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Dementia 13

Dementia 13(1963)

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Dementia 13 (1963)

Francis Ford Coppola was still a graduate student at UCLA film school when he was hired by low-budget producer and director Roger Corman to write a new story and dialogue around a Russian science-fiction movie Corman had acquired, Nebo Zowet (1959). Coppola worked for six months on the script for Battle Beyond the Sun (1963) and received $250 for the job. Corman continued to call on Coppola for assistant assignments, and when he asked if the student was adept at recording sound, Coppola exaggerated his abilities and became the recording engineer for Corman's The Young Racers (1963). The film was shot in Liverpool, England and starred William Campbell and Luana Anders. Whenever Corman had access to elaborate settings or a particular cast (and especially if he had paid for travel expenses), he was fond of squeezing an entire extra feature film out of the experience. In a trip to Puerto Rico to shoot Battle of Blood Island (1960) and The Last Woman on Earth (1960), for example, Corman and his troupe practically improvised a third film while on location, Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961). When Corman saw that he had twenty thousand dollars left from his budget for The Young Racers, he told Coppola that if he could come up with an idea for a film that could be shot quickly in Ireland, he could direct it.

Coppola came up with a single scene, a Hitchcockian sequence that was purely visual and included "everything I knew Roger would like." As Coppola was further quoted by biographer Gene D. Phillips: "'A man goes to a pond and takes off his clothes, picks up five dolls, ties them together, goes under the water, and dives down, where he finds the body of a seven-year-old girl with her hair floating in the current...then he gets axed to death.' Corman responded enthusiastically, 'Change the man to a woman, and you've got a picture, kid!'"

Coppola complied with Corman's request and built a script around the scene. As he said in a 1970 interview with Joseph Gekmis, "I was dreaming up an idea for a story, while everybody else just talked about making a film. The secret of all my getting things off the ground is that I've always taken big chances with personal investments. While other guys my age were all pleading, 'Roger, let me make a film,' I simply sat down and wrote a script." Coppola wrapped the striking imagery he was creating around a familiar story setting: a dysfunctional family in an old creepy castle.

We meet John Haloran (Peter Read), member of a noble Irish family, and his American gold-digging wife, Louise (Luana Anders). They argue in a rowboat over money and, specifically, the fact that Louise will be cut off in the widowed Lady Haloran's will if John should die first. John promptly dies of a heart attack, and Louise goes on to a family gathering at Castle Haloran, pretending that John is away on business, and intent on persuading Lady Haloran (Eithne Dunne) to alter her will. The gathering is to mark the yearly anniversary of the drowning death of young Kathleen Haloran (Barbara Dowling). Also in attendance are brothers Richard (William Campbell) and Billy Haloran (Bart Patton), and Richard's American fianc Kane (Mary Mitchel). Lady Haloran is ill and being attended to by the family physician, Dr. Justin Caleb (Patrick Magee), who also offers assistance as people begin to disappear from Castle Haloran. The vanishings, as soon becomes apparent, are due to a series of ax murders.

While Coppola was still fleshing out his story, he met with British producer Raymond Stross who, like Corman, was intrigued with the ax murder imagery of the proposed film. In exchange for British release rights, Stross put in another $20,000 toward the film, doubling the budget. Coppola wrote the screenplay in a marathon over three days and nights; according to biographer Gene D. Phillips, "...he typed directly onto mimeograph stencils for immediate distribution to cast and crew."

Coppola was given a nine-day schedule to shoot Dementia 13 at Ardmore Studios in Dublin, where co-investor Stross was a part owner. With a small crew of nine, the director wrapped work at the studio but spent a few additional days shooting on location on the castle grounds. When Coppola screened his rough cut for Corman, the producer lambasted the picture. Phillips wrote that "[Corman] criticized the shallow, inept script, which presented a pinwheeling series of murders without enough transitional material to link them together into a coherent narrative." Coppola shot some additional material in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, which served as a substitute for the castle grounds in Ireland. Corman was still not satisfied, however. As Coppola later said, "[Corman] wanted some extra violence added, another ax murder at least, which he finally had shot by another director named Jack Hill. But I must say I like Roger (who doesn't?), and I am grateful for the chance he gave me." Hill was eventually credited as a 2nd Unit writer and director.

Coppola told Gekmis, "...Dementia 13 was meant to be an exploitation film, a Psycho [1960]-type film. Psycho was a big hit and William Castle had just made Homicidal [1961] and Roger always made pictures that are like other pictures. So it was meant to be a horror film with a lot of people getting killed with axes and so forth." Speaking of the film seven years later, Coppola would say, "It was imaginative. It wasn't totally clich after clich. Very beautiful visuals. In many ways, it had some of the nicest visuals I've ever done. Mainly, because I composed every shot. In the present circumstances, you never have the time. So you just leave it to others."

