I’m going to let my cell phone keep screaming its alarm at me as I write this announcement (I’m not even going to answer whoever that is knocking at my door):
This week’s Feature: “Daughter of Horror” (1953/58)
DVD/58 Mins/Not Rated
If there’s a film that I can’t believe hasn’t gotten the Criterion treatment, it’s “Dementia/ Daughter of Horror”. There never has nor will there ever be a film like this, ever!
First off, let it be known that “Daughter of Horror/Dementia” is one of my Top 10 Favorite films of ALL TIME! (Especially the Dementia version).
I’m sure many of you remember many years ago when “Dementia” was featured at ISMN when I lived at Chatham 40 and I fell completely in love with it.
(Not! The only person who showed up that week was my friend Tawnya).
I was very familiar with the “Daughter of Horror” version which I had owned on VHS from Something Weird Video for quite some time, and couldn’t believe how awesome the original version was! Back then, finding a DVD copy of the out of print “Dementia” cost around $60 - $80. I was over joyed when someone finally was selling a copy cheap online.
(It’s pretty easy to find now.)
Well, for those of you who missed out, “Daughter of Horror” is the reworking of the film “Dementia” (1953) which was banned from theaters for many years. The biggest difference with “Daughter” is that about 8 minutes were cut, most noticeable is the scene where you once saw the corpse moving as she cuts off it’s hand (Too graphic for 1953), and where there once was not a single word spoken, is now filled with odd narration by a young Ed McMahon (!?!) long before The Tonight Show. (Acting as “The Sprit of Death”? The voice inside her head? Probably both.)
The extremely well shot, bizarre, pre-beatnik jazz scene, void of dialog noir film now had an extra level of camp.
(Hard to believe a film of this artistic and visual caliber has the same cinematographer as Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 From Outer Space!”)
Don’t get me wrong, I love both versions! Too me it’s more of a good thing and gives me more reason to revisit one of my favorite films.
Storyline (from IMDB):
As the narrator invites us to explore the horrors of an insane mind, a young woman wakes from a nightmare in a cheap hotel room. We follow her through the skid-row night and encounters with an abusive husband; a wino; a pimp and the rich man he panders for; a flashback to her traumatic childhood; violence; pursuit through dark streets; dementia. Filmed in film-noir style throughout; only the narrator speaks. Written by Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Some fav reviews:
Never heard of it, knew nothing about, watched it on a friend’s recommendation and was struck by how daring and experimental it was for the time it was made. I was expecting a real piece of 50’s cheese, but the further I got into it the more I realized it could not be so easily dismissed. Some of the nighttime black and white photography of the Gamine being pursued through city streets is right up there with THE THIRD MAN, and many of the images (especially the hacking off of a dead man’s hand) are shockingly indelible. I’d place it many rungs above Ed Wood and perhaps only a rung or two below Herk Harvey (director/co-star and primary creative force behind the great ultra low budget masterpiece CARNIVAL OF SOULS, recently reissued on a gorgeous Criterion Collection DVD). Included on the DVD presentation is the re-cut version DAUGHTER OF HORROR, with Ed McMahon (!) providing a hilariously pretentious voice-over that was meant to make the film more accessible to a mainstream audience. It’s a real hoot, one to play at parties to give your cinephile guests a laugh.
Give it a million dollar budget, and…, 3 January 2005
Author: jnselko from United States
This is one of those (exceptionally) rare very low budget films where you can see clearly that, if the director had had more time and more money, we would be discussing a classic “film”.
Better known to buffs of the odd, the obscure, and the strange as “Daughter of Horror”, in the tale as told we are witness to the unraveling of a mind. Like “Eraserhead”, the best of this sub-genre, it is difficult to tell where the madness starts and where reality ends- or, indeed, if any of what we see on screen is real at all. It is hard to get any sense of what is occurring from the Gamine’s point of view. Are the events happening to her? Is she dreaming? Hallucinating? The viewer (or, at least this viewer) is always a little off balance while watching this movie, and I think that that is what the director was aiming at.
I would go so far as to say that, within the budgetary constraints imposed, this movie is a masterpiece. As stated in the synopsis, this is a dark movie with no sympathetic characters, no attractive locales, no hope. Were it just a Film Noire murder story, it would still be a very good movie. As a descent into madness, it excels.
you have never seen anything like this before, 31 May 2001
Author: chrispi-2 from Los Angeles
This is one of the best and most intelligent films ever—although I don’t think I’ll be seeing it again anytime soon. I have never been so assaulted emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually by a movie. If you are looking for a fun and scary horror movie—this is NOT what you are looking for. This film is very disturbing. It is not gory, or overly graphic, just disturbing. The aesthetics of the film stretch back to early German Expressionism to 70s psychedelia. It is a bizarre mix of many things, most of which work perfectly. As you watch it, it’s very easy to start judging the movie and go “Oh God, it’s doing this or that”. There are definately times when the movie borders on badness. But it is always one step ahead of itself, and one step ahead of you, and one step ahead of any other movie I have ever seen. The things the director does are amazing—he does things that were so ahead of his time.
The portrait of the main character is amazing. I’ve never felt so close to a character who completely freaked me out, as I did to her. She is SCARY—and so human in a wierd way. And that’s why this movie was so good. It is not a black and white horror movie. It’s not a slasher flick. It is definately trying to tell you something. Whether the final message is feminist or sexist is up for debate. This film is so well done that it’s hard to tell whether it’s being purposeful or exploitative. It’s pointless to write more. You just have to see it.
Some final notes:
You will notice upon viewing, that this film is about a decade ahead of it’s time. It’s just so “damn amazing”, as someone once put it.
A little too dark, crazy and assaulting on the senses for the time and place, so you can see why this film was cursed from the get go.
The Kino DVD extras show lengthy research of the many bans and reject documents this film went through. It looks like a complete headache maze of frustration. Whoever did this research has my kudos.
Similar to Herk Harvey’s experience with “Carnival of Souls”, this was director John Parker’s first and only film due to the agonizing distribution and rejection.
If only there had been more. My mind can only attempt to imagine what other films and art that could’ve come from this brilliant well of talent.
(I poo poo you Tim Burton, if only your films could achieve this level of what you’re reaching for.)
Can you tell I love this movie?
Bonus Short Film:
While trying to think of a short film for this week’s “D” film, my thoughts turned to my roommates copy of “Doggy Poo”. It’s now or never I thought…
Quite charming actually, this award winning Korean claymation short is very beautifully shot as you watch a pile of poo contemplate it’s existence during it’s short life as it encounters and befriends a pile of mud and a leaf etc. I’m surprised that the rocks don’t talk. Two thumbs up! (I’ll be showing the English dubbed version. It’s funnier/”funner”.)
Time: Thursday April 12th @ 7:30 PM (or 7:00 PM if you want to see the next D&D cartoon).
Place: The Art City Mansion (Take a right off main street in Springville on 300 s and we’re the last place next the the train tracks and over pass.)
Plenty o parking. Friends welcome.
See you then!
love, BC Sterrett
(PS. To give credit where it’s due, The Demetia giffs came from http://littleplasticthings.tumblr.com/.)