Friday, October 7, 2016

31 Days of Horror #7: Dementia 13 **1/2 (1963)

Dementia 13 holds interest for one reason: It was first official film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who went on to make films like The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. You gotta start somewhere.  Set in Ireland, the screenplay's a Psycho ripoff about an ax murderer on the loose. Coppola staged some excellent sequences and displayed a talent for striking visuals, creating a claustrophobic feeling throughout. Gothic themes are emphasized: sins of the past, castles, murders, tragic/forbidden romance. Although the story gets confusing at times, the cheap thrills and emotional exuberance are enough to sustain the running time.  Reviews at the time expressed shock at the gore, which is rather tame by today's standards.  Produced by Roger Corman's American International Pictures, Coppola later cast Corman as a Senator in The Godfather Part II, even though they clashed during post-production on Dementia 13 -  Corman hired another director to do some re-shoots. Coppola later gained a reputation as a screenwriter in the 1960s, his screenplay for Patton earned an Oscar.  Although not a masterpiece, Dementia 13 is a triumph of style over substance. 

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