Night Tide (1961)

Night Tide
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Written by Curtis Harrington
Phoenix Films
First viewing/YouTube

Mora: Yes, I love the sea most of all. But I’m afraid of it, too.

Johnny Drake: I guess we’re all a little afraid of what we love.

This is the kind of dreamy “horror” movie that Val Lewton used to make – albeit on a higher budget.

Johnny Drake (Dennis Hopper) is a lonely sailor on leave.  At a coffeehouse, he spots Mora, a dark-haired beauty, sitting alone .  He tries to chat her up but she would prefer to listen to the music.  He is nothing if not persistent and follows her until she eventually becomes more friendly.  He learns she is an attraction in the pier amusement park appearing as a mermaid.  She has a strange affinity with the sea.

They fall in love.  Soon Johnny becomes acquainted with the very strange people surrounding Mora.  All warn him that her two previous boyfriends were found drowned. He is not dissuaded.  Eventually he begins to wonder if she really is a mermaid.

Far from being a prequel to Splash (1984), this movie portrays mermaids as menacing creatures who lure sailors to their doom.  The potential that Mora is one gives Johnny some pretty horrific nightmares.  This movie is strangely hypnotic.  On the other hand, most of the acting other than Hopper’s is fairly stilted and the pacing could have been better.  On balance, I’m glad I saw this unique little film.


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