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Prior to receiving The Roan Group's DVD release of DEMENTIA 13 ($20), I never seen the movie. In fact, I just assumed that it was some schlocky horror movie that a certain noted director made to get one of his first directorial credits. You know, when I first started watching the movie, I became rather amused when I started thinking to myself that this horror quickie was written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola- the man responsible for THE GODFATHER and APOCALYPSE NOW. However, when you put things in perspective, DEMENTIA 13 is not a bad little movie, since it really can't be compared to Coppola's later, greater works. If nothing else, 1963’s DEMENTIA 13 proved that as a budding filmmaker, Coppola was a wheeler-dealer who could competently put together a fairly entertaining movie for virtually no money. But then again, what else would you expect from somebody who was working under Roger Corman.

Set in Ireland, DEMENTIA 13 tells the story of the Haloran family, a somewhat odd and somber clan drawn together to commemorate the death of little Kathleen, who drowned in the pond on the castle grounds seven years earlier. Because of her loss, the bereaved Lady Haloran (Ethne Dunn) plans to give away her fortune to charities, in the name of her beloved daughter. This plan doesn't sit well with Lady Haloran’s greedy daughter-in-law Louise (Luana Anders), who plans to do whatever it takes to change the old lady's mind. The family fortune becomes a moot point, when series of grisly axe murders befall the Holorans, with the killer's homicidal spree being driven by his or her obsession with the dead Kathleen. Of course, the killer's identity remains a mystery throughout the film, and as with any who-done-it, red herrings abound. Could it be Richard Haloran (William Campbell), the suffering artist, or is it his brother Billy (Bart Patton), the sensitive young man, who suffers from nightmares. Then again, it could be Dr. Justin Caleb (Patrick Magee), the family physician, who is always hanging around and acting suspicious. Well, if you sit down to watch the movie, it isn't too hard to guess…

The Roan Group has done a respectable job with their DVD release of DEMENTIA 13. Although in the public domain, Roan has managed to dig up a fairly decent 16mm black and white print of DEMENTIA 13. The print displays modest blemishes and mild scratches, but is otherwise in good shape. DEMENTIA 13 is presented wide screen, at roughly 1.66:1. Additionally, the DVD is not enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The transfer is soft looking, but it does eke a decent amount of detail out of the film elements. Sure, DEMENTIA 13 doesn’t look anything like a carefully preserved studio film, but this movie was made for about forty thousand dollars in 1963 and couldn't have looked all that fantastic even then. Although the picture isn’t as detailed as something transferred from pristine 35mm, you can still see all the pertinent bits. Film grain is also noticeable in most places, but it is never overbearing. While blacks are adequately rendered, the darker scenes are murky and really don't register much shadow detail. Contrast is adequate, and the whites remain stable, which prevent the image from taking on a blown out appearance. Digital compression artifacts maintain a low profile. Roan definitely gets an "A" for effort, but then again, I don't know if any better film elements even exist any more on this horror cheapie.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack has a bit of background noise, but never becomes distorted. Ronald Stein's suitably creepy score is worth amplifying to intensify the motion picture experience.

The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection feature, as well as a couple of extras. Actor William Campbell provides a running audio commentary, which is fun and fact filled. The original theatrical trailer is offered on the DVD, as is the promotional gimmick D-13 Test, used during the film's original release. Production notes and publicity art is also included.

DEMENTIA 13 is more horror fun than I ever thought it could be. If you are interested, The Roan Group release is definitely worth taking a look at.

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DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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