Thursday, 14 July 2011

Sign Up For The Death Corps ...

Shock Waves
(1977 / USA)

‘‘The sea spits up what it can’t keep down’’

Nazi SS Zombie death troopers rise up from a watery grave to seek vengeance upon their creator. Programmed to kill, and created to overcome any terrain, in any condition or circumstance, these unyielding harbingers of devastation are the apocalyptic abominations of biblical prophecies. Enhanced evolutionary killing machines, these un-dead soldiers of war are the ultimate evocation of evil. They are the F├╝hrer’s Death Corps !.

Aberrations genetically designed in experimental laboratories at the end of World War II. Brought into being by the maniacal minds of Nazi SS scientists, instructed to create a super soldier. A remorseless killing machine in the image of man, but born from the manipulated DNA structure of reanimated human hosts.

The movie begins with a small private boat, captained by horror stalwart John Carradine, out on the ocean with a small compliment of crew and a handful of paying vacationers, including a very young and cute Brooke Adams. As night falls the boats occupants witness an unusual light array emanating from the ocean bead, explained away by the cranky old sea faring captain as a barometric anomaly. Later, into the sleeping hours, the boats night watchman and a sleepless Brooke Adams are startled by what appears to be a very large freighter ship bearing down upon them. Their small boat is hit, but the only trace of what caused the incident is a ghostly outline of a sunken wreck witnessed beneath the sea upon the next days dawn breaking.

With a damaged ships hull the occupants of the boat row ashore to a close by remote island in order to seek assistance. Mysteriously, the captain of the vessel has disappeared during the night. As the small party feel land beneath their feet, upon safely arriving upon the island, they are soon taken aback at the discovery of the captains lifeless body washed up upon the beach. John Carradine’s atypical movie cameo appearance, during this stage of his very long career, meets cessation with the death of his character with no apparent cause !?.

Right from the off Shock Waves ripples with atmosphere and a terrific sense of real tangibility, as if you are alongside the on screen characters experiencing what they are. Great credit to Director Ken Wiederhorn for bringing out sound performances from his ensemble of both seasoned actors, and fledgling stars of the future. His creativity in bringing the best from what is essentially a basic storyline, and delivering to his audience a finished product that refreshingly rewards well above expectations.

Peter Cushing appears on screen when the bedraggled island crashers arrive upon his doorstep. A run down old hacienda styled hotel that Cushing’s character, of a reclusive ex SS commander, resides in alone, living out the final days of a life that is clearly racked with memories of a past that haunts him.

Italian horror icon Lucio Fulci may well have been influenced by Shock Waves for his 1979 classic Zombie gore onslaught, Zombie Flesheaters. The gathered party of people, gathered in a run down haven upon a remote island, following boat trouble, is the very same scenario. Uncannily representative of the cult Euro directors memorable moments is when the first un-dead SS death corps officer rises up from his watery grave, and traverses across the ocean bed. Fulci added a shark attack to his underwater Zombie, but the general scene resemblance is most notable.

The visualisation of the German SS soldiers emerging up out of their watery grave is as memorable as that of the knights templar shuffling to the shore, after their ghostly galleon is raised to the bottom of the ocean after being engulfed by fire, in the Spanish horror classic Ghost Ships Of The Blind Dead (1974). An eerie image of the living dead, fatigued in full SS uniform, and oversized protective eye goggles adorning their countenance.

Seeking a way off the island, and pressing for answers as to the SS commanders past, the people from the boat are warned to stay away from the water, and to leave the island as soon as possible. Peter Cushing delivers a fine performance as a scarred former cog to the might of the Nazi wheels of war. He reveals his past and foretells of the impending attack upon them all by his creations. Describing them as the most vicious and blood thirsty of all of the SS divisions. His creations are a group of commandos designed specifically to acclimatise under water. The Death Corps are neither dead, nor alive, but somewhere in between. Towards the end of the second world war they were dropped into war zones and let loose upon the enemy, and anyone that was unfortunate enough to cross their path. With the war lost the SS commander sent his ship, and its cargo of Death Corps soldiers, to a watery grave at the bottom of the ocean. Now time has turned the tide and his progenies have reawakened from their watery internment, and their killer programming has not altered !.

The final third of the film is about survival against the re-emergent un-dead soldiers of death, and Peter Cushing’s time of atonement against his creations.

Shock Waves proves to be an effective horror that has not been diminished with the passing of time since its first release. A genuine cult piece that is deserving of being rediscovered by a modern audience. Refreshingly free of CGI, and needless excesses of blood and gore, yet simply and effectively resplendent in its consummate horror traditions.

Movie Rating: 7/10

Review by Paul Cooke / Source UK PAL Region 2 DVD

Shock Waves (1977)
Director Ken Wiederhorn

With Fred Buch, Brooke Adams, Peter Cushing,
Jack Davidson, Luke Halpin, D.J. Sidney,
Don Stout & John Carradine