Night Tide (1961)

Night Tide is an effective low budget horror that works mainly thanks to the surreal and creepy atmosphere. The movie somewhat unique as it handles a subject rarely seen in horror movies; that being the legend of the mermaid (the only other one I’ve seen is 2001’s She Creature). The film is directed by Curtis Harrington who directed a handful of low budget horror movies in the sixties and seventies and obviously has some talent; as the low budget of this one is excellently masked by his stylish direction and constantly fascinating plot line. The film focuses on a young navy man by the name of Johnny Drake. He spots the captivating Mora in a bar and gets chatting to her, eventually deciding he likes her and the feeling is mutual. Mora is a strange girl and this is highlighted by the fact that for a job, she wears a fake fish tail and sits in a tank that looks like it’s filled with water to fool circus-goers into believing she is a mermaid. However, it’s not long before Johnny comes to believe she could be a real mermaid…

One of the most notable things about this film is the early role for the great Dennis Hopper. It’s somewhat different to the roles he would come to be known for; and while the performance is somewhat understated and the young man was not a master of his craft in 1961; it’s still a very good role and the actor convinces excellently as the naive young seaman. Director Curtis Harrington slowly builds the plot line as the film goes along and constantly draws us into the mystery. The fact that the film is based on a mythology not often used ensures that the film is more interesting than it might have been otherwise, and some attempt is made to build this mythology via a conversation between two of the leading characters; although I would have preferred a little more on the interesting back-story. The film is very intriguing for the first hour and after that it does go off the boil a little and the final third is not so good. Still, the ending (while slightly disappointing), is well done and intriguing enough. Overall, this is a very good little horror film and is well worth seeing!