Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Night Tide (1961) Fringe Noir/Quasi Noir

Night Tide is one of those fringe/quasi noirs. As the Motion Picture Production Code weakened and B unit productions ceased at the major studios independent poverty row and low budget film creators were allowed more artistic freedom.

So those Film Noir that went too far over the line depicting violence started getting classified as Horror, Thriller (even though they were just say, showing the effects of a gunshot wound, or dealing with weird serial killers, maniacs, and psychotics, etc.). Those that went too far depicting sexual, drug, torture, etc., situations were being lumped into or classed as various Exploitation flicks, (even though they are relatively tame comparably to today's films). The the noir-ish films that dealt with everything else, except Crime, concerning the human condition were labeled Dramas and Suspense. Those that tried new techniques, lenses, etc., were labeled Experimental. Some films are so so bad in all aspects that they acquire the "so bad it's good" Cult status. What was happening is Classic Noir was beginning to morph into Neo Noir.

Night Tide is a thriller written and directed by Curtis Harrington (What's the Matter with Helen? (1971), Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972)) and shot in the noir style. Cinematography was by Vilis Lapenieks (The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Fallguy (1962), and Floyd Crosby (High Noon (1952), Man in the Dark (1953), Shack Out on 101 (1955), I Mobster (1959)). Music was by David Raksin (Laura (1944), Fallen Angel (1945), Force of Evil (1948), Whirlpool (1950), The Big Combo (1955)).

The film stars Dennis Hopper (Naked City TV Series (1958–1963), River's Edge (1986), Blue Velvet (1986), Red Rock West (1993), True Romance (1993)) as Johnny, Linda Lawson (Mike Hammer TV Series (1958–1959), Peter Gunn TV Series (1958–1961), 77 Sunset Strip
TV Series (1958–1964)) as Mora, Marjorie Cameron as Madame Romanovitch, Luana Anders as Ellen Sands, (Reform School Girl (1957), Dementia 13 (1963), The Two Jakes (1990)), Gavin Muir (Nightmare (1942), Chicago Deadline (1949))  as Captain Murdock, and Marjorie Eaton as Madame Romanovitch.

A sailor on shore leave, Johnny Drake (Dennis Hopper) meets Mora (Linda Lawson) in the Blue Grotto a waterfront jazz club. Mora is a mermaid at an amusement pier sideshow. Captain Murdock is the sideshow's owner and barker.

Johnny (Hopper)

Mora (Lawson)
Mora and Johnny hit it off, but all the denizens of the amusement pier wonder if Johnny will be the next victim of Mora's curse. It seems that all her previous boyfriends die. Mora believes that she is a descendant of the Sirens  mythic ocean creatures who lure men to their deaths.

As Mora and Johnny's relationship grows stronger Mora is afraid that on the night of the full moon she will kill Johnny. During a diving trip with Johnny on the day of the full moon Mora cuts Johnny's air line so that he must surface, while she drowns herself. By sacrificing herself Johnny will live.

When Johnny visits the Mermaid sideshow the next night he sees Mora's lifeless body in the tank. A deranged Captain Murdock confronts Johnny with a gun. It was a jealous Murdock who was killing Mora's suiters and who convinced her that she was an actual mermaid.


Johnny and Captain Murdock (Muir) 

The film is shot in the Noir style and again, is a good example of how at the end of the Classic Noir and Motion Picture Production Code era combined with the switch of B unit Film Production into TV Productions, the Noir style began to slowly diffuse/fuse into genres other than pure Crime, though here there is a Crime element linked to sort of a bogus Fantasy/Occult con, in this respect it's similar to Nightmare Alley (1947), and The Amazing Mr. X (1948). Screencaps are from Youtube. 6/10

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