE: 5.75

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~ by johnlink00 on June 9, 2012.

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