Dementia (1955) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
43 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Give it a million dollar budget, and...
jnselko3 January 2005
This is one of those (exceptionally) rare very low budget films where you can see clearly that, if the director had had more time and more money, we would be discussing a classic "film".

Better known to buffs of the odd, the obscure, and the strange as "Daughter of Horror", in the tale as told we are witness to the unraveling of a mind. Like "Eraserhead", the best of this sub-genre, it is difficult to tell where the madness starts and where reality ends- or, indeed, if any of what we see on screen is real at all. It is hard to get any sense of what is occurring from the Gamine's point of view. Are the events happening to her? Is she dreaming? Hallucinating? The viewer (or, at least this viewer) is always a little off balance while watching this movie, and I think that that is what the director was aiming at.

I would go so far as to say that, within the budgetary constraints imposed, this movie is a masterpiece. As stated in the synopsis, this is a dark movie with no sympathetic characters, no attractive locales, no hope. Were it just a Film Noire murder story, it would still be a very good movie. As a descent into madness, it excels.
32 out of 37 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Short but fascinating art/horror film
Eegah Guy1 August 2001
Even at under an hour, this film drags a bit in the middle but has so much going for it that it has to be called a "must-see." Definitely see the dialog-free version (DEMENTIA) before you see the narrated version (DAUGHTER OF HORROR) but do see both of them because the narration by future Tonight Show co-host Ed McMahon is priceless! The jazzy score and accompanying vocal renderings accent the weird mood perfectly. The last 15 minutes in the jazz club are especially striking as music, image and pace increase to a fever pitch until the movie starts as it began. It's amazing that a film as avant garde as this actually played mainstream theaters in the 50s.
22 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
AT Last !
sirarthurstreebgreebling20 November 2000
Finally after a long wait we can see the original version of "Dementia" which was re released two years later as "Daughter of Horror" , cut by two minutes and featured the notoriously bad voice over by the unknown (outside america) Ed McMahon , which was added as the re releasers thought that the public would not understand what was going on , it did the opposite and has unfairly given the film a bad reputation. Since the re release was shown , the film itself has pretty much disappeared and only terrible prints on the 1957 version have been available , giving a brief glimpse of what this film could have been. But now the full version has been released by Kino Films on DVD. The print is stunning (compared to the previously available anything would be preferable), and the restoration of the nightmarish "jazzey" score is fault less. "Dementia" and "Daughter of Horror" (it was given a more salatious title to get audiences in) are both on the disc...with some great extras its worth a look. The story itself is a living/dreaming nightmare , the boundaries are jarred from the first scene as we pan in from the empty street into the apartment window and track up to the bed. The Gammin wakes and looks as if she has just had a bad nightmare , she gets up and walks over to a drawer , opens it and pulls out a switchblade , she looks down and sneers , pockets the knife and goes out into the night. From here on we either know that she it totally insane or that she is out to protect herself or both. We follow her journey into bars and meetings with pimps and flower sellers. I wont tell you anymore about it , otherwise it will spoil the fun of finding out for yourself but this film is a must and belongs on any serious collectors shelf.
21 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Where to begin?
David Elroy4 September 2001
This movie (originally 1953, I believe) is approachable on so many levels, it is difficult to say where to begin. We could start with the acting - Adrienne Barrett (whoever she is) is perfectly cast as the troubled, sinister, smirking, sexy anti-heroine. We could then examine the style - the mix of surrealism, expressionism, and film noir. We could then comment on the atmosphere - conjured through bleak-looking streets and unnerving music. Then there are the simple images - shadows growing and shrinking, gaunt faces, sharp contrasts between lights and darks. We might take a Freudian approach - the dysfunctional parents, the father imagery, the sexual symbols (cigars, no less!). There is also the Beat culture interest in the excellent jazz-band scene. There are also the intriguing comparisons one could make between the "silent" version and the narrated one.

