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Dementia
Alternate Title: Daughter of Horror
Director: John Parker (Dir)
Release Date:   1955
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 22 Dec 1955
Production Date:   1953
Duration (in mins):   55 or 60
Duration (in reels):   6
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Cast:   Adrienne Barrett (The Gamin)  
    Bruno Ve Sota (Rich man)  
    Ben Roseman (Law enforcer/Father)  
    Richard Barron (Evil one)  
    Lucille Howland (Mother)  
    Jebbie Ve Sota (Flower girl)  
    Shorty Rogers and his Giants (Nighclub band)  
    Edward Hinkle (Butler)  
    Gayne Sullivan (Wino)  
    Angelo Rossitto (News vendor)  
    Shelley Berman (Drunken man dancing at jazz club)  

Summary: In a seedy Los Angeles hotel, The Gamin, a young, lonely woman, has a nightmare in which she is on the beach but is frightened of the approaching surf. When she wakes up, the Gamin orients herself to her dismal surroundings, then looks at herself in the mirror. At first the Gamin appears to be disgusted by her reflection, but is greatly comforted by opening the top dresser drawer and finding a switchblade. Pocketing the weapon, the Gamin leaves her room, although she hides on the staircase as a policeman investigates a case of domestic abuse. After the policeman leaves, the Gamin goes out into the evening air and encounters a dwarf news vendor, who cheerfully offers her a newspaper with the headline “Mysterious Stabbing.” The Gamin gleefully smiles at the headline before tossing the paper aside and walking down a dark alleyway. There, the young woman is grabbed by a Wino, who tries to force her to drink with him. She is rescued by a plainclothes policeman, the Law Enforcer, and watches with relish as the policeman savagely beats the Wino with a blackjack. The Gamin walks away as the Law Enforcer continues to beat the man, but is stopped by the Evil One, a pimp who smooth-talks her into spending the evening with a Rich Man. The Rich Man, a sullen glutton, takes the Gamin to a succession of nightclubs, including one at which he stares lustfully at a samba dancer. The Law Enforcer has followed them to the club, and chuckles at the Rich Man’s lechery. After leaving the samba club, the Gamin is in the Rich Man’s car when she suddenly has a hallucination: She is in a graveyard and is approached by a silent man wearing a black stocking over his face. The man points to a tombstone bearing the name “Father,” and the Gamin looks over his shoulder to see a vision of her Father, a drunken, cruel man who beats her when she comes home. The mysterious stranger then points to a tombstone reading “Mother,” and the Gamin sees her Mother, a slovenly blonde who does not bother to hide from her husband that she is having an affair. Overcome by jealousy and unsatisified lust, the Father shoots and kills the Mother, after which the Gamin stabs him to death. The Gamin then backs away from the graves and her visions, and returns to full consciousness in the car. Unaware that they are still being followed by the Law Enforcer, the Rich Man takes the Gamin to his highrise apartment. There, the Gamin is irritated when he ignores her in order to eat a chicken dinner greedily. After he finishes eating, however, the Rich Man makes a sexual advance to the Gamin, and when she rebuffs him, offers her a huge roll of money. The Gamin is still reluctant, and after the Rich Man pulls her toward him, she pulls out her switchblade and stabs him. The Rich Man grabs her heavy pendant necklace as he falls out the nearby open window to his death. The Gamin races from the building and sees the dead man’s body, surrounded by a silent crowd of people wearing black stockings over their faces. She is horrified to see that he is still grasping her necklace, and when she cannot pull it free, she saws off his hand with her switchblade and runs away. The Law Enforcer gets in his car and begins to chase her, aiming the car’s spotlight at her as she tries to hide in shadowy alleyways. After a long chase, the Gamin comes across a Flower Girl she had met before and drops the Rich Man’s hand, still clutching the necklace, into her basket. As she continues running, the Gamin is suddenly pulled into a basement by the Evil One, who introduces her to a jazz band as they are rehearsing in their dressing room. The Gamin is magically attired in a fancy evening gown by the Evil One and begins rehearsing with the band. Soon she is in the small nightclub out front while the band plays an instrumental number. The Evil One is accompanied by two women, and the crowd also contains other people from the Gamin’s travels, including her battered neighbor and her abusive husband and the Wino. After the band finishes their number, the Gamin joins in to sing with them. On the street, however, a couple irritated by the noise have summoned a policeman. The Law Enforcer enters the club, and the Gamin is horrified to see him accept a bribe from the club’s owner, as well as a payoff from the Evil One. Soon all of the customers begin to laugh cruelly at the Gamin, and the Law Enforcer dangles a pair of handcuffs in front of her. Looking up, the Gamin sees the Rich Man with the policeman, who holds up the Rich Man’s mutilated arm as they both laugh at her. Suddenly back in her street clothes, the Gamin is pressed by the crowd, whose hands reach at her and begin to strangle her. Scenes from her chaotic evening pass through her mind until finally she wakes up at the hotel and realizes the entire episode was merely a nightmare. When the Gamin reaches for her necklace, however, it is not around her neck, and she sees its heavy chain hanging out from the chest of drawers. Going over to the chest, the Gamin opens the drawer and is terrified to see the Rich Man’s hand, with its fingers closing over her necklace. As she shuts the drawer, her screams reverberate through the night. 

