Enjoy this Monday with Mildred!
This is also Zombie World Tour post!
With a “scientific” prologue that reminded me of 1970s pornos, Shock Waves explains right away about the “death squads” created by the supernatural loving Nazis and then cuts to the Final Girl floating in the ocean in her glass bottom dingy. This is, of course, the filmmakers’ way of giving us whiplash and I think it’s supposed to create sympathy for the young woman. What it actually does is give away the end, and it’s not an unusual problem for novice horror directors. On the other hand, Ken Wiederhorn and Zopix Company (Zombie Pictures) was trying to emulate the Hammer horror films of the 1950s and 60s and in that regard he succeeded. The film is languid, colorful, with a nice electronic score.
The actual, real start of the film is on a rundown tourist cruiser carrying a handful of passengers, a captain (played by John Carradine), a cook, and a first mate (i.e., the guy who does all the actual work). Before you can say “cowabunga dude!” our vict….heroes are stranded in an abandoned hotel with a crazy Nazi scientist and a twenty year wait for cell service to be invented. As the drunken ship’s cook reveals, “The sea spits up what it can’t keep down.” What it spits up are leftover horrors from World War II, which, when this movie was made had only been over for thirty years.
There is some great underwater photography as the zombies awaken and head to shore, and many shots of them being under the water, walking through the water, walking out of the water, walking into the water. These zombies sleep with the fishes then come ashore to stalk their prey, cause as we all know, zombies gotta kill. I said stalk because that implies cognizance. These are not JUST underwater Nazi zombies, but sentient, PSYCHOTIC underwater Nazi zombies. In a mundane twist, they are easy to kill, if you can figure out to go for the….eyes? These are mean suckers, and though totally without the now typical zombie gore, the deaths are numerous and kinda horrible.
As our heroes trudge into the once grand hotel on their deserted isle, a Wagnerian overture greats them, played on a wind up gramophone. The hotel is a great character in itself. An old Biltmore with gargoyles, dried palm fronds littering the floor, ancient dishware neatly stacked (abandoned in real life when the hotel just shut down one day), a tank full of menacing fish and ovens large enough to crawl into to hide from the Nazi zombies (no, I’m not kidding), it’s a hideout for the other Big Name Actor, Peter Cushing.
The Prometheus (dictionary.com: a sea god, son of Oceanus and Tethys, noted for his ability to assume different forms and to prophesy) is the name of the haunted ship-o-Nazis aground in the surf, portrayed by a weathered WWII era cement ship. As in, a ship made of cement. It had been rotting (or whatever cement does) just off shore for about thirty years when the movie was made and is another wonderful visual element.
Shock Waves is loosely based on the book “Morning of the Magicians”, an underground classic on a lot of things, including the Nazi enthrallment with the occult. Filmed the year Jaws was playing in the theater (which I’m sure had nothing to do with the movie’s theme) on an ultra-cheap budget, it really does have a Hammer feel to it, heavy on the atmospherics and with a surprising lack of gore considering how badass the bad guys are. The filmmakers were adept at using well what little they had, and created a classic zombie film that stands the test of time. I highly recommend it, and hope you get to enjoy it some time.
Shock Waves (1977 Zombie Movie) – Official Trailer