Archive for the ‘Roger Corman’ Tag

Dementia 13 (1963) Revisited on Blu-ray   3 comments

I wrote a review of Dementia 13 a while back, but that was based on seeing a fairly grainy version on YouTube. Last fall, the lovely people at Film Detective sent me a Blu-ray of the fun horror gem. I had some dumb technical issues so I’m just watching it now. Sorry, Film Detective. I didn’t forget you.

“People get so dramatic when they’re not invited to the wedding.”

Dementia 13 was made in 1963, in black and white, for $40,000. Francis Ford Coppola filmed it, with Roger Corman’s blessing, around the set of The Young Racers, also starring William Campbell and Luana Anders. It’s just 75 minutes long and it’s a terrific little thriller. It’s not a perfect film, but it moves along and the acting is good, especially from Patrick Magee, who plays—surprise—a sinister doctor.

“Oh hi.”

Since I first watched and wrote about this film, I’ve seen it a few times, but it’s never looked this good. The Blu-ray version is crisp and clear and I managed to see more details of Dementia 13 in this viewing than I ever have. It’s a real treat to see a film you like in the best possible way. Director of photography, Charles Hanawalt, uses a lot of natural and dim lighting. That makes sense considering the modern Gothic setting. It also means that in the past, I’ve had to strain to catch details. Not this time.

I enjoyed actually seeing Dementia 13 after all this time. If you’re a fan, the Blu-ray is a must.

Psst…below is my review of Dementia 13, with a few additions.


Fishy fishy in the brook
Daddy’s caught you on a hook
-Nursery rhyme

As John Haloran rows across the lake on his family’s Irish estate, he teases his wife Louise (Luana Anders). If he drops dead, Louise will inherit none of the Haloran wealth. Pro tip: Never annoy your wife in a rowboat…if you have a bad heart. The always resourceful Louise dumps John overboard, packs his suitcase, and tells the family he went to New York on business. She’ll stay at the Haloran castle and get to know them while John’s away. Psst…it’ll be a while. It doesn’t take long for Louise to see just how nutty the Halorans are. Richard (William Campbell) solders bad art and scowls. Billy (Bart Patton) walks around in a fog telling people about his dreams. Lady Haloran, fixated on death and grief, holds funerals to commemorate a funeral. Creepy Doctor Caleb (Patrick Magee) tells everyone they’re doing it wrong in a ‘Get into my van. I have candy.’ kind of way.

“…and then I crushed its head.”

They’re a fun bunch.


Louise, ever the multitasker, figures she’ll push the already dotty Lady Haloran over the edge using a few props from the nursery while insinuating herself into the family and the will. Her simple plan runs into a snag, however and then the fun really starts.

If you see this you have gone too far.

Francis Ford Coppola (yes that one), wrote and directed Dementia 13 with some tweaks by Jack Hill (The Bees, Coffy). Coppola gives the film a creepy quality by using odd camera angles and off-kilter close-ups and filming so much of it at night. The look reminded me of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). Even the dim day shots look dismal and give the black and white film an eerie atmosphere.

Eavesdropping on the funeral.

What’s missing is dialogue and character development. What dialogue there is works, but the characters need more to say to help us get to know them. More realistic conversations might also decrease the tendency toward exposition. Also, for a film set in Ireland, I found the lack of Irish accents from almost all the lead characters somewhat baffling. According to articles on the making of Dementia 13, producer Roger Corman assigned Coppola to make a gory version of Psycho on the cheap so he dashed off a script and went into production. In spite of this and the fact that this marked Coppola’s non-porn directorial debut, it’s a good gothic horror film with a creative plot and some genuinely scary moments. The nifty chamber music by Ronald Stein enhanced the mood as well. I understand why this has become such a cult favorite and I’m glad I finally saw it.

Thanks again to the folks at Film Detective.

Fun fact: Early on in the film, Louise discusses Richard’s girlfriend saying, “You can tell she’s an American girl, raised on promises.” Sound familiar? It’s pretty close to the first lines of the Tom Petty tune, “American Girl”, released in 1976. I can’t find definitive information to link the song lyrics to the film, but it’s a neat tidbit.

A sure sign of quality


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I’m @echidnabot on twitter.

October 2, 2014


The Trip (1967)   Leave a comment











Made during the height of the psychadelic 60s, THE TRIP tells the story of a man taking his first acid trip. Peter Fonda plays the married director of television commercials who decides to try LSD. Guiding him through his psychological journey is Bruce Dern.  Dern looks professorial with his civilized beard, corduroy blazer, and turtleneck. His demeanor differs immensely in his film too.  He’s worlds away from his usual snarling criminal, but no less convincing. Dern will stay sober and remain with Fonda ensuring that if he gets too high or has a bad reaction to the drug, Dern can calm him down. Roger Corman based this film on his own experiences with LSD.  He went on a controlled trip himself and his experiences and that of screenwriter Jack Nicholson make up the bulk of the film.

“This antelope just wants her babies, man.”