Production Company: J. J. Parker Productions, Inc.  
Production Text: A John Parker Production
Distribution Company: Van Wolf-API Productions  
Director: John Parker (Dir)
Producer: John Parker (Prod)
  Bruno Ve Sota (Assoc prod)
  Ben Roseman (Assoc prod)
Writer: John Parker (Wrt)
Photography: William C. Thompson (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Ben Roseman (Prod des)
Film Editor: Joseph Gluck (Film ed)
Music: George Antheil (Mus)
  Ernest Gold (Mus dir)
  Marni Nixon (Featured voice)
  Shorty Rogers and his Giants (New concepts in modern sounds)
Sound: Mike Pozen (Sd eff ed)
  Buddy Myers (Sd)
Special Effects: Albert Simpson (Spec photog eff)
Production Misc: Everett Baker (Tech prod assoc)
  Albert Duval (Tech prod assoc)
  Edward Dutko (Prod asst)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: "Wig Alley" by Shorty Rogers.
Songs:
Composer: Shorty Rogers
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
J.J. Parker Productions, Inc. 1/12/1953 dd/mm/yyyy LP12505
John Parker Productions, Inc. 1/12/1953 dd/mm/yyyy LP12419

Physical Properties: Sd, also Si: Western Electric Recording
  b&w:

 
Genre: Experimental
Sub-Genre: Psychological
 
Subjects (Major): Hallucinations
  Insanity
  Murder
  Nightmares
  Police
 
Subjects (Minor): Alcoholics
  Battered women
  Chases
  Corpses
  Dwarfs
  Falls from heights
  Family relationships
  Gluttony
  Graves
  Hotels
  Jazz music
  Los Angeles (CA)
  Necklaces
  Nightclubs
  Parricide
  Pimps
  Police corruption
  Prostitution
  Switchblade knives

Note: Dementia has no spoken dialogue, and the only sounds heard are noises such as crying and laughing and the accompanying musical score, featuring vocalizations by Marni Nixon. Shorty Rogers and his Giants play during the ending nightclub sequence. The opening and ending cast credits differ in order, and short scenes of the actors from the film appear under the ending cast credits. The picture begins with a shot of a starry sky; the camera then zooms from space through town into “The Gamin’s” hotel room. The film ends with a reverse of the same shot.
       Producer-writer-director John Parker, whose only onscreen credit is “A John Parker Production,” was the son of prominent film exhibitors, and Dementia was his only feature-length production. Parker made a short film, based on a nightmare experienced by his secretary, Adrienne Barrett, and used it to obtain funding to produce Dementia . Barrett starred in the feature film, which was co-produced by fellow actors Bruno Ve Sota and Ben Roseman. Although Dementia , which was shot partially on location in Venice, CA, was produced in 1953, it encountered serious censorship difficulties and was not released until 1955.
       According to a 30 Nov 1955 DV article, when Parker offered the film to the New York State Censors Board for approval in 1953, it was rejected as "inhuman and indecent." According to information in the film's DVD release, the board did offer to pass the film if numerous cuts were made, and although Parker appealed the decision several times, their opinion did not change. Eventually, Parker declined to alter the film, as he felt that the cuts would render the picture unintelligible. He then abandoned the idea of releasing the film theatrically. Parker did attempt to interest Universal-International in the picture but failed.
       The DVD further notes that in 1955, Herman G. Weinberg obtained the rights to the film, and the New York board, which had relaxed its censorship requirements, agreed to allow the picture to be exhibited if the extended sequence of the Gamin cutting off the “Rich Man’s” hand was eliminated. Weinberg agreed to the elimination, as well as the deletion of the scene in which the Gamin drops the hand in the “Flower Vendor’s” basket. The censor board was still somewhat reluctant to allow the film’s release, however, and agreed to it if admission was restricted to adults only.
       On 22 Dec 1955, Dementia had its New York premiere. According to a 6 Dec 1955 NY Journal American article, [as a publicity stunt] the theater’s employees were required to submit to a medical examination by ”heart specialists” before the picture’s exhibition in order to assure that the disturbing subject matter would not harm their health. The Var review called the picture “the strangest film ever offered for theatrical release.” Dementia received only a very limited release and was not submitted to the Production Code Administration for a code seal.
       In late 1957, Dementia was acquired for distribution by Exploitation Productions, Inc. A voice-over narration, by television personality Ed McMahon, was added to the film and it was re-titled Daughter of Horror . The narration, supposedly spoken by the “ghoul” encountered by the Gamin in the graveyard, emphasizes her insanity and culpability for the murders she commits. A sequence from Daughter of Horror is shown in a scene set in a movie theater in the 1958 Paramount release The Blob (see above). Eventually, Dementia was restored, and after achieving cult status, was released on a special DVD that also contained Daughter of Horror . The film marked the motion picture debut of popular nightclub comedian Shelley Berman. Modern sources add Faith Parker ( Nightclub dancer ) to the cast.  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   30 Nov 1955.   
The Exhibitor   25 Jan 56   p. 4092.
The Exhibitor   20 Feb 57   p. 4294.
Film Daily   23 Dec 55   p. 10.
NYJournal American   6 Dec 1955.   
New York Times   23 Dec 55   p. 14.
Variety   28 Dec 55   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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