Night Tide (1961)

Dennis Hopper is tormented by an octopus on a couch!
Dennis Hopper is tormented by an octopus on a couch!

Lonely sailor Johnny Drake (Dennis Hopper), on shore leave in Santa Monica, is attracted to the young woman named Mora (Linda Lawson) he sees at a jazz club. Johnny strikes up a friendship with her and discovers that Mora makes her living on the pier playing a mermaid in a sideshow attraction run by Captain Samuel Murdock (Gavin Muir).

Dennis Hopper plays Johnny
US one-sheet
US one-sheet poster

Johnny and Mora become closer, they hang out whenever he’s in town, and Johnny realises that Mora believes she is actually a siren. He is also told by Ellen (Luana Anders), the daughter of the merry-go-round operator, that two of Mora’s previous boyfriends went missing and some people think Mora killed them. Johnny doesn’t believe any of this, but he finds it hard to convince Mora she is suffering from some kind of delusion. It is only after tragedy strikes that Johnny discovers the truth, which is linked to the charming but manipulative Captain Murdock.

Don't trust Captain Murdock...
Don’t trust Captain Murdock…
Johnny becomes more and more attracted to Mora
Johnny becomes more and more attracted to Mora

I love this movie!

Set around Venice Beach and Santa Monica, NIGHT TIDE gains a lot by being based in these beach town locations, which lend the production a distinctive, quirky vibe.

US insert poster
US insert poster

A young-looking, handsome Dennis Hopper is really good as the likeable sailor protagonist, adding little bits method mannerisms into his performance. A lot of the time he’s just walking around the boardwalk, not doing a lot, but Hopper remains interesting to watch nonetheless. Linda Lawson is good too, imbuing Mora with a truly mysterious quality.

This is a great scene in the crashing waves under the pier
This is a great scene in the crashing waves under the pier
Johnny has his tarot cards read

Written and directed by Curtis (QUEEN OF BLOOD) Harrington, NIGHT TIDE has the same ‘feel’ as CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962): both are distinctive, unusual, low budget, dream-like movies that are a little rough around the edges but are both memorable viewing experiences.

Mora earns a living as a sideshow mermaid... but is she a real siren?
Mora earns a living as a sideshow mermaid… but is she a real siren?
Kino Lorber Blu-ray cover
Kino Lorber Blu-ray cover

Though NIGHT TIDE’s resolution is not supernatural in nature, the movie has made it onto the Monster Zone blog site because it features a brief nightmare scene, where we see Johnny tormented by an octopus! There’s also a dream scene in which Johnny sees Mona as a real mermaid.

Dennis Hopper accosted by an octopus!
Another shot from the Dennis-Hopper-and-octopus nightmare scene: why not?! It's fun!
Another shot from the Dennis-Hopper-and-octopus nightmare scene: why not?! It’s fun!
A mermaid's tail under the covers...
A mermaid’s tail under the covers…

The exposition at the end is clunky, but this is a minor quibble, as the film is atmospheric, arty and dreamy. It definitely sticks in the mind. Give NIGHT TIDE a watch and let it cast its spell on you…

Poor Mora...
Poor Mora…
VHS cover
VHS cover
US pressbook
US pressbook
Lobby card
DVD cover
DVD cover
Johnny at the funfair
Johnny at the funfair

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: