NIGHT TIDE 1961
Directed by Curtis Harrington
This film is the very first feature film to star a very young Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider, Blue Velvet). The story: a lonely sailor, Johnny, meets the beautiful, mysterious Mora (Linda Lawson) who performs as a mermaid in a carnival side-show at the Santa Monica Pier. After they become lovers, Johnny discovers that Mora's previous two boyfriends inexplicably disappeared. As his suspicions grow, Mora's doomed past is slowly revealed. In his first leading role, Hopper is captivating as the naive and eager Johnny. Curtis Harrington's NightTide is hypnotic and eerie, macabre and haunting.
This is no ordinary cult film. It's a film from the American underground with a supernatural mood, and it's an early example of indie cinema. Shot in 1960, it's also a strange artefact of its time. Night Tide was written and directed by Curtis Harrington, a member of the experimental avant-garde of the '50s, but also a pal of the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley. Shot with almost no money, and filmed on authentic locations around crumbling Venice, California, it has a wonderfully loose, lyrical quality.
In a way Night Tide isn't really a horror movie. It is something in between a fairy tale and a poetic slice of bohemian life... because after all, it was shot on real locations and captures the bongo drums and beatnik coffee-house atmosphere. It's something in between an otherworldly tale and a documentary of the early 60s. The music score is by the famous David Raksin (Laura), and it's also inventive and offbeat. This film was totally ignored after it was made in the US, and only got recognition after it played here in Europe at the Venice film festival.