Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century is a look back at the weirdest, most memorable, and most off center movies of the 20th century. From head turning horror to oddball science fiction this column examines the films that will leave a lasting impression for centuries to come.
It’s a difficult task to impress in-laws. It’s even harder when you’re a gold digger and the family you married into has tons of issues and dark secrets. Grief, greed, and ghosts set the tone of Francis (Ford) Coppola’s 1963 horror thriller Dementia 13. Produced by Roger Corman, this week’s strange and fantastic tale of the twentieth century is about an old film made new by Blu-ray release. Let’s put on our deerstalker hat and solve the mystery of Dementia 13.
A squabbling couple goes on an irritated boat ride. John Haloran goads his wife Louise that if he dies she will never get a penny of his family inheritance. Well, he totally jinxes himself because he has a heart attack and dies. Louise quickly goes into survival mode and hides evidence of his death and makes it appear as if John has gone away on business. If they can’t find a body, he is not dead, and she is still legally his wife.
Louise is skillfully played by Luana Anders. Louise is greedy and sneaky and while she is not a murderer, she is manipulative and preys on Lady Haloran, her mother in-law. Lady Haloran has been grieving her daughter Kathleen, who drowned as a child, for seven years. Louise decides to use Lady Haloran’s mental state to her advantage, but she is prevented from doing so by an unknown axe wielding assailant.
This sets a new mystery in motion which in turn deconstructs the secrets of the past. There is a gothic castle, a ghost child, secret passages, and a person stalking the estate. There is a young damsel and her hot tempered fiancé. The elements of a gothic story are laid out in Dementia 13 that finishes its tale in just over an hour. This black and white film is rich in suspense and atmosphere. While it is not a long film, it is complete in its storytelling and character building. Dementia 13 focuses on the crippling effects of grief and childhood trauma. It’s stylish and has an effective use of lighting and atmosphere.
Before there was even a whisper of The Godfather, there was Dementia 13. Check it out and see how some of Coppola’s style is present in this early work. Grab your favorite parasitic partner and see if your sensibilities can handle the tale of Dementia 13.
Dementia 13: Director’s Cut is available on Blu-ray and digital September 21
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