Beneath the living…
Those wacky Nazis! They were always managing to come up with some experimental means of death and destruction to share with the whole wide world. In the 1976 film Shock Waves, it wasn't rocket packs or nerve gas—no, this time the Nazi High Command tried to take ordinary soldiers and turn them into zombie killing machines! Called the "Death Corps," these unstoppable monstrosities wore swimming goggles, sported albino skin and hair, and lived underwater until their unholy release upon unsuspecting innocents! When a small sailing vessel—captained by a grizzled John Carradine—crash lands on a reef after hitting one of the barges holding the living dead, the passengers all jump ship and head for a neighboring tropical island. Once on land they locate a dilapidated hotel run by an elderly and shifty SS Commander (Peter Cushing, Star Wars). The Commander tells them to leave the island immediately, though the boat's crew doesn't heed his advice (because really, what fun would it be if they left the zombie infested island?). As the sun begins to set, the Nazi zombies start to rise from the depths of the ocean deep! One by one the stranded passengers will soon learn what TRUE terror is…
Oh, to have been a moviegoer in the 1970s. While every decade has its fair share of cinematic crap, the '70s in particular seemed to reek of cheap schlock that had little in the way of entertainment value. A prime example: Shock Waves. While not the worst horror film ever made, it's certainly nothing to throw up on a pedestal—how scary is it to see thin white guys standing in the shallow end of the ocean? Not very, and Shock Waves features this image over and over…and over again. While the film is technically a "zombie" movie, you gore hounds will be sorely disappointed in the lack of cool or gross effects. In fact, upon its theatrical release Shock Waves was slapped with a kid-friendly PG rating! The acting is all mediocre with typical '70s overacting firmly in place—not a single actor in this flick comes off as anything but a stock caricature (the tough guy, the four-eyed nebbish, the nubile coed. etcetera). At least fans get to see an aging Peter Cushing sporting a huge latex scar on his face while spouting German nonsense in knee-deep muck (certainly a low point in the distinguished actor's career). By the time the last half of the film rolls around, viewers are treated to the following sequence multiple times:
• Protagonists trampling through the jungle with the zombies in
The only thing truly creepy about the film is the eerie music score by composer Richard Einhorn; filled with weird sounds and effects, it gives John Carpenter's music score from Halloween a run for its money. Shock Waves was co-written and directed by Ken Wiederhorn, who would later go on to direct the zombie sequel Return of the Living Dead Part II. Maybe we can just chalk Shock Waves up as an early effort in preparation for that far superior flick? Either way, odds are that you can find about a dozen more stylish horror movies to fill up your Friday night.
Shock Waves is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and all I can say is "ouch." This is by far one of the worst transfers I've seen in a very long time. The colors and black levels are all soft and fuzzy with detail floating at the bare minimum. An excessive amount of grain, dirt, and scratches show up throughout the entire presentation, making for a very frustrating watch. However, I do give credit to Blue Underground, as they state on the back of the package that "the film's original negative mysteriously disappeared over 20 years ago" and that this print is from the director's personal collection. Still, it does suck on high. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in English and is only so-so; some distortion shows up from time to time, though the bulk of the track is clear. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are included on this release.
Blue Underground reminds me of Anchor Bay—at least they're trying to do more with these obscure movies than big studios are doing with their larger catalog titles. Shock Waves features a few fine supplements, starting with a commentary by director Ken Wiederhorn, make-up designer Alan Ormsby, and filmmaker Fred Olen Ray. Honestly, I only listened to about half of this track—fans will delight in the production information and story factoids doled out by the director. An eight-minute interview (shot cheaply on video tape) with cast member Luke Halprin tosses up yet more stories from the production while the poster, still and production art gallery offer well over a few dozen images from Shock Waves' production. Rounding out the extras are a TV spot, a theatrical trailer for the film, and two unintentionally humorous radio spots.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
• Commentary by Director Ken Wiederhorn, Make-Up Designer Alan Ormsby, and Filmmaker Fred Olen Ray
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