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Blue Underground presents
Shock Waves (1977)

"The sea spits up what it can't keep down."
- Dobbs (Don Stout)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: June 17, 2005

Stars: Peter Cushing, Brooke Adams, Luke Halpin
Other Stars: John Carradine, Jack Davidson, Don Stout, D.J. Sidney
Director: Ken Weiderhorn

Manufacturer: Ritek
MPAA Rating: R for (mild language, brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:24m:33s
Release Date: September 30, 2003
UPC: 827058102797
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+B-B- B+

DVD Review

Horror filmmakers seem to love a good niche—something to make themselves somehow unique—and for director Ken Wiederhorn (Return of the Living Dead Part II) in 1977 it was Nazi zombies rising up off the ocean floor to wreak marginal but deadly havoc in his debut feature Shock Waves. Wiederhorn gave his project some genre weight by snagging John Carradine and Peter Cushing as name players, though Carradine is essentially just a brief, typically curmudgeonly supporting role while Cushing—always watchable even when not at the top of his game—spends most of his time delivering his lines with an accent that fluctuates wildly between English and German.

A charter boat sprinkled with a handful of stock characters (including Flipper's Luke Halpin as first mate and Brooke Adams as a simply out of place passenger), captained by the grizzled Carradine, runs aground on a remote island far off the coast of Florida after a collision with a "ghost ship". As bad luck would have it, the island's sole occupant happens to be a former SS officer (Cushing) whose mission during the war, which we learn during one of those monologues Cushing always does so well, had been perfecting a race of super soldiers who could be the perfect weapon, a breed of fighters "not dead, not alive, but somewhere in between." He had been forced to sink a sub full of them to the bottom of the sea at the end of the war, and it now seems they have decided to return to the surface to do what they do best: kill.

The castaways problems of getting off the island are compounded by the appearance of the goggle-wearing, pasty-skinned Nazi zombies, who seem to take great pleasure in drowning people. They're not the quickest batch of the undead I've ever seen, yet still expendable characters are picked off one by one, as Brooke Adams has to spend most of her time scurrying about in a very small bikini. Wiederhorn's best moments in the entire film are the scenes of the zombies silently rising up out of the water, scenes that show great promise until we realize their sole intent is to just drown people, which seems fairly limiting.

I'm a firm believer that any film with Peter Cushing is worth seeing at least once, because the man cuts such a dynamic presence that even roles that have more than a hint of sleepwalk in them (like this one, for example), still radiate with some kind of magnetic charisma. He may not vary his performances all that much, but there is something about the way he delivers lines that make even the hokiest dialogue sound both proper and ominous. Without Cushing—even in this glorified supporting role disguised as a lead—Wiederhorn's film would be somehow less memorable, Nazi zombies and Brooke Adams in a small yellow bikini and all.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer comes from an original print out of director Ken Wiederhorn's archives, and while it is far from perfect, it is much better than I would have expected for a late 1970s horror title. It is rather grainy—no doubt a result of having been originally shot on Super 16 and then blown up to 35—and the middle portion is plagued by quite a bit of age-related specks, though the outdoor jungle sequences look surprisingly strong.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The film's original mono track has very marginal hiss, and the clarity of character voices makes dialogue consistently understandable. The only minor beef is that Richard Einhorn's electronic score, which was fairly inventive for the time, sounds slightly harsh.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ken Wiederhorn, Fred Olen Ray, Alan Ormsby
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio Spots (2)
  2. Poster, Stills and Production Art Gallery
Extras Review: Blue Underground has boosted the fan appeal of Shock Waves by including a commentary track from director Ken Wiederhorn, make-up designer Alan Ormsby, and genre director Fred Olen Ray, who was a stills photographer and self-proclaimed "amateur go-fer" on the film. Wiederhorn leads the conversation, talking about working with the $200,000 budget, shooting in Florida and Bimini, and how he spread the minimal footage of John Carradine and Peter Cushing around to make their presence seem more prominent. There's a few dead spots, but the stories are terrific, such as Wiederhorn's recollections of a "cantankerous" Carradine, Cushing's "every-fifth-sentence German accent" and obsession with buckwheat pancakes, or the hassles of getting dead fish to float. Gaffe buffs will appreciate Fred Olen Ray pointing out the visible leg of a lawn chair holding down a tarp in a swimming pool meant to replicate the ocean floor during Carradine's death scene.

From Flipper to Shock Waves: An Interview with Luke Halpin (07m:45s) features a recent conversation (circa 2002) with the actor, who recalls how he almost didn't get the gig, as well as a handful of anecdotes about the cast. Halpin appears to have changed very little in appearance since 1977, and comes across as a likeable chap.

Also included are a theatrical trailer, a couple of TV and radio spots, and a hefty poster, stills and production art gallery. The disc is cut into 23 chapters.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Ken Wiederhorn's 1977 low-budget Nazi zombie film, Shock Waves, has the distinction of boasting two of the most iconic faces from horror's golden age—John Carradine and the great Peter Cushing—and a bikini-clad Brooke Adams in her first starring role, to boot.

Not terribly frightening by any stretch—and the shuffling undead seem to take great pleasure in simply drowning their victims—but the stranded-on-an-island premise almost works and really anything with Cushing almost demands to be watched, even if his accent flops around horribly.


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