» Dementia 13 Movie Review
by Bernhard Marshall - June 5, 2003
By the time Roger Corman was making more celebrated movies like his versions of "Fall of the House of Usher" and other Poe's stories, he produced Dementia 13, which was directed by his editor Francis "Ford" Coppola.
I'm certain that this name sounds familiar to you. Well, Coppola wasn't the only famous name who started his career under his direction, there were also Jonathan Demme - who later directed "Silence of the Lambs", Peter Bogdanovich - who directed "The Last Picture Show" and Ron Howard, who started first as an actor and later directed a movie for him and who was responsible for "Cocoon".
But Corman established very severe laws to his directors: they had to make a movie in three or two days, use only one scenery (that most of the times had been used in another movie), shoot only at night, use scenes from other movies, make it only in black and white, etc. However even so these movies are classics and sometimes they are far better than the modern movies full of special effects.
Now on to the Dementia 13 movie, its first scene happens at night, showing a couple fighting by a lake. To continue the fight without disturbing anyone, they go to a rowboat. On the way John (Peter Read) tells his wife that his mother hates her and she won't get any part of his money if she leaves him. Then he suddenly starts to have a heart attack and asks her for his pills. When she finds the bottle in his pocket, it's empty and she yells "You fool!"
Deciding that she can't let anyone know about his death, she throws his body into the water and back in the house, she writes a letter to his mother, saying that he went on a business trip.
When day comes, the other inhabitants of the house appear. They are Billy (Bart Patton), the younger brother who's neurotic; Richard (William Campbell) another brother, who's a bitter sculptor; their mother Lady Halloran (Ethne Dunne), who's a superstitious old woman haunted by the ghost of her daughter who drowned in the lake; Kane (Mary Mitchell), who's Richard's fiancée.
And there's also Dr. Justin Caleb (Patrick Magee), who's the family physician and a long-time friend of theirs and Old Simon (Karl Schenzer), a neighbor.
The family members always meet in that house once a year to celebrate the birthday of Kathleen and that time, Richard has planned to marry Kane the day after his sister's birthday.
Louise then starts to try to build the old lady's sympathy and using her love for her daughter, she tells her that she saw Kathleen's ghost in the house.
This lie works pretty well, and Louise prepares something more dramatic: she steals some of Kathleen's old dolls, goes to the lake, ties them to a twine and swims to the bottom of the lake to fix this twine, so that it'll seem that the ghost of Kathleen had done that.
But while in the depths of the lake she sees the body of a little girl perfectly preserved on a small shrine in which is written "Forgive me, Kathleen". She swims to the surface and when she gets to the bank someone with an axe kills her.
Another one is killed by the person with the axe and yet another forced into coma. Even so Richard and Kane's marriage happens. That's when the doctor gets into the story and after figuring out how Kathleen died and who was causing the commotion in the house, he prepares a trap into which his suspect falls.
Dementia 13 was very well done, and although it has only 70 minutes, it has many subplots and complex situations for a horror movie, which makes it kind of unconventional.
The actors had a very good performance probably due to Coppola's directing, but one of them, Patrick Magee, had a very good acting on his own merit, after all, he was a very competent Shakesperian actor, who would work later on in great movies, like Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange".
Although Dementia 13 isn't a movie much remembered either in Corman's career nor Coppola's one nowadays, it's a movie that can be a great entertainment for us fans of good horror films.
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Copyright © 2003 Bernhard Marshall