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Default Shock Waves



Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: September 1, 2002

Released by: Blue Underground
Release date: 9/3/2002
MSRP: $24.95
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



Nazi zombies return from the depths of the sea to wreck havoc off the coast of Florida. That synopsis for Shock Waves doesn't sound like a promising premise, but neither does "Zombies raid a mall" for Romero's classic Dawn of the Dead. Directed by first-time Director Ken Wiederhorn, who would later go on to helm another zombie classic, Return of the Living Dead, Part 2, Shock Waves has become a cult favorite over the years. Blue Underground, with a panache for resurrecting forgotten gems, has given Shock Waves a new widescreen transfer and some new supplements for this DVD. Does this film hold its own with Romero's trilogy? Let's find out.

The Story

inline ImageWhen World War II was in full tilt, the Nazi High Command ordered the creation of a new breed of soldier. These soldiers would be able to withstand the harshest and most diverse of weather conditions, and could kill strictly with the power of their own hands. Known as the Death Corps, their existence would remain a secret from anyone but the SS. When Nazi Germany was finally overthrown, this elite batch of unstoppable killers was left stranded at sea, and were never since found. Now, thirty years later, these unstoppable monstrosities will wreak havoc on American's one more time…

inline Image Headed by Capitan Ben (John Carradine), a boat with six passengers heads out at sea. A yellow haze fills the sky, and boats begin to emerge from beneath the surface of the ocean. One of these boats hits the ship, causing Ben's boat to get stuck upon a reef, so the crew jump ship and head off to a nearby island. Once the group arrives there, Ben is found mysteriously dead and a nearby mansion is discovered. The crew head over to the mansion, and meet the very odd SS Commander (Peter Cushing). Apparently, Cushing was the commander of the zombie soldiers created by the Nazi's in WWII. His ship with the mutants crashed, and he has since lived his life on the island alone and in exile. He warns the others to exit now while they still can, and then vanishes off into the islands wilderness.

The shipwrecked group listens to Cushing, and led by Keith (Luke Halpin), the ship's navigator, they search for a way off the island. As the group ventures off though, the Nazi zombies rise from their watery graves with only carnage on their mind. One by one they pickoff the various members of the crew until only one person, Rose (Brooke Adams) is left surviving to tell this horrid tale.

inline ImageShock Waves is a masterpiece in the genre of zombie cinema, and not since the original Night of the Living Dead have zombies been so frightening. With their bright blonde hair, dark goggles and decaying skin, the Nazi zombies of the film are unrelenting and fearless. Unlike traditional zombies, these are ones that possess immeasurable strength and agility, and can single handedly plunder even the strongest of humans. Their eyes are scantly revealed, and their visage remains emotionless throughout the film, creating a truly terrifying group of villains. With a strength unseen of in previous films about the undead, the zombies of this movie make their presence almost unbearably frightening.

inline ImageWhen the zombies are not on the screen, it is Richard Einhorn's truly eerie score that keeps the ominous tone sustained throughout the film. Consisting of subtle shrills and organ notes, the score is very unsettling, and as stated in the included commentary "pushes the film up 8 levels". The score meshes perfectly with the barren and isolated landscape, and heightens the doom and gloom of the main characters. There is no relief to the film, and its looming and ominous score makes this one frightening picture.

inline Image John Carradine and Peter Cushing are both perfectly pessimistic as well, lending their hand to making the film so chilling. Right from the beginning, with Carradine's riffs about the ship being overthrown by the ghosts at sea, the apocalyptic tone of the film is established. Jack Davidson plays the traditional zombie film pessimist with skill, and the remainder of the cast work well with each other in creating characters that the audience can relate with. Even the beautiful Brooke Adams (The Dead Zone), who remains underused nearly throughout all of the film, comes through in the pivotal final moments of the film to make the film hauntingly unsettling.

inline ImageThe true triumph of the film though, is the fact that Shock Waves manages to frighten without any shots of gore or offending material. The film was remarkably only Rated PG upon its initial release, but this is anything but a children's picture. When the film comes to an end, it is the tone and hazy atmosphere that sticks with the viewer, not the plot or the characters. Unlike most zombie films, the tone in this film is the key, not the gore. In a day and age in cinema where directors rely on what is on screen to frighten audiences, how refreshing it is to see Shock Waves create such a foreboding and darkly atmosphere without ever showing any carnage.

