Kino on Video presents
"This is a place where there is no love, no hope; in the pulsing, throbbing world of the insanemind, where only nightmares are real!"- Narrator, The Daughter of Horror
Stars: Adrienne Barrett, Bruno Ve Sota, Richard Barron
Other Stars: Ed Hinkle, Lucille Howland, Faith Parker
Director: John Parker
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some violence, disturbing imagery)
Run Time: 00h:56m:30s
Release Date: 2000-10-17
DVD ReviewPerplexed, confused, and baffled. These are but a few of the emotions going through my mind once the end credits for Dementia rolled by. Filmed in 1953, it's easy to see why this film suffered such a long battle with censor boards. For the age, it most likely bewildered most who saw it and even though specific reasons were often given for why it shouldn't be publicly shown, the reasons basically added up to every element of the film. Had the cuts that the censors wanted been applied, the movie would have been about 10 minutes long and not made a whit of sense (not that it really does now). Dementia is either a brilliant artistic statement or one of the most insane exploitation films ever made, and I'm not really sure which.
Other than dubbed in laughs and moans, Dementia is completely without dialogue, featuring only a strange musical soundtrack punctuated by the theremin-like vocals of Marni Nixon. The film begins with Adrienne Barrett (referred to only as 'The Gamin') awakening from a nightmare in her dilapidated apartment. She takes a switchblade from a drawer and sets out into the night. As she wanders around the city, she encounters 'The Evil One,' a sleazy pimp who winds up connecting her with 'Rich Man,' an equally scummy figure. She experiences hallucinations and visions that contribute to her paranoia and, seemingly, a hatred of men. In one vision, she travels through a graveyard, being led by a hooded man who reveals her nasty childhood to her by resurrecting the spirits of her abusive parents. Eventually, she murders Rich Man, and in the process descends deeper into madness, running from imagined fears and the local police. Is this for real, or is she merely hallucinating again?
An intense amount of directorial style has been applied here, and the film has a distinct noir feel. Ironically, most of Dementia was filmed in the same locations as Touch of Evil, and the similarities are impossible to deny. However, everything is extremely surreal since here there is no dialogue. Direction is exaggerated and ridiculous, so as to make the performances seem more sensible. Some moments, however, strike of inspiration and brilliance, using an almost Hitchcockian technique in order to enhance imagery.
Out of the unusual cast of characters, Bruno Ve Sota (Rich Man) is the most recognizable for his years of B-movie appearances, especially in Roger Corman projects like Attack of the Giant Leeches and The Undead. He is also credited with co-producing and co-writing Dementia, though the extent of truth here remains unanswered. In it's totality, Dementia is a staggering experience. Part of you wants to laugh it off as cheap exploitation, but understanding its age, and because its directorial technique is so memorable, it begins to grow on you. The sordid tale of The Gamin's sleaze-ridden night out might have been designed as a cautionary tale, but winds up as something altogether more sick and strange.
Eventually, the winding battle that the makers of Dementia had with censors resulted in not only a limited theatrical run, but also a strange alternate cut of the film produced in 1957 entitled Daughter of Horror (which I'll discuss in the extras section in more detail). By todays standards, it's hard to get very offended, but when one considers the general morés and ethics of the period, it becomes amazing that director John Parker EVER thought this film would get into theatres.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: While the transfer here is superb, some of the source print is damaged. For the most part, the black-and-white cinematography is accurately reproduced with good sharpness and clarity, but many sections have lots of scratches and pinhole marks. The frame also warps slightly and moves around in certain sections. This doesn't have a huge effect on the final result, but it is slightly distracting. Despite many scenes that invite artifacts and pixelization, none are found anywhere in the film.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Though a little beat up, the Pro-Logic Mono soundtrack works very well. Since it's only music (except in the Daughter of Horror version), the weird, atmospheric score is reproduced very well. For the age of the track, the lack of distortion or harsh high-end is suprising.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
- Daughter of Horror, the 1957, alternate version of Dementia
- Case Study Essay
- Original Pressbook reproduction
- Production photo stills
The "case study" section is a lengthy essay about the long battle John Parker has getting the film released. Duplications of official documents are included, and the whole feature is extremely informative and well presented.
"Pressbook" is a reproduction of some of the original press material, as well as posters, advertisements, and review clippings.
On set photo stills and a trailer round out the goods, providing a great package.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsDementia defies easy description. The characterization that it is the "strangest film ever made" might sound exaggerated, but it's actually very hard to refute. Perhaps the best statement about the film is one made by famous 40s/50s columnist Walter Winchell when he said, "Take the kids! (The ones you want you want to get rid of)." Recommended for those who enjoy the unusual.
Dan Lopez 2000-10-06