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The Frozen Dead (1966)

At first hearing, the premise of The Frozen Dead sounds absolutely potty - Nazis are alive and well and living in 1960s Britain, busy trying to perfect a way of bringing back to life a bunch of Ubergruppen-popsicles they put into deep freeze before the fall of Berlin. Unfortunately, every time they try and defrost their on-ice SS buddies, they end up with brain-dead zombies who prove to be absolutely useless at everything. Much mayhem ensues.

And yet, despite this film being the companion piece to the definitely certifiable It! (both films were made by Goldstar in 66), The Frozen Dead sadly falls short of expectations. The zombies are a boring bunch, and very little actually happens. Which is a shame.

What is good about The Frozen Dead is that it absolutely, and with complete po-faced resolution, refuses to be a campy late 60s period piece, instead coming across as a US-style mad scientist flick. There's no intentional humour in this film, although the unintentional stuff comes thick and fast. Dana Andrews' Germanian accent, the much-repeated severed arm routine, the whole preposterous idea - all done with faces straighter than the audiences at a Jim Davidson concert.

Doctor Norberg (Andrews) is the man busy trying to defrost what remains of the Wermacht, and is also possibly the first "good" mad nazi professor ever committed to celluloid. Quite why he's keeping up the experiments is beyond your reviewer, he doesn't seem all that keen on any of the other Nazis who keep turning up and telling him to get a wriggle on.

Karl is his whip-happy subordinate, who spends much of his time beating the hapless droolers Norberg has so far managed to create. A visit from some other Nazis, keen for him to succeed, explains what's been happening. "Your achievement will mean the revival of 1,500…" they tell him. But he tells them that of the eight he has already revived, "one has not survived… and seven are mental cases!"

The only partial "success" is his slap-headed butler, who managed to get trapped in the freezer and was revived by Norberg. But even he's a bit slow now. "To revive a body… I've done that. But to revive a brain…" trailing off with a gleam in his eye, Norberg explains that he's only been able to unlock one memory, which his "subjects" keep re-enacting. His lack of success is hardly surprising when we see exactly how he goes about reviving a frozen person, which involves drilling a whopping great hole in the back of their head, Frankenstein-style.

At this moment, Norberg's niece Jean arrives home unexpectedly, college friend Elsa in tow. Before you can say "Nazi hospitality", Karl has taken it upon himself to attack Elsa with a syringe and then got one of the zombies to strangle her to death. The gibbering fool then talks Norberg into using Elsa's head for his next experiment.

The Nazis concoct a typically nefarious scheme to make it look as though Elsa has buggered off of her own accord, using a double dressed in her clothes. As the double gets onto the train, our hero steps off it. It's four-square English chap Doctor Roberts, who's arrived to see what his old pal Norberg has been up to in his sinister underground laboratory.

Roberts meets up with Jean (they immediately fail to hit it off, he gives a cracking Ricky Gervais-style look straight to camera), and then wanders down to the lab. Norberg has been careful not to let Jean see what he's been up to, but has no such qualms when it comes to a visit by a fellow man of science.

"To keep a head alive for a long period," Roberts tells him, "that's what I call a real achievement!"

Ignoring the obvious answer to this question which involves creating such a "real achievement" by not lopping the aforementioned melon off in the first place (mad scientists, eh?), Roberts is then shown a wall of arms (that's handy), all of which still have a pulse. Give that man the Nobel Prize For Bugger All.

Roberts and Jean (not unsurprisingly) start to become a little closer as time moves on, and Roberts (who's only been given half the story, remember) begins to help Jean unravel just what happened to Elsa, who she fails to believe got on that train (and despite the overwhelming Nazi-created evidence, too).

Things begin to get odd now. Jean and Roberts start investigating Elsa's disappearance, which involves some more Nazis who live in the nearby village. Meanwhile, Norberg unveils his latest creation to Roberts - Elsa's head in a box. Jean starts to have dreams about Elsa's head calling to her, and Karl comes to believe that the head is affecting everyone in the house, and will "destroy them all". There's a bit of torture, a bit of murder, and some truly dreadful German accents on show ("Zey zink it voz an accident! Zey do not know he pushed ze flower pot off ze building!") as the whole thing shudders to a halt with what seems like a hundred loose ends left unanswered.

The Frozen Dead promises much, but fails to deliver. Unlike It!, where a simple premise gets madder and madder, The Frozen Dead has a grand idea but doesn't really seem to know what to do with it. We're only treated to one rampaging Nazi zombie (as played by Edward Fox, no less), but even he's a bit crap. However, it's worth noting that the "Elsa's head in a box" scenes are incredibly effective, and almost make it worth seeking out the film by themselves. Bathed in an eerie blue light and glaring balefully at her captors, she's the real star of the show.

"Bury me… bury me…"

Last updated: February 23, 2010

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The Frozen Dead

The Frozen Dead

The Frozen Dead

 

 

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