When it comes to the genre of Nazi Zombie movies, the field might be a bit small but it’s filled with good choices, and Shock Waves is probably the best choice of them all. Wait there is a whole sub genre of Nazi zombie horror? Yes, yes there is Virginia. Recent films like Dead Snow and Dead Snow 2, join the Outpost series, and Jean Rollin’s 1981 Zombie Lake (and a few other odd entries) but the king of them all is Shock Waves from 1977.
Shock Waves stars Hammer Stalwart Peter Cushing as a former Nazi scientist along with Brooke Adams, who sizzles the screen in her bikini, and former Flipper star Luke Halpin all grown up. Shock Waves also stars one of the most iconic actors in horror, John Carradine playing one of his usual gruff, cantankerous characters.
The film starts off with Brooke Adams being found floating adrift, looking far worse then she does later in the film. She relates her story, which becomes the main body of the film. Carradine is the captain of a broken down boat taking Adams and a group of vacationers on an island tour, a three hour tour. Well actually it’s about ninety minutes. Halpin is his long suffering first mate, who has attracted the eye and attention of Adams.
Things quickly go from cantankerous, to bad to worse, as the boat is enveloped in a strange orange haze, then side-swiped by a mysterious ghost ship. The crew and passengers find themselves scuttled on a mysterious island, sans the Captain and with a rusting hulk looming nearby. They go ashore to find a seemingly deserted hotel, where they run into Cushing and his strangely British sounding German accent.
People start to disappear and Cushing relates how he helped engineer Nazi super soldiers who could exist in any extreme and were virtually indestructible, When the reich was collapsing he was ordered to dispose of his group of water breathing zombies (is that an oxymoron? breathing zombies?). He accomplishes this by sinking the ship they are on, in what was probably not such a smart way to get rid of water breathing monsters.
The castaways aren’t buying it till the goggle clad undead attack in force, forcing a desperate fight and flight to get off the island. This eventually takes us full circle, and spoiler free, to the opening scene.
I have a fondness for horror films from this era, and Shock Waves is one of my favorite. It is also highly under rated and gets no where near the buzz of other horror classics of the seventies. While it might not be a genre defining film, it is a one of those movies that still packs an impact today.
The effects aren’t flashy but they come across as reaslistic. No rotting, walking dead, type zombies but they look suffeciently water logged, and the goggles and Nazi uniforms add a chillingly creepy look to the undead.
The actors all do there job, Carradine is the same old Carradine as he is in so many movies, gruff, angry and mean. Cushing gives his usual commanding preformance in his limited screen time. He is perfect in the role, even though the accent doesnt exactly fit. If I have one issue with Shock Waves, it’s that I would have loved to see much more of Cushing in the film.
Brooke Adams and her bikini almost steal the film from the two horror icons. Acting wise, she holds her own. Oscar worthy? No, but for one of her first starring roles it’s good enough, and doesn’t hurt the film. The scenes of her in a bikini though are truly epic. She wears a swimsuit like a swimsuit should be worn,and her underwater scenes rival those of Jacqualine Bisset in The Deep, without the wet t-shirt.
The one thing that makes Shock Waves a classic, in my opinion, is the armosphere. From the very opening a sense of dread hangs over the movie. From the lighting, to the sound, to the zombies themselves,Shock Waves is one creepy movie. The mood and atmosphere is also one of the things that make it just effective today as it was when it was released.
While so many movies, even the acknowledged classics like Halloween and The Hills Have Eyes, are heavily dated, and dont hold that same punch, Shock Waves still makes for great late night viewing.
Shock Waves is available now on Amazon video on demand and DVD and is scheduled to be released on Blu Ray later this year. Do yourself a favor and check it out on which ever format you prefer