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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…