As a horror movie in-itself, it may appear somewhat cheesy and overstated, but it clearly does not take itself too seriously, and you shouldn't either. Compared to other horror films I give it an 8, but due to its uncommon critical and historical appeal, I rate it overall a 9. Truly a unique achievement.
27 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A cult item that can't be easily dismissed.
Rockster-222 January 2001
Never heard of it, knew nothing about, watched it on a friend's recommendation and was struck by how daring and experimental it was for the time it was made. I was expecting a real piece of 50's cheese, but the further I got into it the more I realized it could not be so easily dismissed. Some of the nighttime black and white photography of the Gamine being pursued through city streets is right up there with THE THIRD MAN, and many of the images (especially the hacking off of a dead man's hand) are shockingly indelible. I'd place it many rungs above Ed Wood and perhaps only a rung or two below Herk Harvey (director/co-star and primary creative force behind the great ultra low budget masterpiece CARNIVAL OF SOULS, recently reissued on a gorgeous Criterion Collection DVD). Included on the DVD presentation is the re-cut version DAUGHTER OF HORROR, with Ed McMahon (!) providing a hilariously pretentious voice-over that was meant to make the film more accessible to a mainstream audience. It's a real hoot, one to play at parties to give your cinephile guests a laugh.
21 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great movie-especially music
Marty-169 June 2004
I saw this great movie in error in 1972. Dementia 13 by Coppola was ordered and Dementia (Daughter of Horror) showed up. I was particularly impressed by the brilliant score by Antheil and sung by Marnie Nixon, later the voice of Maria in the movie West Side Story.

Interesting note - In the original movie, The Blob, it is the movie being shown in the movie theater when the kids run in to find their friends.

The style of Dementia was captivating and created a surreal mood. For those interested in obscure horror films, well worth seeing.

After originally seeing it it took almost 10 years to even find a reference to it (partially because of the two names). I finally got a copy of Dementia around 10 years ago and can now appreciate it whenever I choose.
20 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Marty-1623 December 2001
I orginally saw Dementia in 1972 at the Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge Mass. It was there in error since Coppola's Dementia 13 was on the bill. What a treat. I requested return engagements after that and could find no reference to Dementia for years. Finally, at the library of arts at Lincoln Center in New York I found the history including the alternate title Daughter of Horror. I finally got a copy of the film about 6 years ago. Still one of my favorites. Particularly because of the music and the fabulous singing of Marnie Nixon (voice of Maria in West Side Story and other films. A brilliant film by John Parker - who may actually be Bruno Vesota. Unknown piece of information. He of course is famous for such classics as The Brain Eaters and Attack of the Giant Leeches. Seriously, Dementia is a great movie and displays a sophistication of production that belies its obvious lack of a substantial budget.
19 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!"
lastliberal13 March 2008
I watched Daughter of Horror, not the original version called Dementia. Of course the newer version has a voice over by Ed McMahon of Star search/Johnny Carson fame. Dementia had no voice over.

Neither film had dialog. The only thing you heard was the music of George Antheil. You watched as the faces of the actors gave the story. A woman (Adrienne Barrett) possessed by madness; the daughter of a philandering mother and a drunken father who murdered her, even as she murdered her father.

It was Luis Buñuel and Orson Welles throughout. Even the character of the rich man (Bruno VeSota) was channeling Orson Welles.

It is a bohemian rhapsody wrapped in madness. A strange but compelling film.
17 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of A Kind, Don't Miss It
withnail-45 December 2000
Powerful visual style highlights this noir nightmare film, originally made in 1951. Is it Freudian, Surreal, or just plain fugged up? This is outsider film making, a one of kind rarity(the director's only film)that either discards standard film technique, or is totally ignorant of it. But the photography and music are both weird, wild, and quite well done. No dialog!!

The original director's version (Dementia)is much better than the one with some of the gore cut out, and an intrusive, idiotic Ed McMahon voiceover(Daughter of Darkness).They are both on the DVD, so don't make the mistake of watching the censored "Daughter" version first.

