Rudy Schwartz's Reviews

I suppose I've always had a soft spot for severed head movies, in the same way I still like to put on a comfy old cardigan, spin some Perry Como vinyl, and break out a box of Ritz crackers and a can of aerosol cheese. And for me, the golden era of severed head films overlapped neatly with my adolescence, kicking off with a bang in 1962 with The Brain That Wouldn't Die, then building to a frenzied climax ten years later in The Thing With Two Heads. The latter blended the cut and dry hand wringing over medical ethics with the racial tensions of the day, producing a glorious orgasm of stupid that would arguably not be challenged until Pink Lady and Jeff hit the airwaves in 1980.

Along the way, one such film may have escaped the attention of many, and undeservedly so, in my view. The Frozen Dead, filmed just twenty years after World War II, explored the possibility of Nazis being revived from a suspended state so that they might reorganize and finish their business. The premise seems a bit far fetched to me. After all, aside from giving Fox News a small ratings bump, I'm skeptical these reanimated Nazis would have much of an impact on the modern world once their juices were flowing. Their résumés would have a huge gap to explain, and they would have missed out on key technological advancements like the Russian sputnik and the Popeil Pocket Fisherman. Worse, outside of some parts of Idaho and Alabama, most people tend to look askance at Nazis, and not without good reason. Sure, they gave us Volkswagens and some of the worst swing jazz in recorded history, but just ask any 80 year old from the rest of Europe how they feel when a German tourist asks for directions.

But Dana Andrews, as Dr. Norberg, has no time to consider their assimilation potential before applying jumper cables to old frozen Nazis, because as Tom Lehrer observed:

"Once zee rockets go up, who cares where they come down? Zat's not my department," says Wernher Von Braun.

Dana's already got some organs wiggling around in glass jars, and even better, he's got a bunch of switch-activated, flopping human arms connected to a wall with wires and sheet rock spackle. He's also got a few Nazis that are sort of working, but the problem is getting their brains to run smoothly. For some reason, they all know how to do exactly one thing, and that one thing varies on a per Nazi basis. One Nazi just combs his hair and looks kind of sad, and none of them can do anything as complicated as a Sudoku puzzle. Sadly, there's little potential for a Fourth Reich in the existing crop. No, what Dana needs is a human brain to experiment with, so he can squirt the proverbial frosting on his Nazi reanimation theories. Enter his assistant, Karl, who is all too eager to help out. So when Dana's niece brings a college pal home for a weekend, Karl goes proactive and snuffs her before she's had her first cup of coffee, then blames one of Dana's reanimated Nazi zombies. Dana's not happy about it, but goddamn it, she's got a fresh brain in her head, and it's not like she's going to be doing anything with it. So Dana borrows her head, hooks it to a bunch of tubes and wires, props it up on a cribbage table, and then the real fun begins. It's not really clear why the head needs to be severed in order to study the brain, but who am I to question Dana Andrews? The Nazis gave him a few million Deutsche Marks to look into this, so he obviously didn't just fall off the turnip truck, assuming they ship turnips that way in Germany.

Eventually things go sour for Dana, but not before he blurts out loads of hilarious pseudo-scientific gibberish, with a German accent that wouldn't get him hired as a Three Stooges extra. And unfortunately he hadn't reached the most desperate point of his career, as anyone who has maintained consciousness through Hot Rods From Hell can attest. But The Frozen Dead stands turgid in the noble echelons of badfilm, predating They Saved Hitler's Brain by a couple of years, and actually seeming somewhat polished in comparison. If by some chance you've never spent a Sunday afternoon lying half asleep on a beer stained sofa, gawking at this with a bewildered stare, I'd say go for it, mach schnell.

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