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Monday, September 28, 2015

Too Fragile For AIP?


Night Tide (1963) A Sleeper Finally Awake on Blu-Ray

A fascinating little art movie that nibbled around edges of American-International's exploitation schedule in 1963, Night Tide was among "Filmgroup" product overseen by Roger Corman, the indie outfit his thumb-of-nose at Jim and Sam's dominance of the cheap-thrill market. Spring 1963 promised a Filmgroup slate to include Battle Beyond The Sun, Dementia 13, and The Terror, each of horror/sci-fi backdrop, or at least to be sold that way by distributing AIP, a strong arm Corman needed for efficient delivery of output to theatres (Nicholson/Arkoff by '63 had exchanges in most keys with strategically placed sales staff headed by Milton Moritz). Presence throughout the marketplace put pressure on AIP to keep pipelines full, but there was only so much Jim/Sam could produce in-house, thus deals with Corman and other lone wolves to supply product for distribution.


Corman was known for an open mind toward challenging content. He'd begun with flesh-and-spurs or bug-eye monsters, but stayed hopeful that he'd rise to acclaim of Euro arties making inroad by the early 60's. Night Tide, written and directed by Curtis Harrington, had dreamy vibe of imports, and but for English dialogue spoke, could almost go out as foreign. Trouble was claw-hammer selling that would lump it with genre co-features and mislead customers who paid for spacemen, goose-bumps, or both. Season hope was hung on The Raven, another Poe adapt that came in like a lion for early '63 dates, prompting Nicholson pledge to "father the orphan season" of February through May with four releases that would include Night Tide. This announcement came 2/4, Night Tide ashore but weeks later in Detroit as second feature to Battle Beyond The Sun, a cut-rate ride to orbit. "$7,000 or near" was adjudged "fair" (Variety) for a single frame the combo lasted at the Adams Theatre, though following week adjustment brought the figure down to $6,000. An oldie pair that followed, The Rack and Africa Ablaze (formerly Something Of Value), did better by a thousand.


From this point, Night Tide was judged largely by company it kept. A March pairing with The Raven did "nice" in Boston, but back-seating Battle Beyond The Sun in Frisco saw a "bare" $3,800 in receipts. Part of trouble was trade labeling of Night Tide as sci-fi, which it was not, plus problem of critics so far overlooking a film that needed ballast from opinion-makers. Closest support of that sort came from Sydney, Australia, its annual festival for "bluebloods" including Night Tide among guest-pics from other countries. Submit to the San Francisco Festival for November 1963, however, dealt a cruel blow, Night Tide rejected by the selection committee, despite a final slate to reach "plateau of dullness," according to Variety. Opening night selection may have put the hex on ones to follow: Columbia's taxing war epic, The Victors, directed by Carl Foreman.


Night's tide might have turned if art housing had embraced it in 1963, or after, when Curtis Harrington got notice for studio films he directed. Like a lot of second features, Night Tide would end up more walked out on than sat through, action audiences put off because it wasn't the thriller they bargained for. Posters should have alerted them, AIP at least honest enough to tender the show as "Eerie, Strange" (which it was), and "Macabre" (an argument could even be made as to that), but teaming Night Tide with Battle Beyond The Sun was a cinch to let down kids whose coin bought most admissions. A sort-of cult developed in wake of AIP's 9-64 packaging of Night Tide for TV syndication, late nights a right format for unique appeal it had. Now there is happily a Blu-Ray from Kino, licensed by writer/historian David (The Dawn Of Technicolor) Pierce, and mastered from the camera negative in correct widescreen ratio. At long last, Night Tide, always in the Public Domain (Filmgroup features were never registered), can be seen to best advantage on Blu-ray.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

A late show perennial back in the day, always tucked into the weekend horror double feature. Even as a disappointed 'Monster Kid', I kinda liked the low key artsy vibe.

9:21 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

If we had it on TV down here, I don't remember. Actually, I was glad to see it for the first time on such a nice Blu-Ray, which I highly recommend.

9:58 AM  

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