Don't miss the highly suggestive "chicken eating" scene. It's hilarious!!
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Strange, disturbing cult film both inexplicable and unforgettable
mlraymond24 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Nearly everyone has seen the classic low budget Fifties science fiction movie The Blob, with Steve McQueen. The

hero's pals go cruising on a weekend night and head to the local theatre ,to see if they can pick up girls at the midnight spooky show. Not many viewers know the name or content of the scary picture the movie audience is watching, except that the title Daughter of Horror appears on the theatre marquee. This odd little independent chiller has been rediscovered in recent years by movie cultists and Fifties horror movie fans. It exists in two versions; the Daughter of Horror version is better known in its 1957 re-release, with the narration by Ed McMahon added to the original silent 1953 version known as Dementia. The original is more impressive, but the narrated version is still okay if you can't find the original. I won't say much about the plot, because you should see it without pre-formed ideas if possible. The plot almost defies analysis anyway. SPOILERS AHEAD: the movie is a slow, dreamlike depiction of a solitary, morose woman living alone in a cheap hotel, in a rundown part of a large city. She seems to wake from a nightmare, and proceeds to light a cigarette. She takes a large switchblade knife out of a bureau drawer and tests it,snapping it open with an air of familiarity. Her hair is short, and she wears a mannish suit. It is implied that she is a lesbian. She leaves the building and goes out into the night, to encounter a weird series of adventures. She is menaced by drunks ,and ambiguous characters whose true identity is hard to be sure of. Since there is no dialogue, the viewer has to interpret the visuals according to their own ideas. At one point, she reads a newspaper headline about a recent stabbing death, and a creepy smile crosses her face. Has she committed a murder? She apparently is mistaken for a prostitute by a sleazy, pimp-like character, and a rich man, but seemingly agrees to their proposition, though not actually a hooker in reality. You can't be sure about anything in this movie, including whether she is a victim ,or a dangerous, mentally disturbed person who kills casually for fun.The movie veers from bizarrely humorous moments, to a creeping atmosphere of enveloping dread and hopelessness that is more intense than any film noir you've ever seen. The movie ends where it began, and one is unsure just how much of what we've seen was real or a nightmare. The performance by non-professional actress Adrienne Barrett is amazing( she was supposed to have been John Parker's secretary ,and told him of a dream she had had, which then became the basis for the screenplay).The whole movie isn't much more than an hour, and has a sort of Twilight Zone crossed with film noir feeling about it. It raises questions without giving clear answers about family violence, domestic abuse, women as pawns and playthings for men, alienation and isolation, loneliness and despair. It inspires a feeling of pity for the tormented heroine, while keeping us aware of her capacity for violence and cold-blooded murder. The eerie vocal effects of Marni Nixon add immeasurably to the unnerving atmosphere, along with the drab nighttime scenes, most of which were filmed on nearly deserted streets in rundown parts of Los Angeles. This film is a must see for anyone intrigued by psychological horror and independent productions.It is haunting, unique and unforgettable.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
you have never seen anything like this before
chrispi-231 May 2001
This is one of the best and most intelligent films ever--although I don't think I'll be seeing it again anytime soon. I have never been so assaulted emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually by a movie. If you are looking for a fun and scary horror movie--this is NOT what you are looking for. This film is very disturbing. It is not gory, or overly graphic, just disturbing. The aesthetics of the film stretch back to early German Expressionism to 70s psychedelia. It is a bizarre mix of many things, most of which work perfectly. As you watch it, it's very easy to start judging the movie and go "Oh God, it's doing this or that". There are definately times when the movie borders on badness. But it is always one step ahead of itself, and one step ahead of you, and one step ahead of any other movie I have ever seen. The things the director does are amazing--he does things that were so ahead of his time.

