Dementia [1955]

Francis Ford Coppola was working as an assistant to Roger Corman when he made this, his feature debut. The story goes that Corman let Coppola make the film so long as he could work around the shooting schedule of the film they were working on together, and the results are impressive given the budget constraints. Or maybe because of the budget constraints. The story concerns the family at Castle Haloran, the secrets surrounding the death of young Kathleen, and an axe murderer who seems to be picking away at all present. Coppola's deft direction keeps this from being a routine ghost story, using light and dark in his compositions to create tension and suspense. The film has an interesting way of spanning the traditional ghost story and the more modern gore-fests that we're used to. I have one bone to pick with the manufacturer of this disc: the transfer to DVD was made from tape. This is evident from the way the frames roll repeatedly during the last 15 minutes of the film, and the tape bunches a few times leaving video artifacts. DVD consumers want all the benefits of this medium, and not to have the degraded quality of tape preserved on it. If this is the only way you can get this film, at least the price is reasonable. It's also packaged as a Fright Night Horror Classic along with Night of the Living Dead and Revolt of the Zombies. --Jim Gay

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