I watched The Trip with director Roger Corman’s audio commentary.  He paints a fascinating picture of maverick filmmaking and the 60s counterculture. Filmed at Big Sur, the Sunset Strip, and beach homes owned by those immersed in that culture, the film looks authentic. Corman says they barely changed the decor of the houses and paid a great deal of attention to detail when dressing the sets. For example, in one scene we can see the book HOWL by Allen Ginsberg sitting on a shelf. He filmed in a real nightclub and laudromat and for one long shot of Peter Fonda walking along the Sunset Strip at night, the cameraman sat in a wheelchair behind Fonda and Corman pushed him down the street.

“Please look at me.”

To be honest, the film itself, which also stars Dennis Hopper and Susan Strasberg pales in comparison with the stories Corman tells about it in his commentary and the effects he uses to tell it. The cinematographer, Arch R. Dalzell used light, color and psychedelic paint in some cool new ways. During a love scene between Fonda, Strasberg, and Salli Sachse, Dalzell projected wild colors and designs onto the stars’ naked bodies. It looks fantastic.


I enjoyed watching this film, but the commentary made it for me. Corman liked making it very much and speaks fondly of the entire experience. He also gives us some great background stories. During one scene, Dennis Hopper tells a story while a joint is passed around a circle of people. Corman says he was so intent on getting the shot that he barely heard the story. When it was over, others on set laughed because they had never heard the word man so many times. Apparently Hopper was riffing a bit. Bruce Dern, that symbol of the counterculture, never took drugs. He was a marathon runner who tried out for the Olympic team and has always led a very healthy life. You can even see him in a scene in which a joint is passed just handing it to the next guy. If you watch THE TRIP, bring a buddy and opt for the audio commentary. Roger Corman won’t let you down, man.

Bruce The Trip #4

Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)   Leave a comment


Lem, a moonshiner famous for telling tall tales claims he saw a giant ‘octypus’ while poaching deer near the swamp.  When he goes missing, Game Warden Steve (Ken Clark) and a handful of men search for him.  They find him dead and drained of all his blood.  Still no one in the Florida country town believes Lem’s stories except Steve, his girlfriend Nan (Jan Shepard), and her father, Doc Greyson (Tyler McVey).  Steve and Nan take a boat out on the swamp to search for anything out of the ordinary, but come up empty.  Meanwhile back at the general store, slatternly Liz Walker (Yvette Vickers) teases and belittles her wimpy husband Dave (Bruno VeSota) and takes off to be sleazy elsewhere.  After a bunch of conversation that goes nowhere we find that Doc Greyson wants to dynamite part of the swamp to flush out whatever killed Lem but Steve will not allow it.  Here’s where this film differs from most mutant creature films.  Steve, the game warden takes his job seriously and wants to protect the animals in his jurisdiction.  He won’t allow Doc to dynamite the swamp or do anything else that might harm wildlife in the area.  Compare this to Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) in which the ‘scientists’ throw chemicals, poison, bombs, and everything but the kitchen sink into poor Gilly’s lagoon in the name of science.  I digress.  Back at the general store, Liz puts on her favorite low-cut frock and heads out to the swamp for her date with local creep, Cal.  Liz’s husband, Dave, wielding a shotgun, surprises the couple mid embrace which ruins the mood completely.  He then chases them through the swamp at gunpoint and forces them into the water.  He just wants to scare them though and as they attempt to crawl out of the swamp a couple of slimy, suction cup covered creatures grab the lovers and pull them down into the swamp.  Dave, shocked, tells the police, but oddly, they don’t believe his tentacled fish-man story and toss him in the brig.  The sheriff offers a reward to whoever finds the bodies and two more locals disappear.  Doc Greyson introduces a theory that nearby Cape Canaveral’s radiation may have caused the leeches’ mutation and brings up dynamite again but Steve vetoes his suggestion.  As soon as Steve leaves, the doctor and Nan place charges in the swamp anyway and up come the bodies of three of the four missing locals.  Since Liz hasn’t turned up yet, Steve and a former Navy buddy strap on air tanks and go swamp diving.  An underwater battle between Steve and a giant leech guy leaves the leech wounded and Steve convinced that maybe blowing up the swamp isn’t such a bad idea after all.  A huge blast brings the dead leech and Liz to the surface.  Everyone sighs with relief because the nightmare is over…or is it?   I liked aspects of Attack of the Giant Leeches, but on the whole it left me cold.  The story, written by Leo Gordon (The Terror, Tobruk) held my interest, but the acting was pretty poor and that dragged it down a peg.  The eerie music fit and helped set the stage for bloodsucking fun.  Bernard L. Kowalski (Night of the Blood Beast, Rawhide TV series) uses a fairly straight forward approach to directing.  There’s nothing arty here, but no matter.  A few scenes really stand out.  The scenes in the leeches’ underground lair are pretty creepy.  Watching mutant leeches suck the blood out of their captives and leave their hickey-covered bodies in a crumpled heap made the film worth watching.  All in all Attack of the Giant Leeches is worth a watch and at sixty-two minutes, the leech-filled time flies by.


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