The portrait of the main character is amazing. I've never felt so close to a character who completely freaked me out, as I did to her. She is SCARY--and so human in a wierd way. And that's why this movie was so good. It is not a black and white horror movie. It's not a slasher flick. It is definately trying to tell you something. Whether the final message is feminist or sexist is up for debate. This film is so well done that it's hard to tell whether it's being purposeful or exploitative. It's pointless to write more. You just have to see it.
29 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Welles Meets Corman
dougdoepke4 December 2010
Thanks be to TMC for reviving this curiosity for a popular audience. I can't imagine what the movie's producers foresaw in the way of audience potential. I gather the film was shot in 1953, certainly not a promising period for an experimental feature of any kind. I also gather the atrocious narrative was added later to maybe give the package commercial appeal. But not even a 50's drive-in farthest from town would book a weirdo like this. Perhaps college area theatres would have booked it as a midnight feature, playing up the sex angle. Anyway, to me, its origins appear puzzling, indeed.

All in all, the end result is about as schizoid as the lead female character, combining striking visuals and special effects with amateurish acting and brain-dead narration. Someone in production certainly had an artistic eye for visual composition—check out the long shot of the gamin entering and exiting the spacious hotel lobby. They're beautifully composed. Actually, the visuals suggest that perhaps Welles saw the production before filming Touch of Evil (1957), especially Dementia's skid-row area that resembles Evil's Venice beach locations.

Certainly the movie has its cheesy elements. But to call the movie itself cheesy is to miss the artistic undercurrent that kept me hooked.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
ultimate noir
rufasff16 July 2003
On the great Kino DVD, the print of "Dementia" is strikingly good; and you get some good information on the film's strange life.>

Other than that, this is a one of a kind gem, to say there is nothing else like it is only to get the ball rolling. Ten out of ten.
9 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Obscure atmospheric horror gem!
The_Void7 March 2007
Dementia is one weird film! To sum it up in a nutshell, I'd say it's kind of like a longer and somewhat more macabre version of The Twilight Zone! The film doesn't include any graphic scenes - although this didn't stop Dementia being banned upon its release in 1955. The film creates it's horror through atmosphere rather than violence, and the result is rather effective. It has to be said that the narration courtesy of Ed McMahon is more than a little bit cheesy - some have even compared the film to the 'works' of Ed Wood in that respect (I personally wouldn't go that far) - but his voice-over does have a horrific vibe to it, and it certainly benefits the film. Dementia is not exactly plot heavy, and we simply focus on a woman whom we are told is insane. We then follow this woman throughout the night as she gets involved in a series of activities - things such as encounters with various unsavoury characters and other happenings on the dark streets.

The film contains no dialogue, and the only speaking part belongs to the narrator. This sets the film apart on it's own as very few films work in this way, and that only adds to its originality. The film achieves it's genuinely unsettling atmosphere via the way that every single character in the film is completely loathsome. It's not hard to see why this film offended the censors back in 1995. There are a few macabre scenes, though most of the violence is implied rather than shown, and this serves Dementia rather well. The film is very surreal, and a lot of it feels like a nightmare - which is definitely to the film's credit. Watching the central character drift through John Parker's nightmarish dreamscape is entirely captivating, and this is of huge benefit to the film as it completely relies on this in order to succeed. Dementia is unlikely to appeal to everyone due to its frankly odd nature, but it's definitely a film worth seeing. Atmosphere is important in horror films, and this one is PURE atmosphere - highly recommended viewing!
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Clinical, slightly experimental
Cristi_Ciopron10 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
DAUGHTER … is an old curiosity—conceived as a foray into a crazy woman's mind. The approach is impressionist, i.e. a boosted POV. It is impressing and pertinent. A surrealist exercise, In one of the previous comments here, I spoke about the poems as a cinematographic species of the silent movies.

It predates the Quays; on the other hand, my surrealist dish is more like Fellini and Bunuel.

DAUGHTER OF HORROR pertains to the same species, as an ambitious, averagely daring, ingenious ,overrated yet intriguing try; it predates the Quays, which means, again, surrealism in bolus.

In the epoch, there was some controversy; but IMDb offers already this sort of historical tips, I believe.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Dementia Cinematica
enw26 October 2006
In case you ever wondered (and as a true film buff, of course you did) what that strange movie called DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS showing at the cinema being attacked by the blob in THE BLOB is – well, this is it! It used to be called DEMENTIA and was made by a guy named John Parker at approximately the same time as Ed Wood made GLEN OR GLENDA – they even employed the same cinematographer.

