In 1955, filmmaker John Parker wrote, produced, and directed this hour-long experimental film, which was originally intended to be a short film. With no dialogue and an ambiguous story told with the style of a film noir, Dementia is a surreal experience. Although by today’s standards it isn’t that impressive, for the 1950s it was bold approach to storytelling. The Cohen Film Collection’s release of Dementia contains a new 2K restoration of the film from the 35MM negative, along with the alternate cut released as Daughter of Horror.
The surreal narrative follows a tormented woman during a single night in Los Angeles's skid row. The idea for the film came from a nightmare based on a nightmare told to Parker by his secretary, Adrienne Barrett, who he then cast in the role despite her not having any experience acting. The unnamed woman navigates the underworld at night despite a killer being on the loose. With her reaction to news of stabbing victims as well as the fact that the woman owns a knife, the audience is led to believe she may be the killer on the loose.
With no dialogue or clear narrative, much of Dementia is about the presentation of surreal situations in specific locations. Much of the movie simply follows the woman from one late night location to the next, meeting several unsavory characters along the way. The main interaction comes from a wealthy man (Bruno Ve Sota) introduced by a pimp. She follows the man to each location, before the woman’s slip away from sanity leads to a confrontation.
There isn’t much to Dementia, which runs just over an hour. It’s an experimental film, but there isn’t much beyond that experiment. Some variety can be found in Daughter of Horror, which includes a variety of sound effects in the silent story, but even that isn’t quite enough. While there is historical significance in Dementia, that doesn’t make the film interesting or fun to watch.
Along with the alternate version of Dementia and the 4K restoration, the Blu-ray includes a trailer for the film.
Entertainment Value: 3/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Special Features: 4/10