Following Dementia 13, Coppola worked again for Corman, as one of the many directors brought in to shoot supplemental footage for Corman's quickie, The Terror (1963). In the winter of 1963 Coppola signed on as a screenwriter with the independent production group Seven Arts, at a salary of $375 a week quite a leap from the low wages earned working for Corman.

Producer: Roger Corman
Associate Producer: Marianne Wood
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Screenplay: Francis Ford Coppola
2nd Unit Writer and Director: Jack Hill
Cinematography: Charles Hanawalt
Film Editing: Stuart O'Brien, Morton Tubor
Art Direction: Albert Locatelli
Set Decoration: Eleanor Neil (Coppola)
Sculptures: Edward Delaney
Music: Ronald Stein
Cast: William Campbell (Richard Haloran), Luana Anders (Louise Haloran), Bart Patton (Billy Haloran), Mary Mitchel (Kane), Patrick Magee (Dr. Justin Caleb), Eithne Dunne (Lady Haloran), Peter Read (John Haloran), Karl Schanzer (Simon), Ron Perry (Arthur), Barbara Dowling (Kathleen Haloran).
BW-75m.

by John M. Miller

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Dementia 13 (1963)

In his book Godfather: The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola, Gene D. Phillips quotes Roger Corman on the set-up for shooting another feature on the British Isles following The Young Racers (1963): Corman had outfitted a Volkswagen minibus with filming equipment; "We had the minibus with the cameras, lights, and dollies... What we didn't have was a work permit. The most logical place to shoot the film was Dublin, because we could just ferry the minibus over from Liverpool. Ireland was much looser with labor permits."

Several of Coppola's friends and fellow UCLA film students came to Ireland for the Dementia 13 shoot. One was John Vicario, the camera operator. Vicario brought his girlfriend, Eleanor Neil, who had studied at the UCLA Art Department; she was put to work on the film as a set decorator. During the shoot Neil's romance with Vicario cooled and she began dating Coppola. The two were married in Las Vegas on February 2, 1963. Eleanor later shot the footage that made up the behind-the-scenes documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991).

In addition to having Jack Hill add more scenes to Dementia 13 in post-production, producer Roger Corman also shot a 5-minute gimmick prologue. An actor posing as a psychiatrist gave the audience a "D-13 Test" before the film, asking such questions as "Are you afraid of death by drowning?" and "Have you ever attempted suicide?" This promotional gimmick was only seen in the original theatrical showings of the film.

Dementia 13 actress Mary Mitchel told interviewer Tom Weaver (in Earth vs. the Sci-Fi Filmmakers: Twenty Interviews by Tom Weaver) "I could tell when I read the script that it was going to be a good horror film. I still think that. It just had more going for it. And I remember when I was doing it, I was happy to be there, and thought it would be good. Again, I didn't think it'd be a great film we didn't have a lot of money. But I think that Francis was able to give it some production value."

Dementia 13 co-star Mary Mitchel on producer Roger Corman and the kinds of breaks he gave to aspiring filmmakers like Francis Coppola: "At the time, the studios had no interest at all in young filmmakers. Nobody came out of the universities, nobody was considered to be knowledgeable or be of any value at all. In fact, [young filmmakers] were totally barred from any kind of jobs whatsoever, couldn't get near a studio or a set. There was no mentoring... 'cause there was nothing in it for the old guard. There was only one person who offered young actors and filmmakers an opportunity, and that was Roger Corman. His was the only company where you could get a foothold."

Compiled by John M. Miller

SOURCES:
Francis Ford Coppola: Interviews, Edited by Gene D. Phillips and Rodney Hill. 2004, University Press of Mississippi.
Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers by Beverly Gray. 2004, Thunder's Mouth Press.
Godfather: The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola, Gene D. Phillips. 2004, The University Press of Kentucky.
Earth vs. the Sci-Fi Filmmakers: Twenty Interviews by Tom Weaver. 2005, McFarland.

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Dementia 13 (1963)

In England, Dementia 13 was titled The Haunted and the Hunted.

Coppola and Corman originally intended their film to have a one-word title ala Psycho (1960), but they added the number '13' when they found out that there had already been a movie called Dementia (1955). That film was also a low-budget mystery/horror movie, written and directed by John Parker.