In fact the two films have a lot in common, being both very personal cinematic statements, and also sharing the kind of ineptitude that some critics favor. Of course, Ed Wood is basically just a sweet transvestite from Transylvania.

The idea of casting Lugosi as the genetic puppet-master is really a stroke of genius. It is also absolutely hilarious.

The sight of this once great (or at least adequate) actor, having no idea what he's saying with his usual thick accent is nothing less than a revelation – what a wonderfully absurd way of expressing your doubts and fears, and what a catharsis it must have been for the director, leading up to the supreme moment, when, as a token of love and understanding, his partner hands him the comparatively innocent article of clothing symbolizing the more discreet pleasures of the Lumberjack Song! So what if the audience has no idea what's going on? DEMENTIA is altogether less endearing. The director's heart may or may not bleed for his psychopathic lesbian ("gamine" – another euphemism) but the film basically comes across as a homophobic treatise.

Or is the director a homosexual himself, torn between his sympathy for the plight of the protagonist and his disgust with her whole sex? We shall never know, but it's fun to guess.

Which I might add does not mean condemnation, since any sexual deviation is a testimony to the wonderful diversity of human nature – unless you're a Fascist. In fact, condemnation seems to be what's wrong with this young woman rather than her occupation (she's a prostitute) or sexual orientation, as we are invited to share her disgust, in a series of cuts between "the rich man", who – although inexcusably fat and perspiring – looks as if he's enjoying his dinner, and the face of our heroine, which is a mask of hate.

Also, the fact that her pimp is being characterized in the credits as "the evil one" may lead you to suspect that the filmmaker is not a complete stranger to the idea that the problems of modern society is best solved by Charles Bronson. Many critics will undoubtedly prefer Parker to Wood, the former exhibiting a style as familiar as it is primitive.

Criminals being followed by floodlights (instead of being arrested) or surrounded by maniacally laughing crowds (instead of being lynched) may not make a lot of sense, but I'm sure you'll find it in the curriculum of every motion picture academy in the world, and of course the inclusion of a jam session does not in any way justify a comparison to a beach monster movie. The young woman isn't pretty, nor is she very happy about herself (or anybody else for that matter) so I suppose it has to be a serious work of art in spite of the crawling severed hands – personally, I much prefer to enjoy it on the level of hilariously bad film-making.
7 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Was it ONLY a Dream?
Joe Bridge28 March 2006
This review is for the "Daughter of Horror" version.

The bulk of this odd little gem consists of close-ups of people making goofy faces at the camera (and moving cigars in and out of their mouths), an unseen woman who seems to be working on trying to sing the classic "Star Trek" theme song (but never quite hits the last couple of notes), and a piano player playing bits of the opera "Carmen" (most noticeably, the Toreador Song).

The plot mostly follows the experiences of a (crazy?) woman who may or may not have committed a certain recent crime, but did kill when younger.

Oh, and there's a very long scene of a chubby gentleman eating chicken for what seems like several minutes and making his face all nice and shiny with grease.

It is advisable that, unless you want to break into giggling fits, that you watch this the FIRST time with all the sound OFF. The only part with the sound that actually works for this gem is the dancing scene about 15 minutes in.

It isn't really that spooky. It doesn't really offend or even challenge the senses much in my opinion, as some have said. There are a few parts that remind me slightly of "Eraserhead".

In the end, I'm not even sure what has happened, whether it was ALL a dream, SOME of it was a dream, or only certain parts were a dream. (I ask that because hands don't really move hours after they've been removed, DO they?) The most interesting scene is where a wave comes over her and the bits of water look like human fingers going over her (which is shown a few times at the beginning, and a couple of times near the end) which seems to relate to the hand that was removed during the crime.

It also seems that the director has a hatred for people who like jazz by making them all look like confused and unstable buffoons. This part actually reminds me a lot of "Reefer Madness".

