Dementia (1955 film)

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DVD cover
Directed byJohn Parker
Produced by
Written byJohn Parker
Adrienne Barrett
Music by
CinematographyWilliam C. Thompson
Edited byJoseph Gluck
Release date
  • December 22, 1955 (1955-12-22) (U.S.)
Running time
58 min[1]
CountryUnited States

Dementia (also known in a slightly altered version as Daughter of Horror) is a 1955 independently made American black-and-white film by John Parker, incorporating elements of the horror film, film noir, and expressionist film.[2][3]


A young woman awakens from a nightmare in a run down hotel, she leaves the lodging and wanders into the night. She encounters a dwarf hawking newspapers with the bold headline "Mysterious stabbing." She smiles enigmatically and quickly walks on. In a dark alley, a wino approaches and grabs her. A policeman rescues her and beats up the drunken man as she leaves. Along her way, a pimp, sharply dressed with a pencil-thin mustache, approaches her, buys her a flower from a flower girl's basket, and cajoles her into escorting a porcine rich man in a chauffeured limousine; as they cruise the through the night, she thinks back to her tragic youth and her abusive father. She had stabbed him to death with a switchblade after he shot and killed her unfaithful mother.

The rich man takes her to bars and nightclubs and finally to his elegant high-rise apartment, he first ignores her as he feasts on an extensive meal. She tempts him, and when he advances on her, she stabs him with her switchblade, pushing the dying man out of an upper story window; as he topples, he grabs a pendant around her neck and it snaps as he plummets. The crazed woman races out of the building onto the street and confronts the body; the dead man's hand still grasps her pendant in an iron grip, forcing her to saw it off with her knife. She flees with it, as she imagines faceless bystanders watching her impassively. Again, a patrol car appears; the same cop, with a strange frozen smile tracks her with a spotlight as she flees; he appears to have her father's face. She runs around a corner, hiding the severed hand in the flower girl's basket.

As she runs down an alley, the pimp grabs her from inside a doorway and drags her into a club. An enthusiastic audience watches a jazz band playing; the smiling policeman enters, as the corpse of the rich man lies at the window pointing to his murderess with a bloody stump. The crowd moves forward, encircling her, laughing maniacally, she passes out, reawakening in her dingy hotel room alone. She goes to the mirror on the dresser, searching for clues. In her top drawer, she discovers her broken pendant, clutched in the fingers of a severed hand that closes over it; the camera retreats and moves out into the streets, where a horrified shriek is heard, and the film fades to black.



Dementia was shot on Hollywood studio sets and on location in Venice, California. Production, including editing, ended in 1953.[3]

The original film had no dialogue, only music and some sound effects, like doors slamming, dubbed laughter, etc; the film's music score is by avant-garde composer George Antheil, vocalized by Marni Nixon. There are no lyrics as such. Jazz musician Shorty Rogers and his band, the Giants, can be seen and heard performing in a night club scene.

Producer-writer-director John Parker is only credited as producer in the film's titles. In later years actor and associate producer Bruno VeSota claimed to have co-written and co-directed the film with Parker.[4]

Theatrical releases[edit]

Dementia premiered in New York City in 1955 with four edits demanded by the censors; this version was picked up by Jack H. Harris and released as Daughter of Horror. Harris' version also has music without dialogue, but with added narration by actor Ed McMahon.[3]

In 1957 the British Board of Film Classification denied Dementia (in its alternate version Daughter of Horror) a release classification. Dementia was finally passed in 1970 without edits for United Kingdom theatrical release.[5][6]


"May be the strangest film ever offered for theatrical release". – Variety[7] "A piece of film juvenilia […] despite its good intentions […] An understanding of Mr. Parker's desire to say something new cannot reconcile one to the lack of poetic sense, analytical skill and cinematic experience exhibited here". – The New York Times[8] "To what degree this film is a work of art, we are not certain but, in any case, it is strong stuff". – Cahiers du cinéma[7] "The movie spends an hour exploring a lonely woman’s sexual paranoia through a torrent of expressionistic distortions which would look avant-garde if the vulgar Freudian ‘message’ weren’t so reminiscent of ’50s B features". – Time Out Film Guide[9]

Home media[edit]

On Oct 17, 2000, Kino Video released Dementia on Region 1 DVD; the disc also included the Jack H. Harris-released version of the film, Daughter of Horror. Under the title Dementia: Daughter of Horror the film was again released on DVD January 1, 2008.


Daughter of Horror is perhaps most famous for its appearance in The Blob (1958), where it is the film playing in the theater when the Blob strikes.

The film has been compared to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) as being a portrait of an insane mind from the "inside out".[citation needed]

In 2015 the rock band Faith No More used edited footage from Dementia to create a video for their song "Separation Anxiety".[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 5212 ft. according to the DVD release by "Kino Video", 2000.
  2. ^ Rhodes, Gary Don (2003). Horror at the Drive-in: Essays in Popular Americana. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-41342-3. ISBN 0-78641342-5. "Essentially an experiment in cinematic expressionism ... Though nominally a horror film, Daughter of Horror actually operates in several different generic registers; the most important of these is film noir and the crime drama, but the film refers to such experimental works as Luis Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou..." (p. 156).
  3. ^ a b c Info on DVD release by "Kino Video", 2000.
  4. ^ Paul Parla, Charles P. Mitchell: A Truth That Will Shock You! In: Filmfax No. 65. Quoted on DVD release by "Kino Video", 2000.
  5. ^ 1957 rejection of Dementia/Daughter of Horror on the BBFC website, retrieved 2012-12-7.
  6. ^ 1970 classification of Dementia on the BBFC website, retrieved 2012-12-7.
  7. ^ a b Quoted by DVD release by "Kino Video", 2000.
  8. ^ New York Times review, 23rd december 1955, retrieved 2012-12-08.
  9. ^ Time Out Film Guide, Seventh Edition 1999. Penguin, London 1998, S. 219.
  10. ^

Further reading[edit]

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