In Ireland, Castle Haloran is full of creepy corners and just as creepy people. Lady Haloran (Eithne Dunne) is the matriarch of the family. Her son John (Peter Read) is married to the money hungry Louise (Luana Anders). While out rowing in the estate pond John has a heart attack and dies. Louise knows that with John dead she will be out of the will. She hatches a plan to keep John alive and worm her way into the old lady’s good graces. She dumps John’s body in the pond. Back in her room she writes a note pretending she is John. The note says he had to go to New York on business. She gets rid of his belongings and pretends he is away.
Lady Haloran has two other sons Richard (William Campbell) and Billy (Bart Patton). They are all in the family castle. A gloomy place with a lot of death surrounding it. Seven years ago Lady Haloran’s only daughter drowned in the pond. Kathleen (Barbara Dowling) was a child at the time. Lady Haloran never got over it. Every year she has a memorial for Kathleen. Richard and Billy take part in the ritual. Lady Haloran passes out and is depressed for days. This year is no exception.
Also in the castle is Richard’s fiancé Kane (Mary Mitchel). She has just arrived from America. Louise and Kane are not allowed to take part in the ceremony but Louise watches from one of the turrets. Knowing that Lady Haloran is high strung and emotionally unstable she hatches a plan to pretend to communicate with the dead Kathleen, thus becoming indispensable to Lady Haloran. Louise steals some small dolls from Kathleen’s shuttered bedroom and places them in the pond so they will rise the next day as if a sign from Kathleen.
Unfortunately for Louise there is more going on at the castle than just a crazy old lady. An axe wielding maniac is also on the grounds. When Louise comes up from hiding the dolls in the pond she is met with an axe to the head. Louise’s body is dragged away.
Family physician Justin Caleb (Patrick Magee) has been attending Lady Haloran and the rest of the family for years. He knows there are dark secrets in the family. He also believes Richard’s fiancé Kane is in danger but from whom he is not sure. He is currently unaware of the axe maniac, but he intends on finding out what is going on. The family secrets have been hidden far too long.
“Dementia 13” was released in 1963 and was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Titled “The Haunted and the Hunted” in Britain, it is a horror/psychological thriller. The film was an independently made movie produced by Roger Corman.
The initial title of the film was “Dementia”. It was discovered that an earlier film done in 1955 was already called “Dementia”. Corman recommend that Coppola added the 13 to distinguish between the two. Starting out as a psychological thriller the film morphs into a slasher film. It’s like getting two movies in one, both of them good.
I suppose you could call “Dementia 13” Coppola’s first official feature film. He did assist Corman on “The Terror” 1963 and a couple others. Before this he also directed two soft-core porn films, “The Bellboy and the Playgirls” (1962) and “Tonight For Sure” (1962). For “Dementia 13” he also co-wrote the film.
William Campbell who plays Richard Haloran has been around a long time. He’s been in most every television series ever as a guest star. You may remember him as Squire Trelane in the original Star Trek series episode “The Squire of Gothos” or as Koloth in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. It seems that no matter what he’s in he looks like the bad guy whether he is or not. He’s just got that kind of look.