"Come with me into the tormented, haunted, half-lit night of the insane..."
Description: Ed McMahon narrates the film's opening that sets the stage for a nightmarish events of The Gamin, a woman (Adrienne Barrett) who wakes up in skid-row hotel room in the horror production Dementia, aka Daughter of Horror (1955). He continues:
"This is my world. Let me lead you into it. Let me take you into the mind of a woman who is mad. You may not recognize some things in this world, and the faces will look strange to you. For this is a place where there is no love, no hope...in the pulsing, throbbing world of the insane mind, where only nightmares are real, nightmares of the Daughter of Horror!"
The Gamin was raised by an abusive, drunken father and a slut of a mother. She stabbed her father with a knife after he killed his unfaithful spouse. Consequently, The Gamin has learned to hate men and enjoys killing them.
One night, she wakes up in a cheap hotel in skid row, after having a nightmare where ocean waves engulf her while running on the beach. Rising from her bed, she gazes in the mirror of her dresser, takes out a switchblade knife from a drawer and then goes into the streets.
When a small newsboy (Angelo Rossitto) shows her a headline about a "Mysterious Stabbing," the woman reads the story and gives a knowing smirk, then tosses the paper and heads away down the street. Soon after, she is assaulted by a drunken wino (Gayne Sullivan), but is rescued by a police detective in a prowl car who pummels the man violently with a black jack. The woman laughs as the drunk is beaten, then leaves.
A street pimp, aka "The Evil One" (Richard Barron) approaches the woman and befriends her. When a limousine of a rich fat man (Bruno VeSota) pulls into view, the pimp negotiates a deal. The woman enters the car and accompanies the disgusting, cigar smoker to a series of jazz nightclubs. At the end of the evening, the woman returns to his apartment.
The rich man eats a greasy meal of fried chicken, smokes a cigar and pulls out a roll of dollar bills to entice the women into having sex. Grabbing her necklace, he pulls her close and tries to get a kiss, but the woman gives him a big surprise. She pulls out a switchblade, stabs him in the stomach and pushes the man and his money off his balcony. As he falls, he rips the pendant from her neck and drops with it to his supposed death on the pavement below.
The woman rushes down to the street to retrieve her jewelry but the dead man's grasp will not give it up. Amidst a crowd of black shrouded onlookers, the woman uses her switchblade and laboriously cuts off the man's hand at the wrist, stuffs the hand in her jacket and runs away from pursuing police cars. She hides the severed hand in a flower girl's basket.
"Run, daughter of horror, run from your crime. But behind you, the policeman with the face of your father, the face of your first victim. Pursuing you relentlessly in your haunted brain. Hunting you mercilessly through the twisted corridors of your tortured mind. The horror that will track you down. The horror that can destroy you. Run, run, run!... Guilty, guilty, guilty!" - Narrator
The woman is still being chased by the police when suddenly The Evil One pulls her into a building. It is a nightclub featuring Shorty Rogers and his Jazz band. The Evil One gives her an evening gown to wear and she wanders through the smoke-filled club enjoying the jazzy musical numbers.
While the woman stands on stage with the band, a police detective arrives and she is betrayed by the body of the rich man (now alive) who appears in a window with a police officer who points the man's bloody stump in her direction. Suddenly, her evening gown disappears and she is back in her normal clothes with her pendant hanging about her neck.
As she recoils in horror, the people in the club point accusatory fingers, laugh maniacally and start to encircle the woman as they grope for her throat. Then the woman awakes in her hotel room. She is wearing a black blouse, but no necklace. Was it all just a horrible dream?
The woman then looks about the room and sees the chain from her necklace dangling from a drawer in her dresser. She opens the drawer to find her pendant and a severed hand. Her pendant sits in the palm of the hand. Suddenly the fingers close and clutch the pendant tightly. She steps back in horror and screams hysterically. The End. Or is it?
"The pulse of the neon light like a hammer at your brain: tormenting you, haunting you, forcing you to think, forcing you to remember your guilt, your horror; forcing you to go back, back, back, into the terror that you're trying to forget. Back through the mists of time into the graveyard where your secret lies buried from the world." - Narrator
Note: Dementia: aka Daughter of Darkness (1955) is unique because it has no dialogue, just sound effects, a musical score by George Antheil, and the musical styling's of Shorty Rogers and His Giants. The narrator is only one heard throughout this classic horror flick. ("Only a dream, a dream of madness and of darkness. Or was it? Was it ONLY a dream?")
Directed by John Parker, the expressionist style film was released in 1955 as Dementia, Initially, the controversial film was pulled off the market, edited and then re-released as Daughter of Horror, this time with new narration by Ed McMahon (who went on to be the comic sidekick of late night talk show host Johnny Carson.)