SHOCK WAVES(director/writer: Ken Wiederhorn; screenwriters: John Kent Harrison/Ken Pare; cinematographer: ; editor: Norman Gay; music: Richard Einhorn; cast: Peter Cushing (SS Commander), Brooke Adams (Rose), Luke Halpin (Keith), Jack Davidson (Norman), Fred Buch (Chuck), D. J. Sidney (Beverly), John Carradine (Captain Ben), Don Stout (Dobbs), Clarence Thomas (Fisherman); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Reuben Trane; Blue Underground; 1977)
“The best Nazi zombie picture ever.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Ken Wiederhorn (“Return of the Living Dead Part II”/”A House in the Hills”/”Eyes of a Stranger”) directs a strange cultish horror film about indestructible zombie Nazi soldiers created from the occult in the lab to kill with their bare hands, who were never captured during WWII and secretly survive to this day somewhere off the coast of Florida. It’s cowritten by John Kent Harrison, Ken Pare and the director. There’s no question in my mind that this is the best Nazi zombie picture ever (which might not be saying much considering the competition), but I also found it to be one of the great horror sleeper films of the 1970s; that is if you dig a pic that really odd and well-presented that leaves much of the gore to the imagination. The rarely seen film was lost some 20 years ago, but has now been digitally restored to DVD from Wiederhorn’s own vault print.
Old cantankerous Ben (John Carradine) is the salty captain of a rundown yacht, his young hunky first mate is the greenhorn Keith (Luke Halpin) and the galley hand cook is the amiable old drunkard Dobbs (Don Stout). They have been hired by two couples — the beautiful bikini clad Rose (Brooke Adams, in her first big-time movie role) and her non-entity hubby Chuck (Fred Buch), and the obnoxious whiny used-car salesman Norman (Jack Davidson) and his obedient plain looking wife Beverly (D. J. Sidney) — for a Caribbean sea voyage.
A strange solar or weather occurrence causes the sky to turn orange during the day, leaving them lost at sea with a broken compass. At night they are hit by a ghost-like WWII freighter and are shipwrecked. They take a dinghy to a nearby deserted island and seek shelter in an abandoned rundown hotel atop a hill but find it’s occupied by an unfriendly, scraggy-looking and arrogant hermit (Peter Cushing), who warns them to get off the island because it’s dangerous and tells them where to find a dinghy. He spooks them out by telling them he’s a former S. S. commander who has lived here in seclusion since the end of the war and that he commanded an experimental group of perfect soldiers known as the “Death Corps” (Totenkorps), because they fight without weapons with supernatural powers and dwell under the water. They are clad in black S. S. uniforms, have a greenish complexion, white-hair, and are zombies. They were indoctrinated with the Nazi ideology and were recruited because of their violent criminal background, but were not perfected yet as they couldn’t be controlled and the top brass wanted them brought back to the lab for further experiments. But the war ended without the commander receiving further orders from his superiors, so he placed them in the freighter and crashed it into a reef. But that was the boat the unlucky tourists hit and it woke the zombies from their sleep to pick off the tourists one at a time.
Even if we’re just talking about Nazi zombies here, the minor classic has a strange realistic tension that keeps you tuned into this raging conflict for survival between the civilized and the uncivilized and is probably best remembered for the zombie soldiers mutely and slowly rising from the water to kill. Since the tale is told in flashback, from somewhere in the Caribbean, we know at least one party member from the yacht made it to safety.
REVIEWED ON 2/18/2007 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