Francis Ford Coppola has a pretty damn good track record. With five Academy Awards, six Golden Globes and two Palmes d’Or under his belt no one can deny how big an influence he’s had on Hollywood. He’s been behind so many great films including The Godfather and its two sequels, Apocalypse Now and The Conversation to name a few, but what about his very first film? Dementia 13, Coppola’s very first feature length film was released in 1963 and now the restored and remastered Director’s Cut is getting a new Blu-ray release as part of the Vestron Collector’s Series.
Shot on a shoestring budget, Dementia 13 is a horror-thriller that sees a widow get caught up in the twisted mysteries of a family’s deepest darkest secrets. Shocked by the sudden death of her husband, just after he reveals that they won’t get anything from his rich mother’s will, Louise Haloran (played by Luana Anders) hatches a plan to make sure she gets her hands on the inheritance. She’s unaware though that she’s become the latest target of an axe-wielding murderer who lurks in the family’s estate and that the noble house hides many mysteries and secrets within its grounds.
The plot itself sounds like it should be riotously fun and perhaps if it had been 20 years later it would have been a completely different film, but the biggest problem with Dementia 13 is that a movie about an axe murderer is somehow rather boring and tame. Whilst this is Coppola’s first film and one shouldn’t expect it to be on the same level as The Godfather, Dementia 13 never fully captures your attention despite having an intriguing set-up with lots of potential.
It’s fascinating to see Coppola’s first movie and to see how much he’s changed over the years as he developed as a filmmaker, but this is certainly no masterpiece. It’s entertaining enough that the rather short runtime whizzes past and it creates a suitably decent gothic atmosphere that it never bores you but equally it never fully grips you either and could have done with some more work on the script.
As far as the special features are concerned, Dementia 13 comes with an introduction from Francis Ford Coppola himself as well as an audio commentary from Coppola, so for his fans there’s plenty to dig into. The Dementia 13 Blu-ray is an exciting opportunity to go back and look at the starting point of one of cinema’s greatest directors.
Dementia 13 is now available to buy on Blu-ray.