A woman (Adrienne Barrett) lies on her bed in a hotel room in the big city, asleep. Suddenly, she sits bolt upright, eyes wide - it must have been a dream. She is a woman with a guilty secret, something in her past - or maybe her future - that has twisted her mind, and as she cannot get back to sleep, she gets up and walks over to the chest of drawers, staring all the while at her reflection in the mirror above it. Inside the top drawer is a dagger, which she takes out and turns over in her hands, then ventures out of the room and into the night, unaware of the terror which awaits...
Dementia was essentially a silent movie, as none of the characters speak any dialogue and the most you hear out them is the odd peal of laughter or scream. However, in the version of this film called Dementia, you don't get the narration either, while in the Daughter of Horror incarnation Ed McMahon contributes an suitably over the top voiceover - "Do you know what horror is?!" The narration tends to overemphasise the action, and was patently added to clear up confusion, but either one has a tone of delirium that is entirely fitting.
It's pretty obvious from the start this will end with a clichéd "only a dream - or was it?" climax (maybe it wasn't so much of a cliché in 1955), but the fun of the film is the weirdness it packs in on its way there. One of the rare movies that takes place entirely at night, it runs just under an hour yet manages to be more memorable than many works twice that length. Most of it features the woman wandering the streets, meeting, say, a newspaper vendor played by Angelo Rossitto (which was his day job when he wasn't acting) who sells papers with the headline "Mysterious Stabbing".
A bit of plot foreshadowing there. As the woman, who is never named but has a beatnik quality, avoids drunks and down and outs, at one point the witness to a police beating that she reacts to with, yes, laughter, she presently meets up with wealthy Bruno VeSota who takes her for a night on the town. He seems to be treating her as if she were some kind of prostitute, but after an evening of taking her out to nightclubs, they go to his apartment where he... helps himself to a chicken dinner.
However, we have seen the woman is disturbed in a bizarre graveyard flashback where she is taken to see the graves of her parents by a man with an obscured head. There we find out the source of her psychosis: she witnessed her father murdering her mother and then she proceeded to bump him off in an impulsive act. It's that old movie chestnut that madness excuses any aberrant behaviour, but here writer and director John Parker is more concerned with weaving a tapestry of paranoia and shame, something he does with low budget aplomb. Dementia is filled with quirks, and sustains the interest - any longer might have been too much to take. Music by George Antheil, featuring Marni Nixon on "Aaah-aaah-aaah!" vocalisations. This one is also notable as the film that the cinemagoers are watching in the original The Blob when they're attacked.