Night Tide

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Night Tide
Night Tide FilmPoster.jpeg
Was she human...
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Produced by Aram Katarian
Written by Curtis Harrington
Starring Dennis Hopper
Linda Lawson
Marjorie Cameron
Luana Anders
Marjorie Eaton
Music by David Raksin
Cinematography Vilis Lapenieks
Edited by Jodie Copelan
Virgo Productions
Distributed by Filmgroup
American International Pictures
Release date
  • 1961 (1961) (U.S.)
Running time
84 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25,000

Night Tide is a 1961 thriller film, written and directed by Curtis Harrington and starring Dennis Hopper. It was filmed in 1960, premiered in 1961, but was held up from general release until 1963. The film was restored by the Academy Film Archive in 2007.

Plot summary[edit]

Seaman Johnny Drake (Dennis Hopper), on shore leave, meets Mora (Linda Lawson) in a jazz club. She makes her living appearing as a mermaid in a sideshow attraction at the marina, operated by Captain Murdock (Gavin Muir). Mora, who lives in an apartment above the marina merry-go-round, and Johnny fall for each other. Everyone around them is wary of the romance, as her previous two lovers have died mysteriously.

Mora believes she is a descendant of the Sirens, mythic sea creatures who lure sailors to their deaths. From time to time a mysterious and seemingly sinister woman (Marjorie Cameron) appears and frightens Mora. She believes the woman is the leader of the mermaids, calling Mora to fulfill her destiny. Mora's origins seem to be driving her to commit murder by the full moon. Johnny is unable to believe his lover is capable of murder, but Mora herself seems more certain. During a diving trip on the day of the full moon, Mora cuts Johnny's breathing tube and he is forced to surface, leaving her below, where she swims away into the shadows to die herself in order to save Johnny from future harm.

When Johnny returns to the marina the next night, he sees that the lifeless body of Mora is now on display in the mermaid tank. Murdock appears, brandishing a gun. It was he who committed the murders and convinced Mora that she was an actual mermaid. Murdock himself was in love with Mora and his jealousy drove him to kill the men Mora was interested in. Mora had discarded her oxygen tank in the sea, and had drowned. In the ensuing struggle between Johnny and Murdock, the glass tank is shattered, and the water and debris pin Murdock down.

At the police station, Murdock confesses to the crimes and Johnny returns to his ship accompanied by the shore patrol. The one loose end to Murdock's story is that he denies any knowledge of the mysterious woman who had been frightening Mora. The police dismiss it as the man protecting her, but this is left open to other possibilities as well. It's also left open how Murdock retrieved Mora's body from the ocean where she herself committed suicide.


Harrington sold his original script, called The Girl from Beneath the Sea, to Corman in 1956.[1]

In order to film some of the underwater sequences in Night Tide, director Curtis Harrington gave detailed instructions to a cameraman who then shot the scenes underwater at the director's request.[2]

Harrington had previously worked with actress Cameron - his 1956 documentary The Wormwood Star is about her and her artwork.

The production company, Virgo, defaulted on their Pathe Lab loan of $33,793 and Pathé was preparing to foreclose on the picture. Roger Corman asked the lab to hold off on their legal actions to allow Filmgroup to distribute the film, guaranteeing Pathé $15,000 within 12 months of the film's release. Pathé agreed, and Filmgroup released it through AIP.[3]

The role of Mora the Mermaid (played by Lawson) was originally to be played by Susan Harrison, who had been the lead in Sweet Smell of Success (1957). Harrison, at the time a friend of director Harrington, initially agreed to do the role, but then reneged due to a personal relationship.[2]


  1. ^ 'MATADOR' IS EYED BY TWO STUDIOS: Allied and United Artists Are Discussing Plan to Sponsor Jointly Conrad Novel R.K.O. to Share Arness Of Local Origin By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 12 Mar 1956: 23.
  2. ^ a b "Retrospective in Terror: An Interview with Curtis Harrington - April 2005". The Terror Trap. 
  3. ^ Fred Olen Ray, The New Poverty Row: Independent Filmmakers as Distributors, McFarland, 1991, p 45-47

External links[edit]