Dementia 13 is a “whodunit” from the combined minds of Roger Corman and Francis Ford Coppola, years before the latter gave us his grandest achievement. It exists solely to capitalize on the popularity of Psycho, coming up with not one, but two murder sequences meant to imbed the same sense of graphic horror.
Shot for almost nothing, the only way Corman would do it back in those days, the low budget hampers the mystery plot. The killer is shot with intense back lighting in an attempt to hide his/her face, and it’s not particularly effective. It’s harder not to connect the visual dots than it is to miss them. No time for re-shoots; those cost money. Flashbacks merely fill in the minimal blanks.
Even without the mystery and the tension-less padding, Dementia 13 is a capable piece of work. The attack on the shed is still immeasurably creepy as a madmen tears it to pieces with an ax, the mother inside screaming in terror. The dim lighting and non-stop noise is enough to keep the sequence in a maniacal state of panic. Dementia 13 loves creepy imagery, the whole thing set into motion due to the drowning death of a little girl who keeps showing up in the darnedest of places.
You’ll read a lot about Dementia 13 and Coppola, connecting the two and trying to find a work of genius in it. While not entirely impossible, the visual style here well above the norm, the effectiveness of the piece is consistently hampered by a lack of funds and the need to sell the thing on titillation and gore. No one can question that this was created for anything other than a quick buck as opposed to a masterpiece in the hands of a soon-to-be film icon.
Film Chest Inc.,
We need to talk. Now, it is understood that you are taking it upon yourselves to put these endlessly re-released public domain titles on disc in respectable hi-def presentations. That’s appreciated, truly it is. But, we’re the part of the hi-def film community, and that’s a group that likes film to look like, well, film. Dementia 13 doesn’t. At all. Ever.
While smearing has been a constant bother from your Blu-ray presentations, it seems you have taken it to new heights here. With every subtle camera shift, every movement on the part of the characters, and every pan, the screen ignites into a ghosting disaster. You can’t retain any fine detail when this is going on, and you know that noise reduction button you seem to like so much? Lay off it. Please.
See, those “restoration comparisons” you include on the discs are your undoing, and while the presented elements here are not superlative (likely many generations old, right?), they still look better than the smeared mess that is your work. Hey, you deserve all the credit in the world for finding a stable print free of judder and pulling almost all of the damage from the frame (it’s light years ahead of what other fly-by-night companies have tossed out on shelves), but you sort of blow it all when you delete the detail in the process.
Then, you love your contrast button too. However, maybe it needs to be noted that there are in-between options, not “ultra dark” and “retina searing bright.” You should look for something like “easy on the eyes” or “non-detail bleaching” to find something acceptable. These are rough elements, so it might take a little time. Expectations are not high, yet with a proper pass, we could be a lot more forgiving.
Re: Dementia 13 Blu-ray
Film Chest Inc.,
Hi. You might remember the previous communication about the video of your recent Blu-ray releases. Well, it’s time for a follow-up where we chat about audio. With this release, you’ve made a clear attempt to produce a decent 2.0 mono mix, although it is compressed (we’ll get into that another time). Sure, it’s not the cleanest thing anyone will ever hear, everything is pretty much faded, and fidelity suffers greatly. On the plus side, it doesn’t seem tampered with, and we’re okay with that. As long as the elements are tolerable, that can suffice.
That 5.1 mix on the other hand is offensive to the word “mix.” See, you can’t just take one channel and clone it into the other four. It doesn’t work that way. What happens is that everything sounds like it’s in a perpetually circling echo, outdoors or in. That already fairly miserable fidelity is blown up ten fold, and it actually renders most of the lines unintelligible. The score just sort of exists and comes through over heated. If you’re going to respect the elements and take the time to do it right, go nuts with all the 5.1 and 7.1 remixes you want. If Dementia 13 is what you’re aiming for, just stop for the benefit of our sensitive, hard to please ears.
Thanks for listening,
Film Chest Inc.,
Just letting you know how tragic it is not to have a detailed, totally in-depth picture-in-picture commentary with Francis Ford Coppola and Roger Corman detailing their intricate process on the Dementia 13 Blu-ray. That trailer and restoration comparison simply aren’t enough. Next time, we demand a three-disc collectors set with prop replica murder weapons, and a bust of the beautiful Luana Anders. Oh, and it can only cost $10. We don’t like being ripped off.
Overly entitled internet trolls everywhere.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.