For some first-run engagements, American International paired Dementia 13 on a double bill with X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963), directed by Roger Corman.

Along with Coppola, another of Roger Corman's assistants on The Young Racers (1963), the film that spawned Dementia 13, was screenwriter Robert Towne. Towne would later write several scenes for Coppola's The Godfather (1972).

Dementia 13 co-stars Bart Patton and Mary Mitchel were friends of Francis Coppola's from UCLA film school, and were cast in the film partly because they had already paid their way to Europe for a vacation.

Most of the cast of Dementia 13 were either brought over from the film The Young Racers, or were friends of Coppola's who had attended UCLA. One major exception was Eithne Dunne (the actress who portrayed Lady Haloran), who was recruited from Dublin's prestigious Abbey Theater.

The poster tagline for Dementia 13: "Do not see this film alone, or if you have a weak heart."

While Dementia 13 is acknowledged as Francis Ford Coppola's first major feature, he was responsible for scenes in two earlier films. The Bellboy and the Playgirls and Tonight for Sure (both 1962) were a couple of "nudie cutie" pictures that were made up of a combination of footage from West German exploitation films and new scenes written and directed by Coppola and Jack Hill.

Compiled by John M. Miller

SOURCES:
Francis Ford Coppola: Interviews, Edited by Gene D. Phillips and Rodney Hill. 2004, University Press of Mississippi.
Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers by Beverly Gray. 2004, Thunder's Mouth Press.
Godfather: The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola, Gene D. Phillips. 2004, The University Press of Kentucky.
Earth vs. the Sci-Fi Filmmakers: Twenty Interviews by Tom Weaver. 2005, McFarland.

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Dementia 13 (1963)

"Don't ask what that title means or whatever happened to the first 12 dementias. One is enough. A jittery family, including a greedy in-law, prowl around a Gothic estate in Ireland (where the picture was photographed), stalked by an ax-happy mystery swinger. And does he (or she) swing it! Under the stolid direction of Francis Coppola, who also wrote the script, the picture stresses gore rather than atmosphere, and all but buries a fairly workable plot."
The New York Times, October 24, 1963.

"When Luana Anders turns up to claim part of the family inheritance, she unlocks all the ghastly secrets in the family closet...unleashing an axe murderer. Death scenes are only moderately exciting and it's easy to figure out who the killer is. So few surprises are in store for the astute genre viewer."
John Stanley, Creature Features Movie Guide.

"Produced by Roger Corman, and evidently made under his presiding spirit, this runs briskly through one of those family reunion plots in which the challenge is to guess which of the seemingly benign members of the family is the mad axe-murderer who's steadily picking off the rest. The location (an Irish castle) is used imaginatively, the Gothic atmosphere is suitably potent, and there's a wonderfully sharp cameo from Patrick Magee as the family doctor."
Tony Rayns, TimeOut Film Guide.

"Shot in Ireland, the film, which has a clever Psycho [1960]-style plot twist, is reminiscent of the Hammer psycho films, where you try to figure out who is murdering the members of a family living in a large estate. Clearly a low budget production, Coppola achieves enough of a dynamic style with his limited lighting and locations to give the thriller an enduring popularity among film and horror enthusiasts. It is not a great work, but it is competently executed and consistently interesting."
Doug Pratt's Laserdisc Review.

Dementia 13 is the work of a man who was still finding his way in the movies and was never meant to be great art. It is a small, nifty little exploitation thriller that contains moments of pure terror. Despite the hook of the ax murder, Coppola doesn't resort to the usual grindhouse tactics. He does try to make it more ambitious and interesting, and succeeds in avoiding the trap of dullness by maintaining a brisk pace that is crucial for a murder mystery. He also beautifully maintains suspense in crucial sequences."
Bill Treadway, DVD Up Close.

"The initial murder is a truly shocking and totally unexpected scene, as it occurs just at a moment when the initial story is starting to take shape, and you don't see it coming. There are other shocking scenes in the second half of the movie, but I don't find that half quite as engaging overall; it's almost as if the makers didn't really know what they wanted to do with the investigation rather than have another murder and a final revelation."Dave Sindelar, Scifilm.org.

