I first saw DEMENTIA 13 on late night TV back in the mid 1960s and the shadowy lighting, stark b&w photography, dissonant score, and brutal axe murders made quite an impression on me. It would be years before I would see the film again. I rented it from a Mom and Pop video store back in the early 1980s where it was on some bargain bin VHS label that touted it as Francis Ford Coppola's first film. The picture quality was not nearly as good as my old TV showing but it still remained a rather creepy film with stellar performances from Patrick Magee (of CLOCKWORK ORANGE fame who had just died following CHARIOTS OF FIRE) and the lovely and underrated Luana Anders whose facial expressions spoke volumes and whose late night swim was an adolescent's dream. Incidentally the reason she has dark panties during the swim (often pointed out as a goof) is that see through white panties would not have been a no-no in 1963. Later on I would run across countless public domain copies of it but resisted buying one until now. I took a chance on this DVD version after reading some amazon reviews and am perfectly satisfied. It's not pristine but I think it's about as good as it's gonna get and the price is very good considering they'e throwing in a blu-ray along with it.
For those of you unfamiliar with the background story, here it is. Coppola was in Ireland in 1963 doing sound on Roger Corman's THE YOUNG RACERS when Corman gave him the opportunity to direct a low budget (estimates vary between $20,000 and $40,000) horror film using the same actors. Featuring several nearby outdoor locations and shooting interiors at the local Ardmore Studios, Coppola made this film in just a couple of weeks. It was released in America and did very well indeed while making money for American International Pictures overseas as well. The plot concerns a series of grisly axe murders commited during a family get together honoring the memory of a dead girl. Memorable scenes include an underwater grave, the murder of a local poacher, a nursery rhyme, and the aforementioned midnight swim. Regarding the DVD, the picture quality is quite good with the sound a tiny bit soft on occasion but clear overall. Too bad there are only Spanish subtitles. Along with HD Cinema Classics' other Filmgroup (Corman's shadow company) release THE TERROR, which was made the same year with a lot of the same technical people and also a victim of bad public domain copies, I'm glad to see these celebrated Corman "C" pictures finally receive their due.