Lionsgate has released the Director’s Cut of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13 (1963) as part of Vestron’s Collector’s Series of Blu-ray Discs. The Director’s Cut is a shorter 69-minute version of the early sixties film that was double-billed with Roger Corman’s X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes.
Dementia 13 is a quality piece of indie filmmaking from Francis Ford Coppola, known as Francis Coppola at the time of its distribution. The movie has an interesting history given that Producer Roger Corman apparently had extra funds when making his film The Young Racers and wanted a cheap horror film reminiscent of Psycho. Corman gave Coppola (who was a sound engineer on The Young Racers) the green light and the film was written and made during the offtime. Coppola even managed to use several of the cast members from The Young Racers including William Campbell, Patrick Magee, and Luana Anders (possibly the best part about Dementia 13).
Upon completion, however, Corman did not agree with Coppola’s version and so re-edited and added some footage shot by Director Jack Hill to make Dementia 13 a 75-minute feature. (You can watch the original version on Paramount+ or free on the Internet Archive – albeit in lower quality). We’re not sure exactly how long Coppola’s original cut was, but it was likely close to this new 69-minute version – now available in a Director’s Cut for the first time.
You can definitely see Alfred Hitchcock‘s influence all over this film but there are also hints of Coppola’s signature styles. The script, written quickly when Coppola was given the go-ahead, keeps you in suspense throughout the movie. There is some good character building especially with the character Louise Haloran (Luana Anders) who becomes a bridge to the deeper and darker affairs of the family to which she is introduced. Coppola reveals the backgrounds of other characters as the story progresses.
Dementia 13 was shot in black and white but the image is quite beautiful – sharp when it needs to be sharp, and lit beautifully in key shots. For 1963 this independent film looks and sounds great even by today’s standards. Yes, there is a student film quality to this movie given the camera movements, how quickly it was made, and the fact it is in black-and-white. However, you cannot help but find brilliance in this first feature-length film from Coppola.
On Blu-ray, Dementia 13 is presented in high definition 1080p at 16 x 9 (1.78:1) aspect ratio. When Vestron announced this new Director’s Cut they also informed us the film would be available in 4k in digital formats – but not 4k Blu-ray. The audio is provided in English mono DTS-HD master audio as well as DTS-HD 5.1 surround. Both formats sounded good on a Sony Dolby Atmos soundbar but the preferred format was definitely the 5.1 mix. Subtitles are provided in English SDH and Spanish.
This is a really nice menu design from Vestron – even better that some of the big budget 4k releases we’ve seen. The black and white imagery is contrasted with a 2-color menu bar in red and yellow. Options include Play, Scene Selection, Set Up, and Special Features.
The Directors Cut from the Vestron Video and Lionsgate is a single disc edition, but it does include a digital copy that can be redeemed through lionsgate.com. The code is provided on the insert.
There are also some special features in this edition including a short introduction by Francis Ford Coppola and audio commentary that he provides throughout the film. Coppola’s voice seemed to be mixed too loud over the actual film, but nevertheless provides some fascinating insight. In addition, there is a prologue titled “Dementia 13 Test” that was supposedly meant to play before the film started.