Night Tide – USA, 1961 – overview and reviews

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Night Tide is a 1961 American horror fantasy feature film, written and directed by Curtis Harrington (Ruby; The Dead Don’t Die; The Killing Kind; The Cat Creature; et al) and starring Dennis Hopper (Land of the Dead; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2; Queen of Blood). The title was inspired by a line from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem ‘Annabel Lee’.

Harrington managed to persuade top Hollywood composer David Raksin (The Hound of the Baskervilles, Laura, Whirlpool) to provide the film’s score for “virtually nothing” simply because he liked the movie.

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Night Tide was filmed on a budget of $50,000 in 1960, premiered in 1961, but was held up from general release until 1963 (see below).

The film was restored by the Academy Film Archive in 2007.

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On 27th January 2020, UK-based company Indicator/Powerhouse Films released Night Tide newly restored in 4K from the original camera negative as a limited edition package with Curtis Harrington shorts on a second disc.

Disc One: Night Tide

  • New 4K restoration
  • Original mono audio
  • Audio commentary with writer-director Curtis Harrington and actor Dennis Hopper (1998)
  • Audio commentary with writer and film programmer Tony Rayns (2020)
  • Harrington on Harrington (2018, 25 mins): wide-ranging archival interview with the filmmaker
  • Sinister Image: Curtis Harrington (1987, 57 mins): two episodes from David Del Valle’s series devoted to cult cinematic figures in conversation, featuring a career-spanning interview with the director
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

Disc Two: Dream Logic: The Short Films of Curtis Harrington

  • High Definition remasters
  • Original mono audio
  • Eight short films spanning Harrington’s seven decades as a filmmaker, including experimental works, documentaries and his career-bookending Edgar Allan Poe adaptations: The Fall of the House of Usher (1942, 10 mins); Fragment of Seeking (1946, 14 mins); Picnic (1948, 23 mins); On the Edge (1949, 6 mins); The Assignation (1953, 8 mins); The Wormwood Star (1956, 10 mins); The Four Elements (1966, 13 mins); Usher (2002, 37 mins)
  • Image gallery: production photography and a rare selection from Harrington’s personal collection
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 80-page book featuring new writing on Night Tide by Paul Duane, Curtis Harrington on Night Tide and the short films, archival articles by Harrington on horror cinema, experimental films and the making of Picnic, an overview of critical responses, Peter Conheim on the restoration of Night Tide, and film credits
  • Limited edition exclusive set of five facsimile lobby cards
  • Limited edition of 3,000 copies

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Plot:

Seaman Johnny Drake (Dennis Hopper), on shore leave, finds a “Mermaid” sideshow attraction at the marina, operated by Captain Murdock (Gavin Muir). The “Mermaid” Mora (Linda Lawson), who lives in a hotel above the marina merry-go-round (the movie was filmed at the Santa Monica pier) and Johnny fall for each other. Everyone around them is wary of the romance, as her previous lovers have died mysteriously…

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The production company, Virgo, defaulted on their Pathe Lab loan of $33,793 and Pathe was preparing to foreclose on the picture. Roger Corman asked the lab to hold off on their legal actions to allow Filmgroup to distribute the film, guaranteeing Pathe $15,000 within 12 months of the film’s release. Pathe agreed, and Filmgroup released through American International Pictures.

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night tide kino classics blu-ray

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  • 1080p/AVC encoded sourced from the 2007 restoration of the film by the Academy Film Archive
  • Audio Commentary by Dennis Hopper and director Curtis Harrington
  • Two Curtis Harrington Interviews from 1987
  • Trailers for Night TideThe Stranger, and White Zombie

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Night Tide is all about its hypnotic atmosphere. The pier where Mora works is sunny but desolate. Captain Murdock lives in a crumbling, not-yet-gentrified part of Venice Beach that wouldn’t be out of place in Eraserhead. The whole film has a dreamy undercurrent that obfuscates what’s real and what isn’t. It’s haunting, but in a subtle, uncertain way.” Blu-ray.com

“A most persuasive film, unmarred by its low budget.” John Stanley, Revenge of the Creature Features Movie Guide

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“Barely a horror film in the traditional sense, Night Tide is soaked in atmosphere from the opening frames. Harrington’s skillful use of the desolate seaside locations (mostly shot around the Venice and Santa Monica Beaches) yields some terrific results, but the stately pacing and deliberately low key acting may put off drive-in monster buffs.” Mondo Digital

“Despite its somewhat crude special effects and superlatively wacky storyline, Night Tide, like Carnival of Souls and the surprisingly neglected work Incubus (1966) starring William Shatner, is a work that still holds up today.  Bordering the line between American cinematic art and B-grade schlock, and being of interest to Occultniks, Night Tide is surely a work that deserves to have a larger cult following than it actually has.” Soiled Cinema

nice guys don't work in hollywood curtis harrington

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Image courtesy of VHSCollector.com

Night Tide Lobby Card

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Cast and characters:

  • Dennis Hopper … Johnny Drake
  • Linda Lawson … Mora
  • Gavin Muir … Capt. Samuel Murdock
  • Luana Anders … Ellen Sands
  • Marjorie Eaton … Madame Romanovitch
  • Tom Dillon … Merry-Go-Round Operator – Ellen’s Grandfather
  • H.E. West … Lt. Henderson
  • Ben Roseman … Bruno
  • Marjorie Cameron … Water Witch (as Cameron)

Technical details:

  • 86 minutes
  • Black and White
  • Aspect ratio: 1.66: 1
  • Audio: Mono (Westrex Recording System)

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