Thursday, October 15, 2009

If you fail the will be asked to leave the theater!

William Castle wasn't the only showman capable of creating quirky gimmicks designed to lure cinema patrons into buying tickets for movies made on the cheap. In 1963, Roger Corman released what is generally considered to be Francis Ford Coppola's feature debut Dementia 13, shot in Ireland for a measly $20,000 budget. Dissatisfied with the result, he had the picture re-cut, added footage shot by director Jack Hill, and devised a marketing campaign that would make even Castle blush.

Corman arranged the participation of Dr. William J. Bryan, the country's first full-time practitioner of medical-based, therapeutic hypnosis. Bryan, who went on to become one of the 20th Century's leading experts in the field, was Hollywood's consultant of choice in matters mesmeric, having just advised the production of The Manchurian Candidate and Corman's own portmanteau of Poe stories, Tales of Terror. A test was devised - by Bryan? - that theatergoers would have to pass in order to be allowed to see this movie about a series of axe murders (graphically staged for 1963). It was administered as part of a five-minute filmed prologue that took viewers through each yes-or-no question. If you failed the test, you were asked to leave the theater. Sucks to be you, huh?

What constituted failure? Reports vary, possibly from theater to theater. While there are no reports of managers enforcing what was just a fun and silly stunt (they had a hard enough time ejecting talkers and smokers, let alone sociopaths and ticking mental time bombs), some "required" you to answer "yes" to as many as all of the questions, or as few as two. The prologue is apparently lost, having been lopped off for TV showings, and even Corman has admitted that there is no clean print of the film in existence. Heaven knows there are a lot of crappy public domain dvd releases of Dementia 13 out there. I've seen enough of the 75-minute versions out there, all in pursuit of a complete 80-minute print.

However...the questions still exist. Here, gentle readers, is the complete D-13 test, and if you ask me, I think they should administer this before every horror film in a theater. And if they would you do? (And can you imagine taking this test on a first date?)

1. Have you ever spoken aloud to yourself in a mirror?

2. Do you always think carefully before you speak?

3. Have you ever raised your hand in anger at a close relative?

4. Do you believe yourself sincere even though others may not be?

5. Were you ever involved in what passed for an accident, but which you really caused?

6. Have you ever been seriously depressed to the point of considering suicide?

7. Do you feel that as a child you were rejected by one or both of your parents?

8. Did you ever do anything seriously wrong for which you felt no or little guilt?

9. Has your general state of mental health deteriorated over the years?

10. Do you believe that death by drowning in a pond is best described by the word "exciting?"

11. Have you ever actually attempted suicide or purposely tried to injure a friend?

12. Do you agree that the most effective way of settling a dispute is with one quick stroke of the axe to your adversary’s head?

13. Have you ever been hospitalized in a locked mental ward, sanitarium, rest home or other facility for the treatment of mental illness?


Crescent said...

Oh man. I LOVE stuff like this.

senski said...

Hey, Crescent! Thanks!

What great news to discover upon clicking your blog today. I send you all the best karma I can muster!

Crescent said...

Thanks Steve! I'll take it!