Public Domain Movie: Dementia 13 (1963)

Dementia 13: Review

Like a lot of the old classics, Dementia 13 is a film with character. The basic story is that of a young woman called Louise (Luana Anders). Louise is married to the rock and roll loving John, who comes from a wealthy family, headed by the matriarchal Lady Haloran.

The beginning of the film finds the couple visiting John’s family at Castle Haloran. They are out in a rowing boat. John is rowing and Louise is voicing her concerns about the fact that John’s mother has willed all of the Haloran wealth to charity. The charity is set up in the name of Lady Haloran’s dead daughter Kathleen who drowned as a child.

When John overdoes it on the oars, and dies of a heart attack, it does not fit in with Louise’s plans at all. As John had so rightly pointed out to her, just before his death, she is only a member of the family as long as she is his wife, and if he should die before his mother, then Louise is a stranger. John’s famous last words: “Row faster Louise, If I die, there’s nothing in it for you.” Unwilling to accept this inevitable fact, Louise covers up John’s death and slips a forged note under her mother-in-law’s bedroom door telling her he has been called away on business. Louise then sets about trying to persuade the old girl into writing a more Louise-friendly will.

Lady Haloran’s other two sons, Billy and Richard, also live at the castle. Billy is probably the quieter of the two and, at night, he is troubled by bad dreams. He is also responible for telling Louise about the castle’s ghost—none other than his dead sister Kathleen. Richard is more extraverted than Billy and seems to be the dominant brother.

Kathleen’s death, seven years ago, seems to have cast a shadow over the whole of Castle Haloran and, each year, Lady Haloran holds a ceremony of remembrance beside her daughter’s grave. She always faints at the end of the ceremony and this year is no exception, but this time Louise is watching from the battlements, rushes to help, and soon formulates a devious plan to get herself in her mother-in-laws good books and—more importantly—her will.

Dementia 13 is not just a film about a scheming daughter-in-law’s plan to stake a claim on the family fortune though. It is quite a spooky film and the arrival of Kathleen’s ghost always seems imminent. Aspects of the thriller also come into play when an axe murderer puts in an appearance. He is a real swinging guy, but remains camera shy to the very end of the film when the family doctor, Justin Caleb (Patrick Magee) steps in and exposes him; and not a moment to soon either.


Additional Information

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Producer: Roger Corman

Cast

William Campbell … Richard Haloran
Luana Anders … Louise Haloran
Bart Patton … Billy Haloran
Mary Mitchel … Kane
Patrick Magee … Justin Caleb
Eithne Dunne … Lady Haloran
Peter Read … John Haloran
Karl Schanzer … Simon
Ron Perry … Arthur
Derry O’Donavan … Lillian
Barbara Dowling … Kathleen


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