Compiled by John M. Miller

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Dementia 13 (1963)

"John, that will is no good. Your mother's still alive we can talk her into changing it." Louise Haloran
"You were always too greedy Louise." John Haloran
"I just don't like to see her exploiting you. Honey, she's leaving all her family's money to charity in the name of this mysterious Kathleen. It's ridiculous. Your mother is crazy." Louise Haloran
"You don't know anything about it." John Haloran

"John you're rowing too hard. Let me row." Louise Haloran
"You're concerned about me, Louise. Is it my heart? You're only a member of my family as long as you're my wife. If I die before mother, you're a stranger. Entitled... to nothing." (clutches chest). John Haloran
"Now you've done it. Where are the pills?" Louise Haloran
"...in ...coat." John Haloran
(gets bottle out of pocket) "It's empty you idiot!" Louise Haloran
"Row faster Louise. If I die, there's nothing in it for you. He he he." John Haloran.

(thinking to herself) "Finally rid of him. I know I can handle his mother without him around. She's half crazy anyway. I can get rid of her one way or the other. I'd better watch out for his brothers though. Especially the older one - Richard. ...I wonder if he'll rot underwater?" - Louise Haloran.

"What do you think of Ireland and Castle Haloran?" Billy Haloran
"Ireland's fine. Castle Haloran is a bit perplexing. A very strange place, really. Old and musty the kind of place you'd expect a ghost to like to wander around in. Kind of a haunted castle." Louise Haloran.
"Castle Haloran is haunted." Billy Haloran
"By your mother?" Louise Haloran
"By Kathleen." Billy Haloran

"She even had a poem: 'Three sons, each who would marry and go away; but little Kathleen would always stay.' It's engraved on her little tombstone now." Billy Haloran
"How did she die?"- Louise Haloran
"She drowned." Billy Haloran

"Well I find a statue reminds me of death." Lady Haloran.
"How very unusual, Lady Haloran. For a woman to have been married to a famous sculptor and yet feel that way." Louise Haloran.

"Perhaps I am superstitious. But I think it's important that only the immediate members of the family should give their thoughts to ...Kathleen." Lady Haloran.

"I saw you squirming when mother read the will. You gave John enough dirty looks to give him a heart attack." Richard Haloran
"Don't joke about that. You know he has a bad heart." Louise Haloran.

(To Louise) "Keep that microscope you've got built into your eye off of me." Richard Haloran

"It rained the day of the funeral. We stood around her grave under black umbrellas. And then we threw flowers under her little headstone. Mother looked at the flowers, and then she collapsed. Every year it's been the same. The umbrellas, flowers, and Mother's collapse." Billy Haloran
"But that was years ago. Why do you keep having the same ceremony over and over again?" Kane
"There's some things you don't understand. Not yet." Billy Haloran

"Consider your mind as a bird in your hand. When it's relaxed, it lies quiet and easy. But when it's tensed and frightened, it strains to leave you. Quite a simple principal, isn't it?" Dr. Justin Caleb
"You're engaged to treat my body, not my mind." Lady Haloran

"They're Kathleen's dolls" Richard Haloran
"I saw them float up from the bottom of the pond." Billy Haloran
"One of you has a brilliantly imaginative and sadistically effective mind I wish I could keep up with it." Dr. Justin Caleb

"She always loved the tiara. I wanted to put it in her coffin, but they wouldn't let me. I'll bring it to her playhouse..." Lady Haloran

"(singing): Fishy, fishy in the brook;
Daddy caught you on a hook
" Billy Haloran

Compiled by John M. Miller

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teaser Dementia 13 (1963)

Francis Ford Coppola was still a graduate student at UCLA film school when he was hired by low-budget producer and director Roger Corman to write a new story and dialogue around a Russian science-fiction movie Corman had acquired, Nebo Zowet (1959). Coppola worked for six months on the script for Battle Beyond the Sun (1963) and received $250 for the job. Corman continued to call on Coppola for assistant assignments, and when he asked if the student was adept at recording sound, Coppola exaggerated his abilities and became the recording engineer for Corman's The Young Racers (1963). The film was shot in Liverpool, England and starred William Campbell and Luana Anders. Whenever Corman had access to elaborate settings or a particular cast (and especially if he had paid for travel expenses), he was fond of squeezing an entire extra feature film out of the experience. In a trip to Puerto Rico to shoot Battle of Blood Island (1960) and The Last Woman on Earth (1960), for example, Corman and his troupe practically improvised a third film while on location, Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961). When Corman saw that he had twenty thousand dollars left from his budget for The Young Racers, he told Coppola that if he could come up with an idea for a film that could be shot quickly in Ireland, he could direct it.

Coppola came up with a single scene, a Hitchcockian sequence that was purely visual and included "everything I knew Roger would like." As Coppola was further quoted by biographer Gene D. Phillips: "'A man goes to a pond and takes off his clothes, picks up five dolls, ties them together, goes under the water, and dives down, where he finds the body of a seven-year-old girl with her hair floating in the current...then he gets axed to death.' Corman responded enthusiastically, 'Change the man to a woman, and you've got a picture, kid!'"

