Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In short: The Frozen Dead (1966)

If you're a fan of the "cult movie watching as a form of prospecting for gold in the dross" theory, Herbert J. Leder's film about the troubles with unfreezing Nazis and keeping their sanity intact (please insert a clever observation about the obvious disconnect between Nazism and sanity here) - the sort of project that needs a fresh human head to experiment on - may be right up your alley, seeing as you have to fight through some very potent dross to get at the film's handful of good scenes. There's a non-plot that stops and starts - but mostly stops - and never goes anywhere, long scenes of pointless and listless talk by actors earnestly doing phony German accents until your brain hurts, all filmed with the enthusiasm of a family slide show, the wooden romance between two wooden young people to end all wooden romances, and all manner of attempts by Leder to sabotage his own film further by not filming many of the potentially exciting (and important) scenes so he can fit more talking, and then even more talking, in.

And if you're an admirer of classical Hollywood, Dana Andrews's performance as the main Nazi scientist nearly going native in the UK may possibly make you very sad with line readings so apathetic I'm still not sure if he was trying to do a German accent or was just too drunk to be bothered pronouncing his lines as if he were awake.

Despite these problems - and some others I don't feel the need to get into - The Frozen Dead does contain the proverbial gold nuggets. The head Andrews keeps alive for his experiment is the only example of this particular trope I can remember that is actually gruesome instead of silly, and even played tragically enough to evoke a degree of sympathy in a viewer. There's a real air of the macabre surrounding the head scenes the rest of the film does neither achieve nor even seem to aim for. This sense of the outré even infects some of the more generic parts of the movie, as is especially demonstrated by the scene in which the romantic lead stumbles upon part of Andrews's horrible secret, and instead of being revolted looks as if he'd like to make sweet, sweet love to what's left of the poor body-less woman. For science.

The wall of arms Andrews also keeps in his lab fits right into this aspect of the movie.

Unfortunately, these glimpses of a much more creepy movie are haphazardly nailed to the utter boredom that makes up at least 70 minutes of The Frozen Dead's 93 minutes of running time. While I don't rue having dragged myself through the mire of those minutes, I don't think I'll ever do so again.


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