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Night Tide - Night Tide( Blu Ray boxset) [Powerhouse - 2020]

Appearing in the early 1960ís Night Tide stands as one of the more bizarrely distinctive and unique genre films of the decade- itís a heady mix of drama-romance, fantasy, murder-mystery and horror with a decidedly atmospheric seaside boardwalk setting. The film also has several firsts- itís the first film role from Dennis Hopper, and itís the first feature-length film from cult director Curtis Harrington- who would later go on to helm the likes of Who Slew Auntie Roo, Ruby, and The Killing Kind. From Powerhouse films here we have a double Blu Ray release of this oddity- with the set feature commentaries, extras, and a collection of short films from Harrington.

Night Tide( aka Girl from Beneath the Sea) came out in 1961- and itís fair to say itís a very daring & unusual first feature film to the say the least. The black & white captured film follows the love story between young sailor Johnny Drake( Denis Hopper), and boardwalk performer Mora( Linda Lawson) who works as a mermaid- but the twist is she may actually be a real one. The jazz scored film unfolds in a fairly slow, considered and atmospheric manner- with most of the film's runtime been carried on or around Venice Beach boardwalk. The cross blending of film genres here is often a little haphazard & uneven, meaning itís certainly not a film for everyone- but if your looking for a very distinct genre picture from the 1960s this is most certainly for you.

The film begins with bolshy/ happy-go-lucky sailer Drake making his way into a beachside downstair bar- he captures the eye of mysterious brunette Mora- tries to buy her a drink, but she refuses- just when heís starting to wear her down a sinister women steps from the shadows of the club, speaks to her in a strange language- then Mora runs off. Drake follows, and when they get to her apartment- located over a merry-go-round, she agrees to cook him breakfast the next morningÖand the whirlwind romance unfolds. We find out  that Mora works for aging retired British naval man Capt Samuel Murdock(Gavin Muri)-who charges the public 25 cís to see her with a mermaid tail costume on. As the film goes on we learn that she may be an actual mermaid and that sheís possible murdered two previously suiters by drowning them at sea. The film, like a collection of grounded fish, flip-flops between drama romance, more moody & eerier fare, with darts into heady fantasy, slight touches of horror & dread. All making it such an unusual proposition.

The acting is rather mixed- Hopper is ok as the pushy & punchy sailer, though he lacks both conviction & depth. Lawson as the mysterious Mora is better, balancing nicely sultry appeal, aloofness, and self-doubt/ fear. Best of all is Muri as Capt Murdock- making a very believable washed-up & boozy sea farer- whose both trying to live off Mora gimmick, as well as protect her. The locations are great with Harrington capturing the garish fun & grimy rundown-ness of the boardwalk, and the dramatically breathtaking-yet- at -times cruel sea & beachscapes. The only thing that slightly unbalances the film's is the jazz-tinged soundtrack- which at times feels a little too bight & brash for the more dark and moody tones of the film.


Moving onto this new double-disc Blu Ray set- and on the first disc, we get the film, and a handful of extras, and the second disc focus in on Harrington shorter experimental/ more arty films. The new 4k restoration print looks very good- with the black & white looking wonderful crisp & sharp- the print has a great definition, with as youíd hope with the monochrome stock there's great depth of shadow & shade. The new extra on the first disc is a commentary track with writer and film programmer Tony Rayns- this track sees him starting off discussing the two occasions he met the director, before going onto talk about Harrington's career in general, and how the film came about. As we go through the track he discusses the cast, and how the director originally wanted Peter Lorre to play the part of Capt Murdock, he goes onto discuss the occult references in the film and more. On the whole, itís a good track, though he does dart around a bit in a fairly erratic way- but I guess that makes it a less predictable track, which fits the film itís self.
The other extras on this disc are archival- first, we get a 1998 commentary track from the director & Hopper, a twenty-minute stand-alone interview with Harrington from 2018, two episodes of 1980ís cult film series Sinister Image talking about Harrington career. We get an original trailer and image gallery.

Moving onto the second disc in the set- and this features eight short films by Harrington from between 1942( when he was fourteen) and 2002- these each of these runs between six and thirty-six minutes. The collection is bookend by two Edgar Allan Poe adaptions- The Fall of the House of Usher & Usher- the six in between films go-between finding a young man stalking a women through a house before getting a macabre surprise, a mysterious beach journey, a documentary about the four elements used for industrial production, and a few more eerier, arty & occultic detail edged shorts. Also on this is disc is an Image gallery featuring production photography and a rare selection from Harringtonís personal collection. On the whole, the disc shows Harrington development & growth as artists- all making for a fascinating trip- though it might have been nice to have some sort of featurette discussing the shorts, and how each came about- though I believe these are covered in the eighty-page book that comes with the finished set.

In finishing Powerhouse have done a splendid job with this double Blu Ray release- bringing together one of the more distinctive & unusual genre films of the 1960ís- some neat extras old & new, and of course the fascinating collection of short films- that chart the talent, vision, and development of Harrington as a filmmaker.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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