Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Frozen Dead (1966)

I had wanted to see THE FROZEN DEAD ever since the ten year old JLP bought Alan Frank’s horror film book ‘Monsters and Vampires’ back in the 1970s and thrilled to the pictures of Nazis in the freezer and that weird wired-up head on a table. Cobbled together incredibly cheaply, featuring some of the worst acting to grace a 1960s British horror picture, and set in a country house that must have been going spare for a weekend, the movie starts off with the worst day-for-night photography I have ever seen (which must have been filmed on the sunniest day of the year). Dana Andrews stars as mad scientist Dr Norberg, who is trying to thaw out Nazi soldiers frozen at the end of the second world war, all while still wearing their uniforms, presumably because the only thing worse than a Nazi is a nude Nazi. Unfortunately so far his attempts have been unsuccessful and have resulted in little more than vegetables. One Nazi soldier does nothing but repetitively bounce an imaginary ball, one does nothing but comb his hair all day, and one is Edward Fox. Herbert J Leder’s directorial technique tends towards covering everything in master shots and he was obviously a graduate of the ‘one take’ school of film-making. The sound isn’t very good either, which is surprising considering the boom mike has been brought so close to the actors in some scenes that you can actually see it. In amongst all this there’s some really weird imagery that for fans of this kind of thing (and we all know who we are) that more than makes up for any incompetence. There’s a wall of severed arms that can still move, a mysterious old lady in the village who wears a rubber mask, and best of all that severed head of a green-faced girl kept in a box with her brain exposed and pulsating. Then of course there’s the kind of dialogue that would have brought a tear to the eye of Ed Wood. “That head will destroy us all!” “It can’t do that – it’s only a head.” Or “He calls himself Mr Smith but with that strong German accent of his you’d think he should really call himself Mr Schmidt”. But best of all are the terrible German accents: “Zey vill zink it voz an accident! Zey do not know he pushed ze flower pot!” Actors stumble over their lines, Dana goes to put his glass down before the butler gets there with the tray for him to put it on, and the ending is so completely bonkers, with the severed head taking control of the wall of arms, that it has to be seen to be believed. Top it all off with a final shot that’s genuinely unnerving and a very very strange way to end a mid-60s horror film and THE FROZEN DEAD, when paired with its original cofeature IT! wins hands down as the most barkingly insane double bill I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending close to thirty years of my life tracking down.

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