Tuesday, November 4, 2014

THE FROZEN DEAD 1966

NAZISPLOITATION MOVIE NIGHT # 7 !!




    In the 1960's because of favorable tax laws and production costs many American producers traveled to England to make films in order to make films there. This was especially advantageous to horror film produces who could go over and knock out a quickie for the American drive-in market while taking advantage of the proliferation of castles and stately country homes which could be leased cheaply. In 1966 and '67 produce/writer/director Herbert J. Leder (who had been a film professor at Jersey City State College) traveled to England and cranked out THE FROZEN DEAD and the very bizarre Golem re-boot IT ! in 1966.
    Although THE FROZEN DEAD was shot in color (and shown that way in England ) for its U.S. theatrical showing B&W prints were struck and it was later shown that way on TV (which probably didn't do much for its legacy). Long unavailable on home video it was released last year by Warner as part of their MOD program last year in a colorful anamorphic transfer, thereby righting the wrong of not including it on their now OOP DVD release of its original co-feature of IT ! (the DVD for some strange reason paired IT! with the totally unrelated THE SHUTTERED ROOM). Not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, it is however a wonderfully entertaining  low-budget effort with some sleazy & lurid overtones that never try’s to overreach itself (plus any movie that goes for “the living disembodied head in tray” plot point has to have something going for it). Thanks to couple of much reproduced stills in Famous Monsters, one showing the frost covered frozen Nazis (in full uniforms complete with Iron Crosses & 60’s hairstyles) in a glass fronted freezer with wires hooked up to their heads and the second being a wall with amputated arms mounted on it, this movie became a kind of holy grail for monster kids in the late 60’s and early 70’s.





    Ex- Hollywood semi- A lister Dana Andrews (from 1957's NIGHT OF THE DEMON), plays Dr. Norberg a Nazi scientist hiding out in England at a large country house with a bunch of the previously mentioned Germans in cold storage down in his basement lab.  He’s been experimenting for awhile at trying to bring them back to life – not too successfully it seems, as there’s a bunch of his failed attempts that have gone slightly psycho locked up in a handy dungeon with his big problem being the brain (one of the failed attempts is actor Edward Fox – who in a few years would make it big in 1973'S THE DAY OF THE JACKAL among others). 
   Things get a bit complicated for Norberg with the arrival of a couple of Nazi big-wigs who want to check up on his progress (or lack thereof) and the unexpected visit of his niece Jean (Anna Palk) along with her American friend Elsa (Kathleen Breck). Plus to top it all off Dr. Ted Roberts (Philip Gilbert) shows up from the U.S. after an invite to help out with the revival of dead body parts. Thanks to the handy murder of Elsa committed by one of his dungeon dwelling failed experiments Norberg obtains a head on which to try out his brain experiments and we’re off into 1959’s classic THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE territory.


  

   It’s at this point that movie really takes on a surreal turn. Most “disembodied head in a tray” movies just stick a person’s head through a hole in the table and maybe throw some wires and maybe a bit of make up on, however THE FROZEN DEAD does them all one better by having Elsa’s head come complete with a clear skull cap (so we can see her quivering brain) along with some weird blue lighting. In addition, she speaks in a creepy hoarse whisper and eventual can telepathically communicate with Anna (Ah-la the above mentioned THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE -and soon can control by telepathy "other things"  which helps lead to its well remembered climax).  
   As Dr. Ted helps Anna look for her missing friend (he’s unaware of the frozen Nazis -he just thinks he’s helping out with medical transplant research) this leads to the as expected developing romance between the two of them and as it turns out Anna’s father is one of the failures down in the dungeon. It does drag a bit at some points with some obvious padding to add to the running time - especially the parts with Ted & Anna  playing detective and as the two romantic leads they are a bit flat. But it’s got some terrific moments and more than a couple scenes that stick in your mind – plus anytime you've got frozen Nazis, a living head in a tray and wall mounted amputated arms you can’t really go wrong.




    Although as mentioned this is never going to be considered in the great pantheon of horror films (and for what its worth it is much better then its original co-feature of IT!) but it is an entertaining piece of low budget 60's horror and perhaps as a result of its long unavailability on home video and along with its original B& W showings it seems to have fallen through the cracks. Warners MOD DVD restores the films eye popping (and sometimes queasy looking) color palette - and Kathleen Breck as the American friend Elsa (and the soon to be experimental disembodied head) strikes some great pin up poses.






   

4 comments:

  1. That clear skull cap looks awesome. Im too taken with that to focus on much else!

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    1. The whole transparent skull thing is beyond cool.

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  2. I have this childhood memory of a severed head, blue, whispering threats - it was on a TV we had when I was 5 or 6. That means this was the early 70's. Could it be this movie? Would it have been aired in some kind of syndication 6 or 7 years after the original release? I have to get ahold of this and see if it prompts more memory or if I'm mistaking it for something else...

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    1. Hi Craig,

      It most likely was. At least where I grew up, it ran on TV a bunch of times in the late 60's & early 70's. Plus there were stills from it in FM quite often.

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