Shock Waves (1976) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Shock Waves (1976)

The cover to Blue Underground’s release of Shock Waves

Film: If you’ve watched any of my YouTube videos you may have come across one where I describe and display my favourite coloured vinyl soundtracks. Now, I have a fairly extensive vinyl collection and almost 1/3 of it is movie soundtracks, either traditional bombastic orchestral ones like Star Wars and Superman, or ‘pop’ music ones like Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and Straight Outta Compton, but a lot of them are synthesiser based, very Lo-fi ‘synth-wave’ styled scores which delicately and intimately build a tone in the film that may not be there normally if you were just to take the visuals into account.  

Recently, I picked up an amazing copy of the score to the 1976 film Shock Waves, released by Waxwork Records who have produced some stunning soundtracks on vinyl… seriously, if you like records, check these guys out.

Richard Einhorn created the soundtrack to this film and it just sits perfectly with in the visual narrative, but what is that narrative? Well…

A young woman, Rose (Brooke Adams) is found floating in a rowboat, delirious and dehydrated and with a horrible tale to tell.

Shock Waves: Brooke Adams wonders what’s happening to the sky.

The tale tells of her and three other passengers on a boat trip when the boat, a troublesome vessel anyways, runs aground after almost colliding with another, abandoned boat. The next day, the two crew members get concerned due to the disappearance of the Captain, Ben Morris (John Carradine).

They get to shore of what appears to be a desert island, when very quickly they discover it has several inhabitants. One is a crazy old Nazi SS Commander (Peter Cushing) and the other is a group of NAZI ZOMBIES HELL-BENT ON THEIR DESTRUCTION.

Synth, Cushing, Carradine, Nazi zombies and Brooke Adams (who has been seen in several movies of this era, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Murders in the Rue Morgue) makes for a pleasurable viewing experience. It’s not a perfect film, lord no, but it has enough going for it to make it a solid watch.

Shock Waves: Peter Cushing as the SS Commander

A special mention has to be made of the actually Nazi Zombies themselves. The actors are under some serious make up to make them look ‘zombified’ and the costumes are efficient looking Nazi ones, but the real talent comes from the underwater scenes with them in it. They don’t look like they are holding their breath, they don’t take a deep breath when they surface and there is a disturbing comfort they appear to have with just walking along the ocean floor. Really creepy.

It’s a traditional ‘unstoppable horror versus plain old humans’ but the addition of Cushing and Carradine gives it some horror cache, and it soundtrack makes it creepier than it probably is!

Score: ****

Format: This review was done with the AmericanBlue Underground release on DVD which runs for about 84 minutes and is presented in a below average and artefact filled 1.85:1 visual with a slightly above average 2.0 soundtrack.

Shock Waves DVD menu screen

Score: **1/2

Extras: A nice selection of extras on this disc. From Flipper to Shock waves is an interview with Luke Halpin who plays Keith, one of the crew who acts as the ‘hero’ of the piece. He was also a member of the cast of the 60s Flipper TV show, hence the title!

A pretty cool commentary also features on this disc, starring director Ken Wiederhorn, special effects artist Alan Ormsby and filmmaker Fred Olen Ray. It’s an informative and interesting commentary.

We also have a bunch of promo material including the trailer, TV spot, two radio spots and 

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s a fun 70s flick, so yeah, it’s a rewatcher for sure!

Nazi Zombies rise from the depths!

The Astro-Zombies (1968) review

One from the to watch pile…
The Astro Zombies (1968)

Film: I am an unabashed fan of films, and I don’t care if they a blockbusters or trashy trash, I just love cinema. I’ve seen films with a negative budget that have entertained me to no end, and sat down to multi-million dollar, star studded efforts that have bored me to the point of attempting to swallow my own tongue just to get out of the cinema. I’ve seen Academy Award (c) winners that sucked, and Razzie recipients that didn’t.

This is the amazing tapestry of life: opinions are like arseholes, everyone’s got one and most of them stink.

