It is a not-so-little-known fact that exploitation cinema is enamored with Nazis. Why? Perhaps because they represent one of the greatest evils ever known to man. Maybe it is because they represent a real form of darkness, darkness that even the most imaginative of exploitative directors would have a hard time fabricating. Or, maybe it is simply because it is a way to turn a dollar. Either way, Nazis have invaded numerous outlets of various sub-sub-genres. Following the creation of the Zombie genre—at least the contemporary Zombie, as we know it today—it could only be a matter of time before someone added Nazis into the mix; the real surprise is that it took until 1977 for that to happen. The film in question is Ken Wiederhorn’s Shock Waves. While there are a few notable precursors starting with King of the Zombies, Revenge of the Zombies, The Frozen Dead, and—somewhat arguable but why not—They Saved Hitler’s Brain, with the 1968 release of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, however, the game changed. Zombies were transformed from the brainless slaves of quasi-Voodoo folklore, to brain-eating ghouls. Shock Waves is arguably the first contemporary Nazi Zombie hybrid, a subgenre of a subgenre that will get further traction over the next few decades with films like Zombie Lake, Oasis of Zombies, and most recently with Dead Snow and Dead Snow 2.
Between Night of the Living Dead and Shock Waves there were almost 20 Zombie films produced, including two of the Blind Dead series, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, and A Virgin Among the Living Dead. What is interesting about Shock Waves, though, is how it kind of plays fast and loose with—what at that point was already that accepted version of—the Zombie. Wiederhorn opts out of the flesh eating schematic. Further, the Zombies aren’t quite as stiff and slow moving—but neither do they have the kind of speed of the zombies that would emerge in the 1980s with Nightmare City. In many ways Shock Waves is quite the enigma, but in the best way possible. With appearances by Hammer Horror legend Peter Cushing (following the performance that would later make him more of a household name in Star Wars) and John Carradine (who starred in over 200 films including the films of John Ford and Cecil B. DeMille), Shock Waves is an impressive debut feature by Wiederhorn. While the film bares the heavy mark of its meager budget, Wiederhorn shows great promise, using what little his has on hand in an effective matter.
At almost 40 years old, Shock Waves is still a raving good watch. Now, Brooklynites have cause for extra celebration with the news that next Monday, November 24, Diabolique’s favorite theatre Nitehawk Cinema will be hosting a one-night only screening of the film. Adding to the festivities will be a special Q+A with Ken Wiederhorn following the screening, which will be moderated by Fangoria’s Sam Zimmerman. Nitehawk is sure to go above and beyond expectations, and these screenings usually fill up quick, so act fast.
Ticket Price: $15
Run Time: 90 minutes
Director: Ken Wiederhorn
Starring: Peter Cushing, Brooke Adams, John Carradine
Age Policy: 18 and Up
Note: Post screening Q&A with director Ken Wiederhorn
Nitehawk plunges into the deep end of horror with a screening of a new restoration of water-logged zombie flick SHOCK WAVES. Director Ken Wiederhorn will be here for a Q&A after the film moderated by Fangoria’s Sam Zimmerman.
Remember that episode of Gilligan’s Island where the crew of the Minnow met up with an old SS scientist who was once in charge of a squad of unstoppable, underwater Nazi zombies? No? Well, that’s because that’s plot for Shock Waves, director Ken Wiederhorn’s oddball horror film about a group of yachters who have a nasty run-in with a band of zombies so well versed at killing that even Hitler didn’t want anything to do with them. Shock Waves stars horror icons John Carradine, Peter Cushing and Peter Cushing’s great, big fake scar, and is certain to leave you breathless. (Get it?)