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Film Review: Live Live Cinema presents Dementia 13

Oct 10, 2013 Film & TV

Live Live Cinema: Dementia 13

Jumpboard Productions in association with THE EDGE

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre

Reviewed by Catherine McGregor

Dementia 13 is not good. In fact, it’s very, very bad, featuring a flimsy plot, plodding pacing and laughably poor dialogue. I suppose here I should clarify that I’m talking about Dementia 13, the little-known B-movie from 1963, and not Dementia 13, the theatrical reinvention of the same, now playing at the Herald Theatre. The former is terrible; the latter, marvelous.

If you saw the 2011 Arts Festival performances of Carnival of Souls, the first collaboration between composer Leon Radojkovic and director Oliver Driver, you’ll know what to expect: above the stage, an early-60s horror movie silently spools; below and to the left, a seven-piece band performs a new, Radojkovic-composed soundtrack for the film; dead centre, four voice artists synch the dialogue with word-perfect precision; and to the right, sequestered in an illuminated booth, a foley artist recreates the sound effects’ every last crunch, squish and splat.

It’s a brilliant idea, though with four different theatrical, musical and cinematic artforms working in tandem, there’s so much going on it can be hard to take it all in. Foley artist Gareth Van Niekerk, with his arsenal of tools and tricks (including, Monty Python fans take note, a pair of coconut half-shells to imitate the clip-clop of horses’ hooves) is especially fascinating – a fact that the production plays with in an overtly meta moment halfway through, featuring some lost script pages and a comically large butcher’s knife.

Before undergoing the Live Live Cinema treatment, Dementia 13 was mostly notable as the first mainstream directing credit for Francis Ford Coppola, back when he was plain old Francis Coppola. Other than a few interesting camera effects, the film shows little of the genius that was to win him a Best Director Oscar for The Godfather less than 10 years later. In fact, it’s a markedly worse film than the strange and atmospheric Carnival of Souls – also making a brief Live Live Cinema return this weekend – and thus even funnier.

Playing multiple members of the gothically depressed Haloran family, voice actors Fern Sutherland, Bronwyn Bradley, Cameron Rhodes and Charlie McDermott are clearly having a ball. All are hilarious – Sutherland’s tiny grunts and sighs during moments of exertion are a particular delight – but it’s Bradley’s Lady Haloran, all strangulated vowels and overwrought shrieks, and Rhodes, as the scenery-chewing family doctor, who get the biggest laughs.

Since its 2011 Civic Theatre debut, Carnival of Souls, the live experience, has played at theatres in New Zealand, Australia and Germany; at the close of this short Auckland season, the team travel to the Barbican in London for productions of both Carnival of Souls and Dementia 13. Catch them while you can.

Until October 13.

Photographed by Andrew Malmo


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