Directed by John Parker

Starring Adrienne Barrett, Bruno Ve Sota, Ben Roseman, Richard Barron

Horror/Psychological, 54 mins, USA, cert 12.


Released in the UK on Blu-Ray, DVD, iTunes and Amazon Prime by BFI on 19th October


Whatever your view on the merits or pitfalls of DEMENTIA, what is startling about the opening on the newly restored edition is a prolonged quote from Preston Sturges informing you that what is about to follow is a piece of art, and highlighting the subjective nature of opinion.


What does follow is a journey into the night of an unknown women identified only in the credits as ‘The Gamine’ (Adrienne Barrett).


She wakes in a hotel room, before journeying through the city – plagued by vivid dreams of her parents and newspaper stories of a murderer on the loose alongside undertones of domestic abuse and violence towards women.


The line between reality and the gamine’s own psyche become extremely blurred with the two worlds merging into one in a purposefully dis-jointed and occasionally incoherent manner.


Made in 1953, John Parker’s controversial (at the time) film took time to, ironically, see the light of day. It was originally conceived as a short and based on a dream. Both of these latter factors are clear to see, from the slender running time to the fragmented plot strands via the haunting score that serves as a narrator in the original version. For aside from one character’s cackle of laughter, DEMENTIA is a throwback to silent cinema which relies heavily on its visuals.


Said visuals range from the surreal to the disturbing to one particular police chase that makes sublime use of a spotlight, beautifully framing our anti-heroine’s paranoia in crisp black and white, before culminating in a macabre ending that may a key plot element. But then, have we left The Gamine’s fragile mind?


The potential interpretations stemming from the ambiguous narrative are plentiful which makes for an interesting and thoughtful historic piece. Not that any opinion apparently matters.


EXTRAS: SD and HD presentations, commentary by Diabolique magazine editor-in-chief Kat Ellinger, DAUGHTER OF HORROR – a re-release of the film with added narration, Trailers from hell: Joe Dante Trailers on DAUGHTERS OF HORROR, Stills & publicity gallery, ALONE WITH MONSTERS short film, Before & After: Restoring Dementia a feature looking at the restoration.


Phil Slatter.


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