“Mora is quite dangerous to you.”
A sailor on leave (Dennis Hopper) falls in love with a beautiful woman named Mora (Linda Lawson) who works for a carnival barker (Gavin Muir) as a sideshow mermaid attraction. When Johnny (Hopper) learns from a merry-go-round operator (Tom Dillon) and his granddaughter (Luana Anders) that Mora’s last two lovers have mysteriously died, he wonders if his own life may be in danger, and seeks input from a tarot card reader (Marjorie Eaton).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Dennis Hopper Films
- Obsessive Love
- Star-Crossed Lovers
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “peculiar low-budget, low-key horror-fantasy was the first commercial feature of former experimental filmmaker Curtis Harrington,” who later directed the GFTFF-listed titles Planet of Blood / Queen of Blood (1966), What’s the Matter With Helen? (1971), and Who Slew Auntie Roo? (1972). He points out that “the plot owes much inspiration to Val Lewton’s Cat People,” while “stylistically, it is obviously influenced by Cocteau” given that “in approach, the mood piece is a mix of the surreal (perhaps this is Hopper’s dream) and avant-garde.”
He concludes that while the film is “always interesting and the ending is satisfying,” it “could use a few jolts that would at least temporarily turn Hopper’s dream into a nightmare.”
Unfortunately, I disagree with Peary that this film is “always interesting.” While it’s atmospheric and strives hard to be intriguing, the dialogue is dull and it simply plods along. Hopper is presented as a man obsessively (perhaps stupidly) in love with a beautiful cipher:
… while Anders pines away too-obviously for Hopper (back up love interest, anybody?):
… and “Captain Murdock” (Muir) is simply creepy (wait until you hear the bizarre exchange he has with a cigar-chomping, bare-chested masseuse).
Writer/director Harrington had amazing access to prime location shooting spots (I felt a ton of nostalgia for my home town of Santa Monica), but the storyline doesn’t do them justice.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine location shooting in Santa Monica and Venice
- Atmospheric cinematography
No; you can skip this one.