(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com citation:
“A reporter hires a bodyguard to protect him from a gang boss he has been investigating. After a car accident traps the two of them inside the car with the tide coming in, the reporter recounts for his bodyguard the circumstances leading up to their predicament.”
I’ve discussed many times that – as I’m no noir scholar in any measure – I don’t always see eye-to-eye with the more learned opinions of such films, and I’ve no problem saying right up front that I found High Tide a bit quizzical. Some of my reservations revolve around the structure – it’s told almost entirely in flashback, and I’d question how both men can collectively recall events neither were present for in real-time – but my chief grief with it is that I don’t quite see it as a legitimate noir. Yes, it has obvious noir leanings – the cinematography is a bit bland, but there are clear visual indications – though it’s razor-thin plot doesn’t quite rise to the expected level of shifting allegiances and/or nefarious shenanigans. And just because something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck doesn’t mean it isn’t a duck impersonator.
As the lead, Don Castle (as Tim Slade) isn’t nearly as convincing much less notable as the reporter-turned-bodyguard. Slade is hired by Hugh Fresney (played by Lee Tracy) based on their past relationship, but theirs is the kind of friendship never quite shown on film, which means we just have to accept that they’re good buddies at face value. (FYI: that’s usually a bad thing to do in any noir – good or bad – giving much of the tale a bit of predictability, too. Almost like you’re forced to sit and watch the tide come in …) Occasionally, Castle musters the confidence to seem as if he has a solid grasp of unfolding events here – a trait needed of any leading player – but yet the overall plotline from Robert Presnell Jr. and Peter Milne (as adapted from a story by Raoul Whitfield) just never quite makes sense.
Still, Tide’s script does occasionally crackle with some smart dialogue, the kind of which one expects from the darkest and the most desperate among us. But that and the confusion of a romantic subplot which never quite materializes (nor has the kind of depth traditionally tied to its characters) left me questioning whether anyone had any real allegiance to anyone else in here or were they all just players in search of an ending. A tighter story – along with more defined characters – would’ve given this one the chance to be a contender, if even only a small player on the big stage. But … as is? Sigh.
There just wasn’t enough for this viewer to sink his teeth into; having nothing to chew on, I’m equally left with not much to digest.
High Tide (1947) was produced by Monogram Pictures. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the reliable Flicker Alley. As for the technical specifications? The packaging materials state that the film was restored from a 35mm nitrate composite fine-grain master; and – yes – this looks and sounds exceptionally well given the flick’s age. As for the special features? High Tide is only one film in a two-film package from Flicker Alley, so some of the listed items below might pertain more to the second picture as opposed to this one, but here’s what this dual-disc set includes:
- Introduction to The Guilty and High Tide by noted author and historian Eddie Muller.
- A documentary exploring the works of producer/director Jack Wrather.
- A documentary exploring the life and works of author Cornell Woolrich.
- A documentary exploring the life and works of director, writer, and producer John Reinhardt.
- A featurette exploring the career of actor Lee Tracy.
- A commentary track for The Guilty conducted by author and scholar Jake Hinkson.
- A commentary track for High Tide conducted by film historian Alan K. Rode.
- Lastly, a collector’s booklet with poster, artwork, stills, and a related essay.
Mildly recommended. High Tide appears on a recently restored collection alongside The Guilty; and – of the two – The Guilty is much stronger, though not by much. Tide’s characters are all just a bit too bland, giving the ensemble the undesirable effect of blending together so much that they’re just not all that distinct. When everyone’s a bad guy, then is there true evil much less an act of villainy worth celebrating all of its own? I would think that if you wanted to seize control of a small media empire that there are easier ways to concoct a plan that ultimately gets yourself killed, so I’m at a loss to understand what all of the fuss is about in this one.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Flicker Alley provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of High Tide by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.