On leave in a shore side town, Johnny (Dennis Hopper) becomes interested in a young dark haired woman. They meet and he learns that she plays a mermaid in the local carnival. After strange occurrences, Johnny begins to believe that she may actually be a real mermaid that habitually kills during the cycle of the full moon. Restored and remastered in high definition from the George Eastman House.
No ordinary cult film, Night Tide
covers a variety of different waterfronts. It's a film from the American underground, it's a horror movie, and it's an early example of independent cinema (before there was such a term). Shot in 1960, it's also a strangely haunting artifact of its time. Night Tide
was written and directed by Curtis Harrington, a member of the experimental avant-garde of the '50s who went on to make the atmospheric shocker Games
and many an episode of Dynasty
. Mounted on the cheap, and shot on authentic locations in Santa Monica and crumbling Venice, California, Night Tide
has a loose, lyrical quality not found outside Cassavetes and Godard films of the same era.
Dennis Hopper, whose youthful looks and Method style were still intact at this point, plays an innocent sailor at liberty in a coastal town; he falls for a girl who plays a mermaid at the sideshow. Or is she really a mermaid? Inspired by Val Lewton's horror classic Cat People, Harrington cooks up a supernatural stew with the suggestion that the willowy lass is one of the "Sea People," called back to her ocean home by a weird sea witch (played by a real-life occult celebrity called Cameron). Yet Night Tide only occasionally feels like a horror movie; with its naturalistic exteriors, bongos, and coffeehouse atmosphere, it's more a slice of poetic bohemia. Luana Anders, who should have had a major movie career but later became a B-movie leading lady, is wonderfully fresh as the good girl, and the music score by Hollywood pro David Raksin (Laura) is inventive and offbeat. Shown at the Venice Film Festival in 1961, the film did not secure a U.S. release until 1963, when its New-Wave-ish style probably looked less innovative. Seen today, Night Tide is both a lovely mood piece and a look back at a peculiar moment in American moviemaking, and either way a bit of low-cost enchantment. --Robert Horton
--This text refers to the