Coppola complied with Corman's request and built a script around the scene. As he said in a 1970 interview with Joseph Gekmis, "I was dreaming up an idea for a story, while everybody else just talked about making a film. The secret of all my getting things off the ground is that I've always taken big chances with personal investments. While other guys my age were all pleading, 'Roger, let me make a film,' I simply sat down and wrote a script." Coppola wrapped the striking imagery he was creating around a familiar story setting: a dysfunctional family in an old creepy castle.

We meet John Haloran (Peter Read), member of a noble Irish family, and his American gold-digging wife, Louise (Luana Anders). They argue in a rowboat over money and, specifically, the fact that Louise will be cut off in the widowed Lady Haloran's will if John should die first. John promptly dies of a heart attack, and Louise goes on to a family gathering at Castle Haloran, pretending that John is away on business, and intent on persuading Lady Haloran (Eithne Dunne) to alter her will. The gathering is to mark the yearly anniversary of the drowning death of young Kathleen Haloran (Barbara Dowling). Also in attendance are brothers Richard (William Campbell) and Billy Haloran (Bart Patton), and Richard's American fianc Kane (Mary Mitchel). Lady Haloran is ill and being attended to by the family physician, Dr. Justin Caleb (Patrick Magee), who also offers assistance as people begin to disappear from Castle Haloran. The vanishings, as soon becomes apparent, are due to a series of ax murders.

While Coppola was still fleshing out his story, he met with British producer Raymond Stross who, like Corman, was intrigued with the ax murder imagery of the proposed film. In exchange for British release rights, Stross put in another $20,000 toward the film, doubling the budget. Coppola wrote the screenplay in a marathon over three days and nights; according to biographer Gene D. Phillips, "...he typed directly onto mimeograph stencils for immediate distribution to cast and crew."

Coppola was given a nine-day schedule to shoot Dementia 13 at Ardmore Studios in Dublin, where co-investor Stross was a part owner. With a small crew of nine, the director wrapped work at the studio but spent a few additional days shooting on location on the castle grounds. When Coppola screened his rough cut for Corman, the producer lambasted the picture. Phillips wrote that "[Corman] criticized the shallow, inept script, which presented a pinwheeling series of murders without enough transitional material to link them together into a coherent narrative." Coppola shot some additional material in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, which served as a substitute for the castle grounds in Ireland. Corman was still not satisfied, however. As Coppola later said, "[Corman] wanted some extra violence added, another ax murder at least, which he finally had shot by another director named Jack Hill. But I must say I like Roger (who doesn't?), and I am grateful for the chance he gave me." Hill was eventually credited as a 2nd Unit writer and director.

Coppola told Gekmis, "...Dementia 13 was meant to be an exploitation film, a Psycho [1960]-type film. Psycho was a big hit and William Castle had just made Homicidal [1961] and Roger always made pictures that are like other pictures. So it was meant to be a horror film with a lot of people getting killed with axes and so forth." Speaking of the film seven years later, Coppola would say, "It was imaginative. It wasn't totally clich after clich. Very beautiful visuals. In many ways, it had some of the nicest visuals I've ever done. Mainly, because I composed every shot. In the present circumstances, you never have the time. So you just leave it to others."

Following Dementia 13, Coppola worked again for Corman, as one of the many directors brought in to shoot supplemental footage for Corman's quickie, The Terror (1963). In the winter of 1963 Coppola signed on as a screenwriter with the independent production group Seven Arts, at a salary of $375 a week quite a leap from the low wages earned working for Corman.

Producer: Roger Corman
Associate Producer: Marianne Wood
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Screenplay: Francis Ford Coppola
2nd Unit Writer and Director: Jack Hill
Cinematography: Charles Hanawalt
Film Editing: Stuart O'Brien, Morton Tubor
Art Direction: Albert Locatelli
Set Decoration: Eleanor Neil (Coppola)
Sculptures: Edward Delaney
Music: Ronald Stein
Cast: William Campbell (Richard Haloran), Luana Anders (Louise Haloran), Bart Patton (Billy Haloran), Mary Mitchel (Kane), Patrick Magee (Dr. Justin Caleb), Eithne Dunne (Lady Haloran), Peter Read (John Haloran), Karl Schanzer (Simon), Ron Perry (Arthur), Barbara Dowling (Kathleen Haloran).
BW-75m.

by John M. Miller

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