7/10 for weirdness. Nothing at all for the ridiculous, amateurish narration which basically ruins it and keeps it from having a more spooky flow from start to finish. Again, turn the volume completely down the first time you watch it. Trust me on that.
5 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Both Versions
Michael_Elliott29 February 2008
Dementia (1955)

*** (out of 4)

Interesting mix of film noir, horror and German Expressionism has a young woman struggling to make it through one night on skid row. The movie features no sounds with the exception of a new sound effects so this is clearly a throwback to the silent days and more in point, the German classics of the era. This is a rather interesting little film due in large part to the brilliant look and the downright bizarre setup. We're treated to various visuals, which make little to no sense but I believe that was the point. I was shocked to see that the wonderful cinematography was by William C. Thompson who was pure poverty row as he worked on films like Maniac, Glen or Glenda?, Plan 9 From Outer Space and other Ed Wood movies. Adrienne Barrett is very good in the lead and Angelo Rossitto of Freaks fame has a small role. Technically the film is brilliant but the story doesn't come off as well.

The most interesting thing about this film is its troubled history, which included being banned by the New York Censor Board. The film had to go in front of this board eleven times before it was allowed to be shown, only once. The film couldn't get released so it was re-edited and narration by Ed McMahon was added. The film was then re-released as Daughter of Horror and clips from this version can be seen in the 1958 film The Blob inside the theater where the teens are watching it.

Daughter of Horror (1958)

** (out of 4)

Alternate version of the above film has a couple scenes edited out but the biggest change is the added narration by Ed McMahon. As with other "silent" films that are given sound, the atmosphere and overall mood is certainly altered here but it's rather neat hearing McMahon's narration because he sounds so incredibly different than what we're use to hearing.
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
piker-520 November 2005
Things to love about it:

It's black and white, and creepy. It's mostly about sex. It takes place ENTIRELY in the mind of the main character. No dialog. It features a great chicken-eating scene - perhaps it influenced Tom Jones some eight years later. It's short. Nice atmospheric score. It features sporadic narration by Ed McMahon.

Things to dislike: Unattractive actors pretty much across the board. Seems like three hours due to poor pacing. Largely incomprehensible, because it takes place in the lead character's mind. It features sporadic narration by Ed McMahon.

And this is not the jocular Ed you know from the Tonight Show and Star Search. This is a crazily over the top, foaming-at-the-mouth out-of-control Ed. There are two versions of this movie (the other one is called Dementia) and this one was an attempt to salvage a bad investment by making it all easier to understand. Doesn't work. Or rather it works because it's easier to understand, but the narration is crap. It's kind of like having a skilled navigator on a lifeboat who insists on jumping up and down like a maniac - on one hand useful, on the other he's throwing the whole thing out of balance.
5 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Clare Quilty7 December 2012
"Dementia"/a.k.a. "Daughter of Horror" is creepy fun. Nothing like you'd expect. It's surreal, like that part of "Glen or Glenda" where a room full of people mock poor Glen and then come at him with their fingers wiggling, only here it's scary instead of funny. The movie has no dialog, and if it did we'd probably die laughing. Marni ("King and I" "My Fair Lady") Nixon does the soprano obbligato throughout. There's an Orson Welles character in it, too. And a sofa with some laughing, half-dressed, blond broad out in a cemetery. Honest, I am not making this up.

David Lynch has been borrowing from this one for years and none of us knew.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Remarkable little mind-explosion!
Coventry13 March 2004
Where to begin with this occult little gem? To be very honest, I haven't quite figured out what it is yet. Dementia stands as a strange experiment and worth analyzing, that's for sure. I'm probably giving it too much honor now, but I risk to say it's a dared and surrealist highlight of expressionism and no-budget cinema-making…. BUT, in constant combination with amateurism and wannabe-psychology. You might even say it looks like and Ed Wood film while he had a moment of clarity and ingenious brilliancy.

