Friday, December 16, 2011

Night Tide

Curtis Harrington’s debut feature kicks off as 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 younger woman, Mora, is the amusement pier mermaid, but it might just be that she’s also 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 the sailor 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, and gets a great octopus dream. Totally independent and shooting on a tiny budget, Harrington makes use of good set-dressing, locations and effective atmospherics to conjure some of the dread mystery of his hero Poe; but sense starts to drift away towards the end and the parochiality of the police station in the final scene firmly dissipates the air of mythical mystery that otherwise makes the film such an appealing oddity.

d/sc Curtis Harrington p Aram Katarian ph Vilis Lapenieks, Floyd Crosby ed Jodie Copelan pd Paul Mathison m David Raksin cast Dennis Hopper, Linda Lawson, Gavin Muir, Luana Anders, Marjorie Eaton, Tom Dillon, H.E. West.
(1961, US, 84m, b/w)
posted by tom newth at

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