Home Blu Rays Review: Vestron Video Collector’s Series Unleashes Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Dementia 13’ on Blu-Ray

Review: Vestron Video Collector’s Series Unleashes Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Dementia 13’ on Blu-Ray

by Jacob Davison

Vestron Video returns once again with a brand new collector’s series release sure to turn some heads. While many of their blu-rays as of late have been 80’s fare like the cult ghost rider movie THE WRAITH, we’re going old school with the debut feature of one of American cinema’s greatest filmmakers in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13! Written/Directed in 1963 and produced by American International Pictures and Roger Corman, this was Coppola’s first major motion picture and the one that gave him his start.

Image via IMDB

The story follows Louise (Luana Anders, Easy Rider) the scheming wife of John Haloran who is furious that most of his mother’s fortune is set to be donated to charity in the name of the late Kathleen Haloran, John’s sister. While arguing on a rowboat, John dies and Louise tosses his corpse into the murky waters to cover it up so she can still have a chance at gaining some of the family wealth. Travelling to the expansive Haloran Estate in Ireland, Louise concocts a scheme to try and convince the superstitious Lady Haloran to write her into the will, not knowing that dark family secrets haunt the mansion and cannot be buried forever… a dark secret with an axe!

A gothic psychological thriller made in the wake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Coppola’s eye for tension building and dreamlike scenes are evident even in his freshman feature making for an entertaining piece of psychological terror. With many sequences of intense suspense they’ll stick with you long after. The shadowy axe attack scenes were memorable and made me surprised they’re not mentioned as much in horror circles when it comes to this era of the genre. The Irish countryside and gothic architecture make for a unique setting that looks just as stunning in black and white. With the brand new 4K transfer on this blu-ray edition, the movie is presented in a crystal clarity that looks flawless and enthralling. Coppola himself helping to restore the film to such high definition with a personal print from his archives to release it as his director’s cut, quoted as saying “Dementia 13 obviously occupies a place in my heart as my first film and I’m very proud that it can now exist as I intended it.”

Image via IMDB

The special features also being a major draw for this release. Featuring an introduction from Francis Ford Coppola himself, an intriguing audio commentary by Coppola, and even the original Dementia 13 test gimmick prologue originally released with the film. Much like Hitchcock’s lauded intros and William Castle’s ghost tricks, the test was initially a hook to get audience’s attention. Essentially being a ‘real’ psychological test played before the movie to see if viewers were mentally stable enough to watch a movie so horrifying. Filmed at the “Los Angeles Institute of Hypnosis”! The packaging on this release is nice, featuring eerie minimalist art for the director’s cut. Though I do wish it was reversible to feature Dementia 13‘s original and more pulp poster from the original release and lauding the gimmicks involved.

Overall, Dementia 13 is a marvelously revived home video transfer of Coppola’s first movie and will hopefully expose more audiences to this fresh thriller from the 60’s.

Dementia 13 is currently available on blu-ray and digital.

Image via Lionsgate