For not more than an hour, we follow around a lonely and seemly anti-social woman in a cruel neighborhood of prostitution, orgies and murder. She suffers from visions of childhood trauma's while she's filling up with fury and hatred towards a rich, ignorant man. She kills him and flees…chased by the police and haunted by her own morbid imagination. Keeping in mind this film was made in 1953, it becomes even more interesting! The US censorship didn't like it at all and the film barely received showings…No surprises there because, even though the film doesn't contain explicit violence, it's very unpleasant and disturbing to look at. Every character that walks through the screen is unsympathetic and someone you don't want to run into in a dark alley. The atmosphere this film breathes feels like David Lynch's Eraserhead avant-la-lettre, and I wouldn't be surprised if he found some of his inspiration and enthusiasm in Dementia. This film is perhaps a little too weak and messy to refer to as avant-garde, but it does float somewhere between that and cheap B-cinema. Up to you to decide where it's categorized best! One thing is sure, though…Dementia is food for thought at film-Academies. I saw the original version of this lost film at a festival, on the big screen and guided by a life-orchestra of cello's and a piano. The film itself doesn't contain any dialogues and therefore this chilling music brought it up to an almost unbearable cult-experience.
4 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"Run, run, run! Guilty, guilty, guilty!"
moonspinner5520 November 2010
John Parker wrote, produced, and directed this ambitious but relatively amateurish paean (one presumes) to silent German Expressionism. Equating madness with evil, Parker follows a disturbed young woman (armed with a switchblade) around Los Angeles at night, where beatniks and goons paw at her while a police detective--who looks just like the woman's dead father--beats a wino to death in front of her. Parker has one interesting shot early on, a double image of a girl running while a wave crashes behind her, which is then repeated at least twice. The filmmaker knows a great deal about visual composition and technique, but he doesn't do anything exciting with the wordless format and he's useless with his actors. In the lead, Adrienne Barrett is frequently exposed to ridicule; looking like one of the Bowery Boys in a skirt, Barrett alternately scowls and smirks in close-up, and is incapable of pulling off such dramatic scenes as crawling across the ground to retrieve her bulky necklace or getting all hot and bothered in an underground jazz club. Alternate version "Daughter of Horror" is narrated by Ed McMahon as Madness incarnate, though the theme of insanity is not treated as a mental illness; instead, it's something a person stumbles into, and then frantically attempts to escape from. Parker even tries for a twist ending, but it's really for naught. "Dementia" is demented in all the wrong ways. *1/2 from ****
3 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Daughter of Horror
Scarecrow-8824 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Utterly bizarre film, whose reputation is known in the annals of 'weird cinema', veritably a silent film, with rib-tickling narration from none other than Ed McMahon(!)has a mute woman(Adrienne Barrett) we follow during a dark journey in a city, as she encounters possible danger and dementia in equal doses. We learn that she is haunted by a traumatic childhood thanks to her rotten, abusive father's murder of her mother. This woman stabbed her father in the back and this perhaps was the beginning of what she would soon evolve into..a knife murderer. Bruno VeSota(an Orson Welles lookalike)is a portly man of wealth who "acquires her services", expecting, obviously, rewards for taking her out on the town, instead becoming another stab victim. Richard Barron is a grinning sleazoid who leads her into the dark abyss. Ben Roseman both portrays her father and a cop who protects her from a drunkard.

There is a protracted sequence in a club where she retreats from police after stabbing a victim, cutting his hand off to retrieve a necklace he pulled from her before falling stories to the street below. VeSota was awaiting his prize for treating Barrett to a night on the town, her not particularly willing to go the extra mile to satisfy his desires. What I think works for DEMENTIA/DAUGHTER OF HORROR is the way director John Parker presents it as off, an odd atmosphere where nothing seems quite right. It's as McMahon's narration points out to us, we are taking a trip into what seems to be this woman's nightmares, her madness. I watched the DAUGHTER OF HORROR version, but I enjoyed McMahon's narration myself because I think it gives the film a oddball charm. I thought it was beautifully shot in the noir tradition, with some very interesting faces photographed in weird angles. Considered controversial in it's time, this film is quite tame today, but I could see why it might've ruffled some feathers.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews