Dementia 13 opens with an arguing couple, Louise and John, in a row boat heading towards a family estate in Ireland. The family is reuniting seven years after the death of a John’s little sister Kathleen. The argument gets so intense that John has a heart attack in the boat leaving Louise (Luana Anders) baffled as what to do since the boat was heading to his family’s estate. She dumps John overboard and then when she arrives she makes up an elaborate story that John is on a business trip.
At the reunion Louise continues to panic that now with John dead she wont inherit any of her late husband’s fortune. So she schemes to fool John’s mother that Kathleen wants to talk to her one last time through signs Kathleen will leave. Louise is killed in the forest by a masked axeman and well the story takes an incredible turn.
So the story goes, Francis Ford Coppola begged Roger Corman to make this thriller after he wrote for the screen. It would only be Coppola’s second solo film as director and his first thriller. Coppola was assisting Roger Corman on the movie, The Young Racers which was being shot in Ireland. Corman allowed Coppola to use the same set, crew and actors Luana Anders, William Campbell and Patrick Magee for this film if he could shoot around the shooting schedule of Corman’s film.
Dementia 13 is interesting because when you watch some of the scenes you can see Coppola’s evolution beginning as a director. He uses a lot of well placed camera angles, twists of a scene, and slow reveals. I liked a lot of what this film was trying to do but the story lost me about 1/2 way through. What was the point of the hunter in the woods? And did we really need the extra twist?
Actually for me the best part of the film was Luana Anders’s Louise because she is the most complicated, layered and interesting character in the movie. I was so caught up in her story and struggle, I hated seeing her go.
William Campbell, the film’s star, will probably look familar to Trekkies because he was Koloth in Trouble with Tribbles and Trelane in The Squire of Gothos. Here is overly dull as the hero brother of the family who is trying to get his distant mother to approve his new girlfriend as his fiance.
I was also not fond of the leering and creepy Patrick Magee as the family physician. For me he felt like what if John Waters played a doctor on a 60’s medical show. Just really wrong is all.
It was an interesting experiment seeing one of Coppola’s early films and seeing where Coppola came from.
2.5 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer.