Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


DEMENTIA 13 (1963). Director: Francis [Ford] Coppola.

When Louise Haloran's (Luana Anders) husband John has a fatal heart attack, she decides to cover up his death and pretend he's gone on a trip so she can still inherit from his mother. [Apparently it doesn't occur to her that a widow might still come into a share of the estate.] But this is only one of the secrets at the spooky and stately Castle Haloran in Ireland, where a barely seen figure with an axe roams about hacking and beheading his victims, and each year the family reenacts the funeral of the young daughter, Kathleen, who drowned seven years before. [None of the characters seem to realize the terrible impact the child's death would have had on Kathleen's mother, who is a bit "off."] This early film from the director of The Godfather trilogy is modeled on Psycho in that we at first follow a blond character who is then brutally dispatched a la Janet Leigh nearly forty minutes into the film. Anders is very vital as Louise, as are Bart Patton as her brother-in-law, Billy; Ethne Dunn as Lady Haloran; and Patrick Magee as the family's creepy and tactless physician. William Campbell is Billy's brother, Richard, and Mary Mitchel is his oddly-named girlfriend, Kane. The film is atmospheric, has an effective score by Ronald Stein, and boasts a very well-handled and suspenseful sequence in which Simon, a poacher (Karl Schanzer), is stalked and decapitated. Bart Patton did mostly television work; Luana Anders, who also appeared in The Pit and the Pendulum with Vincent Price, was a busy actress up until her death in 1996.

Verdict: Odd, confusing at times, but strangely compelling and vivid! ***.

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