HD Cinema Classics | 1963 | 75 min | NR

Produced by Roger Corman and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, 1963’s Dementia 13 is based on a script that Coppola co-wrote with second unit director Jack Hill. While far from a masterpiece, the film has some interesting ideas, and inklings of the style that would later make Francis Ford Coppola, a legend in the film industry.

Dementia 13Corman loved the promise of nudity and gore and so he handed the directorial reigns to the recent UCLA grad.  Corman loved Hitchcock’s Psycho (primarily because it made money) and asked the budding young Coppola to deliver him something similar with Dementia 13. The film centers on the slow demise of an aristocratic Irish family. The aging matriarch of the Haloran clan, Lady Haloran (Ethne Dunn), resides in the worn family castle on the ancestral estate in a remote region of Ireland along with her three sons: Richard (William Campbell), Billy (Bart Patton), and John (Peter Read). All three boys have returned home to commemorate the death of their younger sister, Kathleen. Each year since her daughter’s death, Lady Haloran has insisted on reenacting the funeral. On this, the seventh anniversary, John is accompanied by his American wife, Louise (Luana Anders). Louise is shocked to learn that her mother-in-law has neglected her sons in her will.

When John dies unexpectedly on the family estate, Louise hatches a plan; a plan that will secure her a portion of the Haloran family fortune. Naturally, things quickly go awry when things might not be exactly what they seem. It soon becomes apparent, that the late Kathleen Haloran may just be alive and well, after all.

It’s true that if Francis Ford Coppola hadn’t directed Dementia 13, it would probably languish at the bottom of the $2 bins. Some would have remembered it fondly as a cult classic. Until recently, it was fairly difficult to obtain a decent copy.  However, the rights to its distribution recently expired, making it available for free from any number of sources easily available to the computer-savvy viewer. HD Cinema Classics/Film Chest, picked it up for the Blu-ray release.

The Blu-ray transfer was remastered from a 35mm print and while it looks much cleaner than any version of the film released on home video so far, it does suffer from some contrast issues and a soft image — particularly in close-ups. Don’t expect to see fantastic levels of detail here. Even with so-so contrast levels, there are a few moments where black levels are deep. The transfer has a lot of noise reduction which is a double-edged sword; far less noise and scratches, but also far less natural film grain.

HD Cinema Classics/Film Chest added two new Dolby Digital mixes for the Blu-ray release and neither one of them really improves on the original soundtrack The surround mix adds next to nothing; fortunately it doesn’t completely ruin Ronald Stein’s soundtrack which is the only redeeming part of the mix.

I don’t know if I really count these as special features:

  • DVD Copy of the film
  • Postcard featuring Original Poster
  • Restoration Demonstration
  • Trailer