Finally, After 45 Years!
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After years of poor-condition 16mm prints and blotchy video copies, Kino Video's DEMENTIA/DAUGHTER OF HORROR disc delivers sharp image and sound, for a neglected oddity. DEMENTIA was made in the early 1950's by John Parker. Based on a strange dream experienced by his secretary, Parker tells the story of "the gamine," who wanders the streets of a nightmare town, haunted by fear and guilt. Murder and insanity stalk the back alleys of the surrealist cityscape. Although filmed on a low-budget, DEMENTIA is filled with a variety of interesting visual effects and effective horror moments. One of the latter, in which a character severs the hand of a corpse, helped to get DEMENTIA banned in the state of New York. Tame in comparison to today's standards, this one scene is still potent and eerie. DEMENTIA runs just over an hour, and is without dialogue. George Antheil composed a score for the film, notable for its arias done by Marni Nixon. There's a Beat/Bop jazz club sequence for which Antheil pauses for the sounds of Shorty Rogers and His Giants. Kino has supplied this disc with Parker's second cut of the film, the retitled DAUGHTER OF HORROR, in which he added an absurd but intriguing narration. Buffs will recall that this is the film shown in the movie theatre sequence of the Steve McQueen version of THE BLOB (1958). Extra features include the trailer, pressbook blurbs, a stills gallery, and written information concerning DEMENTIA's history, cuts made for distribution, and the like. All of which giving this rarity its due."
Flawed yet fascinating film; DVD has everything you need
Surfink | Racine, WI | 11/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like others, I had read about this film for years, and seen the clips in The Blob, but never actually saw the whole movie until buying this DVD. It's such an anachronism, coming from the early 1950s, that it took a couple of viewings for me to be able to be objective about it. Compared to 99% of movies of its time it's quite avant-garde, from it's lurid content to its circular, dreamlike story structure, its complete lack of dialogue, expressionist use of photography and locations, Freudian symbolism, etc. There are moments of brilliance, and comparisons to Bunuel, Cocteau, Lynch, and Welles are not wholly unwarranted. (Is it possible that David Lynch never saw the 'chicken eating' scene?) On the downside, it suffers in some of the same ways that other low-budget indies of the time do, particularly in the pacing and the acting. The female lead in particular (the director's neice) just doesn't have any charisma whatsoever, and she and others mug broadly at times, attempting to convey emotion and plot without words. This could have been a landmark film with a capable actress in the lead. As it is, it's an extremely interesting experiment that also holds up to multiple viewings. John Parker definitely gets an A for effort, daring, and vision. The execution's just a little uneven.
Kino's DVD presents both the silent, unedited Dementia and the minimally narrated, edited Daughter of Horror. I found the narrated version not necessarily much worse (except of course for the cuts) but just different in tone, more 'campy.' Purists will probably stick with the original cut. The supplements include a trailer (for Daughter of Horror), still gallery, and detailed production history. The prints show some light speckling, but otherwise exhibit very good tonal values, sharpness, and detail. This movie is not for everyone, but if you're into avant-garde, film noir, B&W 50s indies, exploitation, or offbeat horror you'll probably find it rewarding."
Venice, California never looked so creepy!
hakob | Las Vegas, NV | 04/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased the DVD of DEMENTIA expecting campy fun and came away genuinely moved. DEMENTIA is much more than a bargain-basement horror film; it has those elements to be sure, but it is also a legitimate heir to German Expressionism, from its Freudian psychological symbolism to the chiaroscuro lighting and the stylized gestures of the actors. The film has no dialogue, only sound effects and a music score--not unlike the soundtracks made for late silent-era films such as SUNRISE. The characters are nameless types: the "Gamin," who appears to be a prostitute; "Evil One," the pimp and nightclub owner; "Rich Man," and so on. The film, however, is Expressionism as filtered back through Film Noir visual and narrative devices of the time.While watching it, I noted a little sadly that few "independent" filmmakers today would be willing to take such creative risks. Compare this to recent films like THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN and tell me which director has more imagination and style, which director can do more with a low budget! As much as I love it, DEMENTIA is not perfect. The actors, especially the lead, are not always up to the unusual task of expressing everything through pantomime. The music score, while it's often eerie and effective, can be repetitive at times. But the director, John Parker (his sole film), compensates with sheer force of imagination and clarity of conception. The story is tightly structured and moves briskly during the film's 60 minute running time. The black and white cinematography is beautiful and atmospheric, making full use of the seedy storefronts in Venice, California--before Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL, as the supplemental materials note.My five star rating is for the total DVD package. The transfer of DEMENTIA is suprisingly crisp and detailed for a film of its age, budget and production history--indeed, better than I could have expected. DAUGHTER OF HORROR, the censored and re-worked version, is included as well, making for an interesting comparison. Bret Wood at Kino deserves kudos for the censorship history and press clippings which he put together for the DVD.DEMENTIA is a unique film; if you have a taste for offbeat fare, it will satisfy your appetite in ways you never imagined! This is easily one of the most rewarding DVDs I have purchased in quite a while."
Brilliant, surreal film noir
William Kersten | Reno, NV United States | 03/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is one of the strongest works of dark, horror-tinged surrealist cinema you will ever see, done with a startlingly powerful night-time evocation of the seedy backstreets of Los Angeles. It is the artistic equal of Luis Bunuel, though due to its low-budget exploitation-film origins does not have the respect it immensely deserves. The low budget only serves to improve the disturbing, grimy quality of the desparate lives depicted in its stark story. I have watched this film repeatedly for its ambience and atmosphere, as well as its purely cinematic use of images. It is certainly one of the purest "nightmare" films ever made, partly because it uses only images and no words at all to create a shadowy and frightening world. Also, the film score is by one of the most talented composers of the 20th century, George Antheill, who was a serious modernist classical composer. The music is continuous and perfect from beginning to end - a feat rarely matched by any other film composers. For people interested in film noir, horror, or surrealism, you must have this motion picture!"