Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shock Waves (1977)

Without a doubt, the Nazi’s have gone down in history as one of the most despised and hated groups of all time, and with darn good reason. Besides being hateful, racist, murderous, war-mongers who wouldn’t turn down the invasion of a country even if it were populated by an unstoppable army of syphilis-infested, cyborg Rosie O’Donnells, they are also responsible for giving us the song, “99 Luftballoons.” But, being a believer in giving credit where credit is due, one thing has to be given to the Nazi’s: they make a damn fine movie villain. Think about it. If it wasn’t for the Nazi’s, as well as a few other select evil groups (communists, drug overloads, serial killers, religious fanatics, Wang Chung), movie makers would be left with pretty slim pickings when it came to coming up with proper foes for their heroes and heroines to deal with. Can you imagine a Nazi-less “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or “The Sound of Music” de-Nazified? Without a good Nazi or two to pepper your film with, it just wouldn’t be the same. Indiana Jones would be stuck fighting off evil hoards of cultist blood-sausage makers and the Von Trapps would be required to give up their music to run and hide from an invading force of imperialistic Hummel manufacturers. Yes, the Nazi’s, along with their trusty side-kick, nuclear radiation, have long provided horror movie fans with a bevy of horrible villains, mutated monsters, and goose-stepping baddies. And today’s movie, “Shock Waves” is no exception. Nazis abound in this film, being more ubiquitous than Yoda puppets at a Star Wars fan-boy circle jerk. But these are Nazis with a difference. Besides being your average evil, racist, murderous, “Luftballooning” Nazis, these are underwater, zombie Nazis!

After a brief intro, “Shock Waves” opens, as movies often do, with an overly sun-burnt woman being rescued from a derelict dinghy by a Bubba Gump shrimping boat. We are quickly flashbacked to an earlier part of the story where we will learn how this woman, Rose (played by Brooke Adams of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” fame), came to be in her predicament. [Not to give anything away, but we sadly never learn the back story of the Bubba Gump boat crew.] In one of the best moments of the movie we are provided a excessively long shot of our heroine (sans sun-burn and obviously in much better health) swimming through the ocean in a particularly nice yellow bikini. There was a voice over during this part but I can’t remember what was said because, for some reason, I was distracted at the time. In any case, she soon pulls herself up onto boat where she and her yellow bikini proceed to take a sunbath. The story from this point forward becomes a little clearer for me as film-doms equivalent of a cold shower is introduced: John Carradine, who plays the part of “Cap’n Shabby,” the commander of the vessel. His only other crew members are the first mate (who looks like he should be sporting a “Mustache Rides” t-shirt) and the cook (who resembles Ron Jeremy after he went to seed.) Accompanying these four are three middle-agers who apparently are into paying money to travel around islands in a rickety old boat captained by a crotchety old man. In any case, as the boat proceeds on its journey, some strange events begin to happen. First, someone pisses on the film. Actually, what happens is that the sun suddenly turns everything around the voyagers a bright putrid yellow which, for reasons that are never really explained, causes a sunken ghost-ship to rise to the surface. Later that night, Cap’n Shabby’s ship of fools, piloted by mustache-boy, runs into the ghost ship, causing it to run aground and forcing the passengers and crew to abandon it for a nearby, seemingly deserted island. However, after exploring for a while, the doomed party soon comes across a dilapidated mansion.

Enter horror-legend, Peter Cushing, looking like he could play one of the zombies without requiring much make-up. Cushing, we eventually find out, is a former SS Officer who was responsible for commandeering a group of undefeatable Nazi soldiers (called “Der Toten Korps”) who were genetically created to not need oxygen so that they could man U-boats without needing to surface. They are said to be neither dead nor alive, but somewhere in between, sort of like Harrison Ford’s career. It would seem that these soldiers have been lying dormant for many years under the ocean waves but, holy Schnitzelbank, our unwary travelers have now awoken them!

Here are a few points worth noting (Warning: Achtung! Vee have vays of making you vatch Spoilers!):

  • Star billing is given to Peter Cushing and John Carradine; however, the combined screen time for both of these actors is about 10 minutes. Directors need to take that into consideration next time they put Ben Affleck in a starring role.

  • While there are some genuinely well shot underwater moments that are fairly creepy, the sight of the undead SS mucking around slowly beneath the waves really puts the kibosh on the impact and, at times, just looks ridiculous. On the other hand, the shots of the zombies rising up out of the water is sometimes effective but they are shown ad nauseum (hey, as the saying goes, if you’ve seen one undead Nazi rise up from the water, you’ve seen them all).
  • This film has one of the more unique kills in a horror film that I’ve seen lately: death by sea urchin. Come to think of it, though, killer sea urchins might actually be a more terrifying monster than underwater, zombie Nazis.
  • Although Brooke Adams looks damn fine in a bikini, she needs to not scream on camera because she resembles Skeletor when she does that. Not a good look for her.
    An important health tip: Never eat food prepared by a cook whose kitchen walls are plastered with porn.
  • The music in Shock Waves is pretty effective at times, providing some good ambient moments to compliment the creepy underwater sequences. At other times, though, the music sounds like someone just got a new Casio keyboard for Xmas and has just been dying to try it out.

It can easily be said that “Shock Waves” is the “Gone with the Wind” of underwater, zombie Nazi movies, but that’s not saying much. It’s certainly the best underwater zombie Nazi movie ever made, but the same can be said of “Piranha 2” being the best flying killer piranha fish movie. As a horror movie, “Shock Waves” is about as dull as a butter knife after cutting through a cement block. The deaths aren’t gory, the tension is non-existent, and the pacing is slower than pouring frozen peanut butter through a funnel. On the other hand, as a “B” movie, I found it reasonably enjoyable, though not on a “Blood Freak” or a “Monster-A-Go-Go” level. In short, it wasn’t good enough to be good and it wasn’t bad enough to be bad. As such this is not a film that I’m going to be returning to very often, unless I’m really in the mood for some heavy duty mediocrity, or if I’m itching to see Brook Adams in that yellow bikini again.

If you don’t have time to watch the whole film, be sure to check out my video of “Shock Waves – The Good Parts!”