Shock Waves

Shock Waves

Hmmm. So the cover boasts a one-liner from 'Cult Horror Films' claiming this to be the "best of the Nazi zombie movies". I see. Well, the only other film of this ilk that springs immediately to mind is the inexcusable turd ZOMBIE LAKE. So, yeah, I guess I'll have to agree here!

SHOCK WAVES opens with a pre-credits male voice-over, explaining that during World War 2 the SS conducted experiments to develop a breed of indestructible soldiers, capable of "killing with their bare hands". This breed of super-soldier was never captured by Allie troops ...

And so the credits roll. Great cast. Peter Cushing, John Carradine, Brooke Adams etc.

The film opens proper with Rose (Adams) being found floating in a small canoe in the middle of the ocean. When asked why she is so far from shore, the shaken heroine recalls her nightmare ...

So far so good. The music in these early scenes is reminiscent of the electronic score to THE BURNING, and immediately the viewer is intrigued as to what has left this pretty dame so shell-shocked.

Via flash-back, we learn that Rose was on vacation on a private boat with several other holiday-makers, including her beau Keith (Luke Halpin) and the ship's captain (Carradine - sporting the ugliest elbows I've ever seen). Immediately, scenes of the group drinking, sunbathing etc are intercut with ominous underwater shots of a mysterious wreckage and POV shots of someone (something?) looking up at the undercarriage of their vessel.

After an odd orange-sun incident, darkness descends on the group. While most of them are below deck with the captain, Keith and Rose are navigating when a huge freighter appears from nowhere - and hits their boat. The captain appears on deck, but the freighter has already disappeared and he isn't buying the young couple's story ...

The next morning, the group reach the shore of a small island and take a wander through it's dense jungle - until stumbling upon a deserted hotel. Deserted, that is, all but for one Peter Cushing - who urges the travellers to leave the island at their earliest convenience.

Meanwhile, we are treated to stylish scenes of zombies rising from the ocean and wading onto the island, adorned in full Nazi regalia.

Of course, the group stick around on the island long enough for one of them - Dobbs (Don Stout, with a passing resemblance to porn star Ron Jeremy at times) - to wander off by himself and fall foul of one of the murderous zombies! After that, it's not long before Cushing reveals the 'secret' of the nazi zombie battalion (the Death Corps) buried in the Ocean since the end of WW2, and our desperate group of holiday-makers attempt to make their escape from the island ... with a few problems along the way!

There are many good stand-out moments in SHOCK WAVES. The scenes of the zombies rising from their watery graves are certainly visually striking, and the whole of Cushing's hammy performance is curiously enjoyable. There's two later scenes - the enclosed sequence in a large walk-in fridge, and one man's thwarted escape attempt via a swimming pool - that add tension and atmosphere to proceedings.

Overall though, this film lacks a story strong enough to appeal to those looking for anything outside of the usual excesses of 70s exploitation. Let's face it, if the Italians had made this, at least they would have given us regular doses of sex and gore! No such joys here.

SHOCK WAVES offers a pretty pedestrian direction, an aimless script that runs with one idea (cribbed from a novel, THE MORNING OF THE MAGICIANS) and low production values that will alienate it from most people usually willing to sit through such mediocre fare.

The disc, however, is pretty cool.

Extras include:

Commentary track from the director Ken Wiederhorn, Make-Up Designer Alan Ormsby and Fred Olen Ray, who acted as Still Photographer on the set. It's an informative, often witty and always interesting essay on the making of the film.

There's an interview with Halpin which is split into Titled segments, such as 'The Zombies', 'The Ship', 'Peter Cushing' etc. At 8 minutes long, it's not the most revelatory expose on the film's production, but Halpin seems to have genuinely fond memories of the shoot - and seems quite bemused about how Cushing went directly from appearing in this film to a support role in STAR WARS!

The theatrical trailer, at just under 3 minutes long, is undone by a melodramatic voice-over that unintentionally turns a would-be horror film into broad comedy. The 30 second TV spot is much better.

There's also 2 30 second radio spots, that are virtually identical and are here as minor interest points for fans I guess. Gotta praise Blue Underground for tracking such undoubtedly obscure stuff down though.

Finally, there's a stills gallery which is excellent. Over a hundred stills here - ranging from theatrical artwork from around the world, to various video releases, lobby card stills, on-set photos ... and even priceless stuff such as Ormsby's original make-up design drawings and the director's original list of possible film titles. "Nazis Beneath The Sea", anyone?!

Picture quality is not too hot. There's grain evident in the darker scenes, although artifacting is not present. To their credit, Blue Underground have stated on the back of the cover: "original negative mysteriously disappeared ... SHOCK WAVES has now been transferred from the director's own vault print".

Still, it's anamorphic and undoubtedly the best you'll have so far seen the film looking. Sound is mono, and as mono goes this was perfectly fine.

Not a bad release then, but an odd choice of film to release alongside THE TOOLBOX MURDERS and THE PROWLER as your opening 'statement of intent' to the DVD buying public. If you can only stretch to buy one of these release initially, it must be TOOLBOX!

The film comes in a keepcase packaging, and has a perfectly reasonable 23 chapters.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Blue Underground
Region All - NTSC
Not Rated
Ratio - Anamorphic widescreen
Extras :
Commentary; TV spots; Radio spots; Trailer; Stills Gallery; Interview with Luke Halpin