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October 13th, 2011

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10:56 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: Night Tide
Night Tide is a movie that I've owned for years but never watched. Seriously, it's probably been since about 2004. It came in a small box set of B-movies issued by AMC, along with Carnival of Souls, The Brain that Wouldn't Die, and something else that I can't remember. Look, it's all the way in the other room, and that's like, fifteen feet away.

Anyway, I've made plans to watch it several times, but for one reason or another it simply has never happened. Finally having seen it, I don't know if I feel strongly about it either way. It's popular (for a movie made on $25,000 in 1961), and I think that's mostly due to the fact that it features a very young Dennis Hopper in the starring role.

Hopper plays Johnny, a fresh-faced sailor on shore leave who meets a beautiful, young woman named Mora in a jazz club. She's standoffish and aloof at first, but he persists, and she eventually relents (for a moment). She cuts the evening short, but he learns that she plays the mermaid in a local carnival sideshow.

The sideshow is owned by Captain Murdock, and when Johnny comes asking after Mora, Murdock tries to steer him away from her. Mora's been popular with the boys, he says, but somehow every man she's been involved with has died mysteriously. Mora believes that she is descended from the Sirens of Greek myth, and that she is involuntarily responsible for luring men to their deaths. It doesn't help that Mora is being stalked by some crazy lady who may (or may not) be the Queen of the Mermaids, come to recruit her. Is Mora a mermaid? Or a siren? Or what?

In the end, Captain Murdock confesses to committing all the murders in order to heighten the realism of the sideshow's mystique, but he doesn't come clean until after Mora's dead, thereby negating any possibility of a happy ending. And we never do get to find out who the crazy lady is.

I usually avoid giving away the endings of movies, but sometimes -- if I don't think anyone else will want to waste their time -- I do it. Night Tide isn't a bad movie, exactly, but it's nothing special. It's just a short, acceptably-plotted little suspense film. As I said, the budget was $25,000, and it looks fine, but you get what you pay for. I don't know if it was marketed as half of a double feature, but that would excuse it a little bit. I might also be a little miffed that it's not really a horror movie.

Dennis Hopper isn't bad in this one, but he really doesn't get any chance to stretch his abilities. Nobody else involved is particularly famous, though IMDB says that Peter Lorre would have played Murdock if he hadn't been so expensive. I'd have liked that a little better, though really, what this movie lacks is the supernatural element that was implied by its inclusion in the box set. Grrr.

When Roger Ebert reviews movies in print, he rates them on a scale of four stars, and he has often been accused of awarding stars too liberally. In response, he has said that two and a half stars equates to a "thumbs-down," and that's exactly where I'd place Night Tide. It's not actually bad, but what the hell kind of endorsement is that? You might as well not bother, unless you like Dennis Hopper or mermaid movies that aren't actually about mermaids.

Here's the trailer, but it's in the public domain so you might as well just watch the whole thing if you're interested.

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31 Days of Halloween: Night Tide - Garmonbozia for the soul.

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