Night Tide (1961)

“Sensual ecstasy becomes supernatural terror!” Dennis Hopper turns in a surprisingly restrained performance in this nice low-budget atmospheric thriller directed by Curtis Harrington. Hopper portrays “Johnny Drake,” a sailor on leave wandering around the Santa Monica pier who becomes infatuated with the mysterious “Mora” (Linda Lawson), the star of a “Mermaid” sideshow attraction run by booze-soaked “Captain Murdock” (Gavin Muir). Everyone Johnny encounters warns him that he is in some kind of imminent danger if he continues to pursue a relationship with Mora (two of her previous lovers drowned in the ocean). And yet, in a severe lapse of judgment, Johnny decides to go on a scuba diving excursion with Mora! Night Tide gives off an offbeat Bohemian-style vibe with good use of the Santa Monica and Venice Beach locales (although one scene was kind of ridiculous and reminded me of Bela Lugosi flailing around with that fake octopus in Bride of the Monster!). Harrington admitted in interviews that classic Val Lewton movies such as Cat People (1942) and The Leopard Man (1943) influenced his directing style. Peter Lorre was reportedly considered for the role of “Captain Murdock” but the producers couldn’t afford his salary demands. Night Tide was released by American International Pictures on a double bill with The Raven. It actually reminded me a little of Carnival of Souls (1962). Useless Trivia: Harrington directed the 1978 TV movie Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell.

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