The reason I find films of all levels entertaining lie in two pieces of personal necessary criteria: story, and duration. The film has to have a good story, and the effects don’t matter because whether they are seamless CGI effects or rubber costumes, I can see the story that is being conveyed. If effects were such an issue, TV shows like the Thunderbirds wouldn’t have the longevity they do. The duration and efficiency in how that story is told is also a point of contention. One of my pet peeves is the current trend of overselling a great movie with a TV series remake… I’m looking directly at you, Scream. The first film was told with an economy that the TV series unnecessarily expands upon. The point here is not whether the show is good or not, because an item of entertainment can have great acting and direction but then not deliver its tale with any sense of timing delivery.

This film, The Astro Zombies, is by legendary independent film-maker Ted V. Mikels, whose skill in filmmaking I find interesting and frustrating. Interesting insomuch as I like the themes, and story of the films he makes, but frustrating as he breaks my second rule about the pace of a film. His direction is always here and there with me as well; occasionally I find scenes that are set with such an amazing eye for a quirky angle, and then in the next second, someone spends an entire dialogue scene with their face in the shadows, but the back of their head lit perfectly.

This film tells of Dr DeMarco (John Carradine) a former scientist from the Astro Space Laboratory, who has managed to created a murderous ‘Astro-man’ from parts stolen from various dead bodies procured by his deformed assistant, Franchot (William Bagdad). Even though performed in secret, the doctor’s work has still been brought to the attention of agents from various secret services from around the world, including the villainous spy Satana (Tura Satana) and the CIA’s chief Holman (Wendell Corey).

Holman amps up his investigation though when a young lab assistant is brutally killed by one of the Astro-men, and using the latest hi-tech equipment that the CIA has, they manage to pinpoint his secret location for a final deadly showdown.

Realistically, this movie could be summed up in one sentence: Dr Frankenstein vs The Man From Uncle, and even, in the credits, uses some of the fonts from TV shows like The Brady Bunch, and scene changes that kinda-sorta feel a bit Batman (the 60s TV show) in style.

The basic for the story is quite entertaining, though I am mystified as to how Umbrella managed to be stuck with an R rating. There is really nothing here that is SO offensive to require that. I almost wonder if they have just thrown on a rating from several years ago just to not have to pay to have it resubmitted, especially as seeing as how it is at such a low price in Australia (this copy was bought from JB Hifi in Sydney NSW at a just sub $7 price point). I don’t see how this could be under the same category as Cannibal Holocaust and Salo!

The real joy from this film comes from the appearance of iconic Russ Meyer star Tura Satana, chewing up every line she gets and showing her disdain for every man she comes across that doesn’t bow to her will, and John Carradine, a cinema legend who is known just as much for the absolute crap he ended up in as much as he is known for his quality cinema. The appearance of these two though, doesn’t mean the film is a must-see gem unfortunately.

I think perhaps Mikels at this stage in his career didn’t quite understand, or chose to ignore, and I mentioned this earlier, that cinema has a language where every single step of a procedure doesn’t need to be shown. At one point Carradine goes through this long winded process with a computer chip that brings the film down to almost a complete halt. I’m amazed I stayed awake!

The film is entertaining, though has several of these moments that bog it down. It’s hardly one I’d suggest to most of my film friends, but the trash fans will get up for it… And it’s got Tura Satana in it, surely that at least worth one watch!

Score: **

Format: This Australian region free DVD release from Umbrella Entertainment is presented in a very artefact-filled, telecine wobbling 1.77:1 image with a mono English soundtrack. It’s still watchable, but it is far from a perfect image.

Score: **

Extras: Not a sausage. Not a single thing. Zip. Zilch. I do have to compliment the awesome cover though, but it doesn’t get a score as an extra just for having that.

Score: N/A

WISIA: It’s far from a great film and honestly I found it at times somewhat of a trial, but the appearances of Tura Satana and John Carradine possibly could cause it to be spun more than once.