I’ve been an admirer of Curtis Harrington’s film making ever since discovering Night Tide (starring Dennis Hopper) many years ago. Night Tide has an eerie surreal quality that recalls the films of Val Lewton and B-movie mindfuckers like Carnival Of Souls. It’s an experimental movie in the guise of a horror film in which the horror doesn’t manifest in overt shocks as much as is in the unsettling sensation of the senses deranged.
Harrington’s film work has been getting increased attention over the years as critics and film buffs have come to the revelation that his vision was unique, compelling and subversively avant-garde. It was with great relish that I opened up the pages of his posthumous memoir, Nice Guys Don’t Work In Hollywood, which is being released on June 18 by Drag City. It’s a fascinating read that anyone who has tried to maintain their integrity and sanity while working within a corporate-controlled art medium will find both amusing and painfully familiar.
Here’s some background on Harrington from Drag City’s bio:
What other film director has a) created avant-garde films and was part of Kenneth Anger’s inner circle, b) directed critically acclaimed and cult-adored horror films like Night Tide and Games, and c) directed episodes of Charlie’s Angels and Dynasty? The answer can only be Curtis Harrington.
Starting in the midst of film’s 1940s avant-garde heyday, Harrington made two deeply intuitive and evocative films: Fragment of Seeking, and Picnic, which were heralded by the likes of Maya Deren and Christopher Isherwood. He became a Hollywood insider, working as assistant for Jerry Wald while still keeping a foot in the world of experimental film, collaborating with Kenneth Anger on Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. As a director, he made the cult classic Night Tide, worked in the Roger Corman stable, and helmed several distinctive horror films including Games and What’s the Matter With Helen? In the 1980s he began what he called his descent down the “slippery slope” of television work and soon found himself directing episodes of Charlie’s Angels and Dynasty. [I think they mean the 1970s]
His career was a constant struggle between his belief in the art of film and the demands of the movie business. He was one of the only directors who survived both worlds and lived to tell the tale.
For more info on Nice Guys Don’t Work In Hollywood check out Drag City’s website.
In this episode of 1980’s cable TV show Sinister Image (aka Cult People), film historian David Del Valle interviews Curtis Harrington.
And here’s the wonderfully wacked-out Night Tide with a semi-dazed Dennis Hopper wrestling with all kinds of mumbo-jumbo. In glorious black and white and featuring Marjorie Cameron in an extremely creepy cameo role.