B&W, 1963, 84 mins.

Directed by Curtis Harrington

Starring Dennis Hopper, Linda Lawson, Luana Anders, Gavin Muir, Tom Dillon / Produced by Aram Katarian / Music by David Raksin / Cinematography by Vilis Lapenieks

Format: DVD - Image (MSRP $19.95)

Letterboxed (1.85:1) / Dolby Digital Mono

The first feature film by cult horror director Curtis Harrington (Games), this bizarre little tribute to both experimental cinema and Val Lewton's methods of "suggestive terror" is one of the more memorable independent films of the 1960s. Rarely seen in any form other than choppy TV screenings or blurry public domain titles, Night Tide was finally remastered for its laserdisc debut from the Roan Group and has now been given the same red carpet treatment for DVD.

Johnny (a very young Dennis Hopper), a sailor on shore leave, roams along the California coastal boardwalks and encounters many of the local residents. He meets and immediately falls in love with Mora (Linda Lawson), who poses as a mermaid in a local sideshow. Their romance takes a sinister turn when Johnny begins to suspect that Mora may in fact be a cursed sea creature who murders a hapless man during every lunar cycle.

Barely a horror film in the traditional sense, Night Tide is soaked in atmosphere from the opening frames. Harrington's skillful use of the desolate seaside locations (mostly shot around the Venice and Santa Monica Beaches) yields some terrific results, but the stately pacing and deliberately low key acting may put off drive-in monster buffs. Dennis Hopper fans in particular will be jarred to see the familiar stoner in what may be his most restrained performance ever, while the supporting cast manages to find quirky little shadings in what could have been thankless roles. Lawson makes a fetching mermaid of the deadliest kind, while the great, perpetually underused Luana Anders (Dementia 13, The Killing Kind) turns up as a more wholesome boardwalk girl. Most surprisingly, established Hollywood composer David Raksin (Laura) turns in a subtle, jazz-laced score perfectly in keeping with Harrington's dreamy imagery.

Like the laserdisc, Night Tide's DVD presentation is attractively matted and looks better than its fans could have ever expected. A few nicks and tears in the print aside, the black and white imagery remains clean and powerfully rendered. Extras include the theatrical trailer (talk about a tough film to sell!) and an informative, affectionate, and laid back commentary track with Harrington and Hopper reminiscing fondly about their youthful days shooting along the beach.

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