Dementia 13: Director's Cut. 1963. United States. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Written by Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill. With William Campbell, Luana Anders, Bart Patton, Patrick Magee. DCP. 75 min.
In 1979, Adrienne Mancia curated a retrospective of films produced by American International Pictures, about which she said, “It’s extraordinary to see how many filmmakers, writers, and actors—now often referred to as ‘the New Hollywood’—took their first creative steps at American International…. AIP was a good training ground; you had to work quickly and economically. Low budgets can force you to find fresh resources.”
Francis Ford Coppola was one of the most promising and prominent directors to emerge from the studio under the tutelage of Roger Corman. Coppola worked as a sound technician on Corman’s The Young Racers (1963). With money left over from the budget for that film, Corman gave Coppola the opportunity to remain in Ireland to write and direct a low-budget feature, which became Dementia 13. Influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, the film centers around siblings vying for their mother’s estate. Filmed in black-and-white, it combines family drama, murder mystery, and gothic horror, replete with drownings in a lake, an ax murderer, and a corpse in a meat locker—all more akin to the shock value of drive-in movies of the era. Dementia 13 opened on the bottom of a double bill with X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (produced and directed by Corman). Despite mixed reviews, Dementia 13 opened up a path for Coppola’s future as a pre-eminent American filmmaker. This version of Dementia 13 is the director’s cut, restored by Coppola in 2017 through his production company, American Zoetrope.
(by Jon Gartenberg)