Shock Waves is an exceptional zombie film that has been drowned out by the overabundance of other zombie films to come out throughout the 1970's. For a film without gore to rival the genre's pinnacle film, Night of the Living Dead, in terms of its frightening atmosphere is quite the achievement, and make no mistake, Shock Waves delivers exactly what the title promises.

Image Quality

The original negative for the film was unfortunately lost, but by utilizing the director's very own print, Blue Underground has crafted a fine 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. The print is understandably in poor shape, with legions of blemishes and poor color balance. The black levels are very weak and incredibly inconsistent, but rest assured, this is the best the film will ever look. The print is fairly sharp, considering it was shot on 16 mm, and the greens depicted on the trees and grass actually look quite nice. Although there are several problems, given the film's obscurity, a widescreen transfer of this film is a blessing. Kudos to Blue Underground for taking the time to track this lost print down.

Sound

Presented in English mono only, like the other Blue Underground releases, this track actually sounds better than what is to be expected. The sound quality is actually in quite good shape compared to the visuals, and remains always understandable. The music is nicely understated and never drowns out the actor's voices. A simple, but effective track.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Another Blue Underground release, another fine batch of supplements. This time, there is an audio commentary with Director Ken Wiederhorn, Make-Up Designer Alan Ormsby and Filmmaker Fred Olen Ray. The three all sound like old friends, and they are all very vocal about the film. They share their opinions on zombie films and horror films in general, and they express their respects to Cushing and Carradine. They point out what works and what doesn't in the film, and overall this is an entertaining track.

Next up is an eight minute interview with Luke Halpin entitled "From Flipper to Shock Waves". This is a bit of a letdown, as Halpin doesn't really divulge much info other than his love for the film and its participants. Wierderhorn mentions in the commentary that Halpin and Brooke Adams had a romance throughout the film, and it would have been nice for Halpin to have talked more at length about that.

inline ImageThe disc is bottomed out by a collection of promotional materials. Two radio spots, a TV spot and the theatrical trailer are included and they are very eerie and accurately present the film's apocalyptic atmosphere. Also included is a very lengthy Poster, Still & Production Gallery, which contains a massive 120 pictures that covers all parts of the film. Not only are the advertising materials used in the film presented fully, but zombie concept designs, box office statements and even pictures of the film's various titles were also included, making this quite a comprehensive gallery. Overall another fine batch of extras for a deserving film by Blue Underground.

Final Thoughts

Although Shock Waves has remained under the radar from most zombie fans over the years, it is still a very effective and chilling film that deserves to be seen. Even without gore the movie manages to sustain a horrific mood, and it stands today as one of the best zombie films never seen. The video transfer looks rough, but given the history of the film, it is the best it can look. The supplements are enjoyable, and the mono track is fairly good. I highly recommend the film to zombie fans and anyone looking for a frightening cinematic experience. If watching this film with the lights out doesn't give you Shock Waves, then you are already dead!

Rating

Movie - A-
Image Quality - B-
Sound - B-
Supplements - B+

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Urated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1

Supplements
  • Commentary by Director Ken Wiederhorn, Make-Up Designer Alan Ormsby and Filmmaker Fred Olen Ray.
  • "From Flipper to Shock Waves: An Interview with Luke Halpin"
  • Poster, Still & Production Art Gallery
  • TV Spot
  • Radio Spots
  • Theatrical Trailer

Other Pictures

 

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