night tide

In association with the estimable Film Foundation, the LA Film Festival presents a spanking new restored print of LA favourite Curtis Harrington’s debut feature, Night Tide (1961). It kicks off like a seaside noir, with sailor Dennis Hopper tooling around the night-time Venice promenade before wandering into the scene at a basement jazz club. Amidst the hipsters and hopheads he spies a mysterious and elegant young woman, who’s scared away by a scary old lady speaking a weird language.

It turns out the woman, Mora, is the mermaid on the amusement pier, but it might just be that she’s a mermaid in real life and that the Sea People are calling her back. Her last two boyfriends have been found washed up on the beach and everyone warns him he’s in grave danger. Hopper is awkward with the more prosaic lines, but displays flashes of method and his winning grin to good effect; totally independent and shooting on a tiny budget Harrington makes use of good set-dressing and locations to conjure some of the dread mystery of his hero Poe through effective atmospherics; but it all starts to stop making sense towards the end and in the final scene, the parochiality of the police station firmly dissipates the air of mythical mystery that otherwise makes the film such an appealing oddity.

Rating: 6.78/10

image: LA Film Festival