31 Days of Halloween 22 – Dementia 13 was made for a couple of bucks
Before reeling off masterpieces, Francis Ford Coppola made Dementia 13 in 1963. It’s essentially Psycho (1960) Lite, a movie that has influenced dozens of others, and inspired horror filmmakers to go for shocks. Dementia 13 has a couple of twists and surprises, but it’s simply made on the cheap, and the budget fights against the artistry. Coppola does have a tight reign over the tension and the drama, which is a sign of a good director, and some of his art leaks through the low-budget production.
Roger Corman produced this movie and instructed Coppola to create a movie like Psycho. Corman insisted on the introduction, which is the worst part of the movie, and not needed. Other than that, Corman and Coppola had a budget of 22,000 dollars, and 600 of it went to Coppola’s pals, who acted in the movie. The locations were limited and the movie was shot in nine days.
Corman worked with Coppola on one film previously and they developed a story for Dementia 13 around Coppola’s ideas. Coppola had the initial murder scene in mind, but wrote the rest of the story later, centered around that scene. It’s literally building on almost nothing. He wrote the script in three days.
Corman was not satisfied with how Coppola made the film. TCM has documented how much Corman hated the initial cut of the film, before he asked Coppola to go back for reshoots. Corman demanded transitions to actually make the movie flow better, and he wanted another axe murder. Finally, Corman hired Jack Hill to complete the additional axe murder scene, while Coppola made quick work of the transitions and other supplemental stuff. For that, Corman hired him again to complete The Terror, a really crappy movie thrown together after Corman finished The Raven in 1963. I’m sure this was a learning experience for Coppola, but it must have been stressful.
After her husband has a heart-attack, Louise dumps the body and covers up his death, in order to make sure she isn’t cut out of any inheritance. She goes to visit her in-laws even though she hates their guts. She wanders around, learns about the death of another family member named Kathleen, and is promptly axed to death by a mysterious person. The movie then becomes a murder mystery. The family lure out the killer and shoot him to death, simple as that. The end.
William Campbell is the highlight of this movie. His performance is pretty good for what it is, but he’s not in much of the movie. He has some good lines, but he disappears for long stretches. Campbell is more well-known for his roles on the original Star Trek television show, where he played Trelane.
Overall, it’s interesting to see where Francis Ford Coppola got started. The low-budget nature of this film makes Dementia 13 seem streamlined and minimalist. It is fairly short, and rips off Psycho in several ways, not the least of which is the death of the main character at the half way point. I think the budget is the downfall of this movie, because obviously Coppola can direct, so he can only give us a preview of the masterpieces to come.
31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon
1 – Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL (1974)
2 – Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)
3 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
4 – Evil Dead II (1987)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Les Diaboliques (1955)
7 – The Howling (1981)
8 – Friday the 13th (1980)
9 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
10 – Hellraiser (1987)
11 – Let the Right One in (2008)
12 – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1984)
13 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
14 – The Strangers (2008)
15 – The House of the Devil (2009)
16 – Psycho (1960)
17 – The Orphanage (2007)
18 – The Amityville Horror (1979)
19 – The Raven (1963)
20 – Blue Velvet (1986)
21 – Repulsion (1965)
22 – Dementia 13 (1963)
23 – The Vanishing (2008)
24 – Halloween (1978)
25 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
26 – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
27 – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
28 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
29 – The Exorcist (1973)
30 – The Ring (2002)
31 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)