Dementia (1955 film)

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DVD cover
Directed by John Parker
Produced by John Parker
Ben Roseman
Bruno VeSota (as Bruno Ve Sota)
Written by John Parker
Starring Adrienne Barrett
Bruno VeSota (as Bruno Ve Sota)
Ben Roseman
Angelo Rossitto
Music by George Antheil
Shorty Rogers
Cinematography William C. Thompson
Edited by Joseph Gluck
Release dates
December 22, 1955
(U.S. release)
Running time
58 min[1]
Language English

Dementia (also known in a slightly altered version as Daughter of Horror) is an American film by John Parker, incorporating elements of the horror film, film noir and expressionist film.[2] It was produced in 1953, but not released until 1955.[3]


A young woman awakens from a nightmare in a run down hotel. She leaves the building and wanders through the night, passing a newspaper man. The news headline "Mysterious stabbing" catches her eye, and she quickly leaves. In a dark alley, a wino approaches and grabs her. A policeman rescues her and beats up the drunken man. Shortly later, another man approaches her and talks her into escorting a rich man in a limousine. While they cruise the night, she remembers her unhappy youth with an abusive father, whom she stabbed to death with a switchblade after he had killed her unfaithful mother. The rich man takes her to various clubs and then to her noble apartment. As he ignores her while having an extensive meal, she tries to tempt him. When he advances her, she stabs him with her knife and pushes the dying man out of the window. Before his fall, he grabs her pendant. The woman runs down onto the street and, as the dead man's hand won't relieve her pendant, cuts off the hand while being watched by faceless passersby. Again, the patrol policeman shows up and follows her. She flees and hides the hand in a flower girl's basket. The pimp shows up again and drags her into a night club, where an excited audience watches a jazz band playing. The policeman enters the club, while the rich man, lying at the window, points out his murderess with his bloody stump. The crowd encircles the woman, laughing frantically. The woman wakes up in her hotel room, her encounters have supposedly been a nightmare. In one of her drawers, she discovers her pendant, clutched by the fingers of a severed hand. The camera leaves the hotel room and moves out into the streets, while a desperate cry can be heard.


Dementia was shot in the studio in Hollywood 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, such as doors slamming, dubbed laughter etc. The film's musical score is by avant-garde composer George Antheil, vocalized by Marni Nixon–there are no lyrics as such. Jazz musician Shorty Rogers can be seen and heard performing in a night club scene.

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


In the US, Dementia premiered in New York City in 1955 with four cuts 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 an added narration read by actor Ed McMahon.[3]

In the United Kingdom, the British Board of Film Classification denied Dementia (in the alternate Daughter of Horror version) a classification in 1957. In 1970, Dementia was finally passed without cuts.[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]


Dementia is perhaps most famous for its appearance in The Blob (1958), where it is the movie playing in the movie 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]


  1. ^ 5212 ft. according to the DVD release by "Kino Video", 2000.
  2. ^ "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 also refers to such experimental works as Luis Bunuel's Un chien andalou […]" – Gary Don Rhodes: Horror at the Drive-In: Essays in Popular Americana. McFarland & Co. 2003, 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.

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