Movies ‘Till Dawn: “The Frozen Dead” (1966)

61soivp7WML._SL1000_Nazi scientist Nordberg (Dana Andrews) endures the worst week at the office imaginable in The Frozen Dead: sequestered in a genteel English village since the end of the war, Nordberg has been charged by his superiors (frequent European heel Karel Stapanek and Basil Henson) to thaw out a platoon of cryogenically frozen soldiers in order to launch a new Third Reich. But, as any office drone knows, managerial vision is not always in line with reality, and Nordberg’s efforts have yielded not a race of Aryan super warriors but a bunch of gibbering idiots that include his brother (a pre-fame Edward Fox), who’s turned into a strangle-happy maniac. Adding to Nordberg’s woes is the surprise arrival of his niece (Anna Palk) and her American friend (Kathleen Breck), as well as a gabby American doctor (Phillip Gilbert) who wants to talk up Nordberg about his recent experiment that involved keeping a dog’s severed head alive (!). Faced with the unendurable pressures of workplace stress and too many houses guests, Nordberg makes a rash decision to keep his bosses happy – one that begins with gnomish assistant (Alan Tilvern) and his handsy brother making off with Breck and ends with a talking head in a box, animated limbs dangling from walls and a few new residents in the doctor’s walk-in freezer. 

Junk movie completists will note the plot similarities between writer/director Herbert J. Leder’s The Frozen Dead and The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1960), which also involves misguided medicos and reluctant head transplant subjects. However, where Brain wallows in morbid body issues and unpleasant weirdo lust, Frozen is more chaste fare, reining in Tilvern’s leers at a supine Breck and focusing instead on the noble but misguided Nordberg’s attempts to do right by the Party and deliver the scientific goods. Since he’s clearly unable to do so from the get-go, Frozen Dead gets a little wobbly in its middle section and attempts to keep up audience interest with long, shadowy walks to the lab and a ridiculous bit of subterfuge involving Tilvern’s attempts to convince the locals that Breck has boarded a train to London and is not residing in a hatbox in the basement. But the scare engine revs up for the final, frantic moments, which suggest E.C. style final panel looniness and a macabre sign-off from Breck that equals Virginia Leith – Brain‘s lady in a box – hissing “You should have let me die!” in that movie’s deranged conclusion. Warner Archives’ DVD presentation is both letterboxed and in color, which should be a pleasant surprise for creature feature fans who first saw the picture on television in black and white (a budget decision on the part of its distributor, Seven Arts). 

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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