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May 08, 2007

Night Tide

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Curtis Harrington - 1961
Genius Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Had it not been for the online connections made by people who write about film, many of us would have been unaware of the death of Curtis Harrington on May 6. There are a few articles and interviews with Harrington that can be found online. Tim Lucas has an overview of Harrington's life that I recommend. My thoughts on Harrington were joggled last week when I saw the Kenneth Anger films on DVD. Harrington photographed Anger's Puce Moments and appeared in Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.

Around 1974, I was a student volunteer at the Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art. Charles Silver, Associate Curator, was generous in allowing me to see any 16 mm film in the Museum's collection. I wrote a paper on Harrington's 1949 short film, On the Edge. Thanks to Silver, I was able to watch the film several times on the flatbed Steenbeck viewer. I don't remember what I wrote other than that I did a shot by shot breakdown. Harrington's film is about a man, an old woman, and a runaway ball of yarn. I am hoping that someone collects Harrington's short films onto a DVD. Sadly, it is too late for a filmmaker's commentary.

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Because it is part of a low budget DVD collection of horror films that I picked up, I have Harrington's first feature, Night Tide, on hand. If you haven't seen it, there is a DVD version that is of higher quality. Additionally that DVD has a commentary track by Harrington and star Dennis Hopper. Made in 1961, Harrington's film is closer in spirit to the films produced by Val Lewton in the Forties. The plot is similar to The Cat People, but with Hopper as a sailor in love with a woman who believes she is a mermaid. There is a scene where Hopper runs through a run down section of Santa Monica, pursuing a mysterious woman. The scene made me think again of the man running in On the Edge.

A devotee of Edgar Allan Poe, Harrington named his first feature from a line in Poe's "Annabel Lee". Harrington's first personal short film was based on The Fall of the House of Usher. His final work was a personal film from the same source, titled Usher. That Harrington returned to Poe one last time provides a symetry for one of the few people to straddle both experimental filmmaking and Hollywood productions.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at May 8, 2007 01:43 PM


This is such a great film!

Posted by: Kimberly at May 8, 2007 03:51 PM

A wonderful little film, Night Tide. Buy the widescreen new DVD with the commentary. It is really interesting, not only concerning the making of the film but other aspects of Hollywood, the studios and the independents. This film haunted me since childhood. What films could Harrington have made if only he had studio money and support?

Posted by: sheena at June 5, 2007 11:30 PM