mon 27/09/2021

Blu-ray: Night Tide | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Night Tide

Blu-ray: Night Tide

Surreal sorcery from a Californian original, an early role from Dennis Hopper

Mysterious Mora (Linda Lawson) and innocent Johnny (Dennis Hopper)

Dennis Hopper’s first starring role, in Night Tide from 1961, as a naïve but curious young sailor bewitched by a siren, offers a strange mirror to his role as the evil Frank Booth in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986). If anything, he offers a preview of the bemused Jeffrey Beaumont played by Kyle McLachlan in Lynch's masterpiece.

Curtis Harrington made dark and wonderful work as an independent film maker, not least in Night Tide, now released in a 4K version, along with a very well-curated collection of eight of his short films, many of them as interesting in their own way as the more celebrated work of Kenneth Anger. There is a booklet rich in material from Harrington and others, and extras include an audio commentary with Harrington and Hopper made in 1998.

The interplay of innocence and experience, good and evil, is fundamental to American mythology, and runs through much of US horror and mystery. Night Tide has sailor Johnny, in his pristine almost child-like whites, falling for Mora (Linda Lawson), a beautiful and fatale woman who does a fake mermaid act on the Santa Monica pier. He progressively discovers that she isn't only an ersatz attraction but in some way a danger to his life. Harrington, in a striking and atmospheric visual style that owes a lot to the French and Italian New Wave as well as to Ingmar Bergman classics, works wonders with the slow encroachment of the unconscious on the curious and at first unsuspecting lad. He starts having terrible nightmares, not least being strangled by the woman he has fallen in love with, in the form of an octopus, the quintessential monster of the ocean deep, domain of unbridled imagination and danger.

Marjorie Cameron – a visual artist and mainstay of the Californian Alister Crowley scene – who is the subject of his surreal but powerful short (included as a bonus) The Wormwood Star (1956) plays the role of a mysterious Greek woman, a sorceress whose role in the story is never fully explained. The power of Harrington’s films derives no doubt from the fact that he didn’t just act with Kenneth Anger or make films for Roger Corman, but was himself well-versed in Jungian psychology, magic and sorcery. This release provides an excellent introduction to his weird but never less than fascinating work.

The interplay of innocence and experience, good and evil, is fundamental to American mythology


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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