Thursday, October 30, 2014

SHOCK WAVES (1977)

SHOCK WAVES (1977) 

Label: Blue Underground 
Release Date: November 25, 2014
Duration: 85 Minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Region Code: ALL
Audio: English DTS-HD Mono with Optional English SDH, Spanish and French Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Ken Wiederhorn
Cast: Peter Cushing, Brooke Adams, John Carradine 


In this underrated Nazi zombie romp we have a curmudgeonly yacht Captain played by John Carradine (THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES) and a group of six on a pleasure cruise. We have passenger Rose (Brook Adams, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) and Keith (Luke Halpin, TV's FLIPPER), plus the yacht's cook Dobbs (Don Stout) and passengers Chuck (Fred Buch) and married couple Norman (Jack Davidson) and Beverly (D.J. Sidney). The husband is the most annoying of the group and rubs just about everyone the wrong way from the start of the film, it should be no surprise that he is a used car salesman. . 


The boat encounters a strange orange haze at sea and is nearly crushed by a ghost ship in the dark of night. Next day the ghost ship appears to have been stranded on a sand bar for decades, it's a complete wreck and only the skeletal frame remains intact. How this could be is a bit of a mystery as are the whereabouts of the Captain who disappeared during the night. With the yacht taking on water the group hop into a dingy and head to a nearby island where they discover an abandoned hotel and it's lone occupant - a former Nazi Commander played by Peter Cushing (CORRUPTION) who is less then welcoming to the stranded vacationers. 


When the Commander learns of the eerie encounter with the ghost ship the night before he reveals that he was a Nazi Commander in charge of a squad of undead super soldiers as the Death Corps, killing machines who proved difficult to control during WWII. At the end of the war the commander sank the ship killing the Death Corps and exiling himself onto the remote island. He surmises that the undead soldiers have awakened at the bottom of the ocean and are now on the island and they are all in danger.

Soon after Nazi zombies emerge from the ocean and begin killing the vacationers one by one, not with the typical eating of the flesh but just over powering and drowning them - which is a tiny bit of a disappointment. The zombies look amazing decked out in Nazi gear with goggles and shocks of blond hair - quite a cool sight. Notably the make-up effects were created by director/producer Alan Ormsby (CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS).

No gut-munching means we don't get much gore and the film is a mostly bloodless viewing. But the surreal tone and eerie atmosphere are chilling from start to finish enhanced by composer Richard Einhorn's fantastic electronic score with it's bubbling menace and cold synth accompaniment. 

The pace is slow and infused with menace with some great atmospheric cinematography. The water-logged zombies walking along the bottom of the sea and emerging from surf are chilling sights. As are the numerous shots of the zombies stalking their prey through the mazes of mangroves, there's just a lot of well composed shots. The addition of Hammer star Peter Cushing definitely classes up the production, an intense presence and his inclusion lends a gravitas to the film that would otherwise be absent.

The film is set-up in such a way that we know from the very start who survives which I didn't care for but I loved Brook Adams in the role of Rose who comes across as the Marilyn Burns (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) of Nazi zombie films, the woman has a great set of lungs, a fantastic screamer.
It was shot on the cheap but quite effective slice of surreal horror that shouldn't be overlooked by legions of horror fans, this is something very special. What it lacks in gore it makes up for in surreal creepiness, a cult-classic of the highest order. 

BLU-RAY:
SHOCK WAVES (1977) makes it's Blu-ray debut from Blue Underground looking far superior to the previous BU DVD with a few limitations. Shot on 16mm the film is grainy no doubt about it but the colors are strong and the image is crisp. There's some white speckling and minor print damage evident from time to time but nothing too distracting. Sourced from the only known surviving elements available I would say this is a very nice presentation from Blue Underground all things considered. 

The DTS-HD Mono does a decent job exporting the audio, not overly dynamic but well balanced and free of distortion, optional English SDH subtitles are provided. I would have loved to seen a CD of the score included or at least the option of an isolated score spotlighting Einhorn's phenomenal score. 


Onto the extras we have the same commentary with Co-Writer/Director Ken Wiederhorn, Make-Up Designer Alan Ormsby and Filmmaker Fred Olen Ray from the DVD and it's a keeper. A fun group commentary that never wants for anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories.


They've also carried over the  From FLIPPER To SHOCK WAVES - an interview with Star Luke Halpin, the former child TV star discussing his time on the film and working with Carradine and Cushing,  


On top of the carry-overs we have forty-two minutes of brand new interviews with Producer/Cinematographer Reuben Trane, Composer Richard Einhorn and Star Brooke Adams looking back at the film film. There are some great behind-the-scenes stuff revealed in the interviews, love the tales of the aging Carradine falling asleep on set who by all accounts was quite a trooper, even shooting his death scene in the director's pool submerged underwater. Love the story of the Miami reporter who went to the casting for zombies undercover in hopes of exposing something shady only to be cast in the film as one of the most iconic zombies. 


Additionally there are a selection of TV spots, radio spots, a trailer and a very cool embossed slipcover with that awesome artwork!



SPECIAL FEATURES: 
- Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Ken Wiederhorn, Make-Up Designer Alan Ormsby and Filmmaker Fred Olen Ray
- NAZI ZOMBIES ON A BUDGET - Interview with Producer/Cinematographer Reuben Trane (21 Minutes) HD
- NOTES FOR THE UNDEAD - Interview with Composer Richard Einhorn (14 Minutes) HD
- SOLE SURVIVOR - Interview with Star Brooke Adams (7 Minutes) HD
- From FLIPPER To SHOCK WAVES - Interview with Star Luke Halpin (* Minutes) SD
- Theatrical Trailer (3 Minutes) HD
- TV Spot (1 Minute) SD
- 2 Radio Spots (1 Minute)
- Poster/Still Gallery (144 Images) 


VERDICT: 

A classic slice of slow-burn Nazi zombie cinema starring Peter Cushing dripping with eerie waterlogged zombie super soldiers on a gorgeous tropical island. This might be the first of the Nazi zombie films and im my opinion is the best of the bunch. A must-own release for horror fans, there's a lot of skin-crawling goodness packed into this 70's shocker and it's a damn fine release from Blue Underground!

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