Criterion’s April titles include Coppola’s Rumble Fish and Wim Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club https://t.co/1PmfiylRaB
Frozen Dead, The
DirectorHerbert J. Leder
Release Date(s)1967 (August 13, 2013)
Studio(s)Seven Arts (Warner Archive)
Make-believe horror can never compete with the real-world atrocities of Nazi Germany, which is probably why most horror writers and filmmakers have the good taste to avoid Nazis altogether. Nazis make good zombies, as in Shock Waves and the recent Dead Snow, and Stephen King’s Apt Pupil is kind of queasily effective. But it’s far more common for Nazis to turn up in Z-grade schlock like Flesh Feast, They Saved Hitler’s Brain and The Frozen Dead.
Dana Andrews plays Dr. Norberg, a Nazi scientist harboring a dozen cryogenically frozen elite members of the Third Reich in his basement lab. His superiors arrive to view his progress and are disappointed to discover that while Norberg can revive the frozen bodies, he’s so far been unable to restore their minds. Consequently, he has a handful of defrosted mental cases, including his own brother, locked up. Norberg needs a living brain he can study, so his eager beaver assistant Karl (Alan Tilvern) decides to get him one. Fortunately, Norberg’s niece Jean (Anna Palk) has just unexpectedly arrived back home with her American friend, Elsa (Kathleen Breck). Apparently figuring nobody’s going to miss one American more or less, Karl kills Elsa, allowing Dr. Norberg to keep her severed head alive with a see-through dome for e-z brain viewing.
Written, produced and directed by Herbert J. Leder with a budget of around $49.95, The Frozen Dead has a hard time keeping track of its relatively small cast of characters and making sense of its own needlessly convoluted story. This is the kind of movie where Andrews performs delicate brain surgery in his office without even the benefit of a surgical mask and observers hovering in sneezing distance.
It was not uncommon for former stars to appear in low-budget genre movies throughout the 60s and 70s. But even by those slumming standards, Andrews seems bored and sorry he agreed to do the picture. The rest of the cast fares little better. Tilvern, who bears a weird resemblance to Rowan Atkinson, is saddled with an unplayable part that makes no sense. Palk’s obsession with her missing friend would be equally inexplicable were it not for a sudden psychic connection they seem to share. I guess being freed of the burden of a body gives you telepathy or something. Some of this nonsense is kind of fun. Andrews’ wall o’ severed arms is amusing, at least. But the movie’s glacial pace will test even the staunchest bad movie lover’s patience.
Warner Archive evidently considered The Frozen Dead to be a work of such cinematic importance that they remastered it for its DVD-R debut. It looks pretty good, all things considered, if a little soft at times. The movie was originally released theatrically in black and white, despite being shot in color. The disc presents the movie with its original color palette intact. The mono audio is just fine and, like most Warner Archive discs, there are no extras.
Is it even possible to make a movie about cryogenically frozen Nazis that isn’t inherently ridiculous? Maybe not but if there is, The Frozen Dead certainly didn’t crack the code. Needless to say, this disc will only appeal to a select audience. If you’re in the right demographic for this variety of cheese, you’ll be happy to get your hands on it. The rest of you can move along, there’s nothing to see here.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke
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