What DO you do when you've lost a World War for the second time – and have a surplus of high-ranking Nazi officers to contend with? Simple, you fool – you freeze them for that third-time’s-the-charm op, or, for want of a better term, The Reich Capades.
Anyways, that's what super-loon mad doktor Dana Andrews has conceived in what's left of his so-called mind, and, if you don't believe me – check out THE FROZEN DEAD, a howlin’ Heilin’ hoot, now available on DVD-R made-to-(just following) order(s) from The Warner Archive Collection.
While the plotline smacks of Mel Brooks, this rarely-seen 1966 triumph-of-the-ill British freak show is played absolutely straight, an artistic choice decided on by writer/producer/director Herbert J. Leder, who was likely committed for observation immediately after the picture wrapped...or worse, relegated to television.
Yet, the “legs” longevity of this opus had a pronounced effect on generations of funnyfolk. Movie-savvy comics often bring it up in stand-up routines. Furthermore, Andrews' moniker 'Norberg' is close enough to ‘Nordberg,’ Leslie Nielsen's partner in the Naked Gun movie franchise, ironically the character played by real-life maniac killer O.J. Simpson.
Dana, it must be said, gives it his all – letting his guard down only in the utilization of his 'Allo, 'Allo! German accent, which sometimes he has...and sometimes he doesn't. This is easily overlooked, however, via the casting of Philip Gilbert, as Herr Doktor's American assistant, delivering the worst Yank impersonation recorded on film since the advent of Vitaphone.
Bad regional dialects aside, Dr. Norberg has nevertheless managed to maintain a successful practice outside a fashionable section of suburban England; not even his dolly girl Anglicized niece suspects anything...even in a household populated by Fearless Leader-type visitors and a von Stroheim lookalike butler (Oliver MacGreevy). But there's a problem. Just when the former head of the SS drops by with his pals to begin the resurrection, Operation Krazy Krauts hits a glitch. What Andrews has failed to tell his superiors is that the thaw-spot of Nazis-on-a-Stick in Swinging Sixties London is that reanimation has transformed their cerebellums into pure saurbraten. Norberg's twelve evil genius specimens are now a dozen variations of Steinbeck's Lenny, or, in effect, Of Mice and Mengele. This doesn't sit well with the teeth-gnashing impatient former general (Karel Stepanek) who shrieks that he has another 1500 in storage goose-steppin' to go (so much for Der Furher, the better)!
What's a Nazi to do?
After not too much thought, Dana deftly comes up with the unoriginal answer: live functioning brains – an option that obviously eluded the backers of this opus.
But where does one find LFBs pliable but brilliant enough to revive and extend Hitler's vision of Aryan glory and world domination? How about teenage girls?
Yup – as if on cue, Norberg's aforementioned beauteous (did we say beauteous?) niece Jean (Anna Palk) arrives home for the holidays with her equally-smokin' BFF Elsa (Kathleen Breck). And before you can say (or sing) England-swing-like-a-pendulum-do, von Stroheim and Co. have, unbeknownst to Dr. Dana, lopped off Elsa's now-shaved/previously mod-coiffed head and wired it up in a fluid-filled jar in the basement.
“This is MURDER!,” screams former holocaust experimenter Andrews – clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle black (or, possibly, in Elsa's discombobulated state, Cilla Black). Elsa is indeed pissed off – and it's easy to understand why: what's the point of Carnaby Street if your glam-body has been tossed into the trash bin (at least the leather-friendly Gestapo remnants were fashion-conscious enough to provide the teen with water-resistant lipstick)?
The above sequence sets in motion THE FROZEN DEAD's piece de resistance. A wall with drilled openings is connected to the deep freeze. Elsa's severed melon artificially arouses the zombified SS men's appendages to burst through the circular portals pumped for some violent action; it's nothing less than a gory-hole...with Elsa's perverted participation reduced to what can only be called head-o-phelia! It takes the term Nazi Party to entirely new level.
For some strange reason Warner Bros./Seven Arts thought better than to do a widespread release of THE FROZEN DEAD; furthermore, many of theaters it did play in exhibited the picture in black and white.
Anyone familiar with this epic is undoubtedly wondering what version has been deigned to DVD-R by the Warner Archive folks. Well, breathe a sigh of relief: this transfer hails from near-pristine 35MM color elements (and fairly robust non-Eastman-faded hues and tones to boot!; cinematographer Davis Boulton can rest easy). The excitable score is by Don Banks, one the UK's most prolific composers of the period. Outside of Andrews and Stepanek, the cast is pretty awful. But, then again, that's part of the train-wreck enjoyment of this Master Race “masterpiece,” which seems to have been inspired by The Brain That Wouldn't Die as well as partially influencing They Saved Hitler's Brain (with which it was paired for a 1970s re-issue). In any event, to quote one of the movie's main characters the “...brain is the big problem.” Do with that what you will. That said, for those aficionados of addictive bad cinema, THE FROZEN DEAD is apt to become one of the cornerstones of your collection.
THE FROZEN DEAD. Color. Letterboxed [1.66:1; 16 x 9 anamorphic]. Mono audio. UPC # 883316367902; CAT # 12868523. SRP: $19.95.