Shock Waves

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Year: 1977
Director: Ken Wiederhorn
Writer(s): Ken Wiederhorn, Ken Pare, John Kent Harrison
Starring: Brooke Adams, Luke Halpin, Fred Buch, Jack Davidson, D.J. Sidney, Don Stout, John Carradine, Peter Cushing

We created the perfect soldier from cheap hoodlums and thugs…and a good number of pathological murders and sadists as well. We called them the Totten Corps, the Death Corps.

This is a movie that when I was younger I would never rent just because the cover art actually creeped me out as I walked the aisles of my local video store. The cover has waterlogged Nazi zombies emerging from the water, the lead zombie is holding a ship in his hands cracking it in two. It is by far more exciting than the actual movie. But at the very least this film does have two veteran horror film actors.

The film starts with a little row boat being found by a fisherman and his cabin boy, possibly son, inside the row boat is an unconscious woman, Rose (Adams). After being helped to their boat she is given water and begins to tell her tragic tale that ended with her being adrift on the ocean for so many days before finally being found by the fishing vessel.

On a discount diving vacation, one that is off to a bad start as we find out they are having problems with the vessel’s drive shaft, the group of vacationers are patiently…well, some of them are…waiting for the ship to be repaired. As Rose swims around the ship we see that the helmsman, Keith (Halpin), has taken notice of her as she emerges from the water and lays suntanning on the ship. The Captain (Carradine) appear at Keith’s side to let him know everything seems to be okay with the engine and that it is safe to resume their charted course. Keith doesn’t appear to be very much of a sailor as his lack of nautical terms anger the possibly pickled Captain. Suddenly the sky becomes a strange shade of orange and the helmsman and Captain both believe they hear something on the wind but each cannot be sure what they heard. Later in the galley below we are introduced to the rest of the crew and vacationers. Jovial Dobbs (Stout), the galley chef, is serving dinner and telling sailor’s ghost stories. Vacationers, Norman (Davidson) and Beverly (Sidney) are chatting with Rose and Chuck (Buch) about the strange color of the sky. Norman is clearly not happy about the vacation and especially questions the professionalism of their Captain, and goes so far as to be extremely rude to the man as he sits down to join them for dinner.

Later that evening Rose decides to take a stroll on the deck and tries to chat it up with Keith who as she finds is very reserved to the point of being stand offish. Rose finally begins to break through his shell when the boat is rocked as they are hit by a ‘ghostship’. The camera work here is particularly confusing as the the ship is supposed to have risen from its watery grave…but it looked to me like the ship was sailing right towards them as they hit. The hull of the ship doesn’t appear to be damaged but the Captain warns that it is to dark to be sure, they will wait until the morning.

Come morning though and the Captain is no longer on the boat, his clothes are found on deck, but the man himself is no where to be found. The strange wreck of a ship that struck them is still out there though and in the light of the day they can also make out an island. As Dobbs is setting about cleaning up his kitchen he finds smoke rising from below the flooring, a quick glance at the problem shows the engine is busted up, and after Keith takes a quick dive to inspect the bottom of the boat he reports the hull is cracked and they are taking on water.

Taking turns he ferries the vacationers aboard a row boat to the island, during the last trip over with Norman and Beverly, through the glass view port of the boat they see the drowned corpse of the Captain. The group retrieve his body and lay him on the beach as Chuck spots a structure further inland. It turns out to be a derelict resort, though as they find out later there is still a living occupant in the place. A former SS Commander (Cushing) who by his own actions exiled himself many years ago on the island when at the end of the war he decided to scuttle his ship and its monstrous crew. The very same boat that rose up from the depths to strike the touring vessel. Meanwhile on the bottom of the ocean floor a Nazi soldier slowly walks towards the island…

Shock Waves is not a horrible movie really, not the worst I’ve seen by far, but it’s greatest flaw of all is that it is extremely boring. Which is really a shame as the visuals of the undead soldiers is very creepy but they never really do anything, they do not act like Romero zombies of course, favoring drowning their victims instead of eating them. The victims also happen to be right where one of the soldiers is laying beneath the water and to be quite frank it gets to be absurd after a few deaths. There is also the matter of a lack of information regarding the creatures, one of the vacationers pulls off the goggles of her attacker…and the Nazi groans and stumbles about before falling dead. Why is this? We are never told.

I’m going to have to bestow a meager two and a half pumpkins out of five to Shock Waves.

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VicSage

Editor at Retroist
Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

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5 thoughts on “Shock Waves

  1. I just finished watching this last night! Not too bad. I do like the setting, that island looks like it’d be real fun exploring. Those Nazi Zombies did spend a lot of time laying under water. I missed the part about their boat taking on water and couldn’t understand why they just didn’t get back on their boat. Now it makes more sense…

  2. Doug says:

    One of my favs!! I first saw it on Fritz the Nite Owl’s Chiller Theater (late night Columbus), and just recently bought it and watched it twice. Creeped me out back then, still creeps me today. Three pluses: 1) location is great, not traditionally spooky but very disturbing, 2) the zombies are smart and aggressive!, and 3) Brooke Adams. Don’t tell my wife, but Brooke Adams…(insert drooling sounds here). Great pick.

  3. Glad you all enjoyed it, I hope these reviews that the Retroist and I are doing will give you ample ideas for some Halloween viewing pleasure! :)

  4. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Loved this when me and my friends first caught it, as youngsters watching a double-bill at the movies. We were too young to have discovered the full creepy nature of the magnificiently cold and deadly zombie creature. So the slow shambling, protective goggle-wearing (the goggles *did* something back then) Nazi undead were the cat’s pyjamas.
    And Dr Van Helsing was in it, so it was a winner, even though a confused one.

    Later on, with my attraction to death-by-zombie augmented by Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (great for TV chills, but mostly slow and boring as well, ’till the ending), The Midnight Hour (oddly horrific, for something made for TV, I think) and those bone-chilling Dawn Of The Dead TV spots (just what was going on in there?) I came back to this one whenever it played on (you guessed it) TV and later on VHS.

    And of course, Doug, I have dibs on Brooke Adams.
    Though I doubt she has dibs on me.

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