• Shock Waves

    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: November 25th, 2014.
    Director: Ken Wiederhorn
    Cast: Peter Cushing, Brooke Adams, John Carradine
    Year: 1977
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Ken Wiederhorn, 1977’s Shock Waves was and still is a minor masterpiece of mood and atmosphere. It might not be the fastest moving horror picture ever made nor is it a particularly gory film. It’s almost entirely devoid of jump scares and stingers and some of the effects work is a little dodgy (though mostly quite effective), but Shock Waves is still a really creepy movie.

    When the movie begins, a woman named Rose (Brooke Adams) is in a lifeboat, the only survivor of… something. We don’t know at first. Through her flashbacks we learn that she and a few others – Chuck (Fred Buch), Norman (Jack Davidson), Keith (Luke Halpin), and Beverly (D.J. Sidney) - were vacationing on a cruise led by Captain Ben Morris (John Carradine) and his best man, the hard drinking Dobbs (Don Stout). When the ship runs into a strange wreck, they’re forced to flee and take refuge on what they presume to be an abandoned island. Morris doesn’t make it.

    After their arrival they find a huge old hotel, seemingly empty for decades. It turns out, however, that there is one inhabitant, a former S.S. Commander (Peter Cushing) who has been using the place unbeknownst to anyone to continue his World War II era experiments with what he refers to as the ‘Death Corps,’ a modest regiment of blonde haired, blue-eyed undead Nazi soldiers!

    Shot on the coast of Florida, Shock Waves might have been made on a modest budget and a fairly thin plot but it more than compensates for that with some absolutely perfect location work and loads of macabre atmosphere. The abandoned hotel setting on the remote island is the perfect location for most of the action to play out in while the nearby swamps and marshland offer plenty of opportunity for the undead soldiers to operate underwater and along the shorelines. Their menace is intense, what with their old Nazi uniforms still clinging to them and their goggled, decaying faces showing no emotion whatsoever – creepy stuff! The makeup effects by Alan Ormsby (he of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things fame) generally hold up very well here, despite one or two shots where appliances are evident. This, combined with some top notch camera work and lighting and genuinely bizarre electronic score work together to create a nightmarish tone that really goes a long way towards making this one work better than it probably sounded like it would on paper.

    Performances are generally pretty solid here too. You’d think, seeing Carradine co-starring, that he might ham it up or go over the top but he’s quite good as the captain in a rare, almost understated performance. Cushing is perfect as the Commandant and gives his role the sort of regal insanity it needs to work. The tourists all succeed in their work too, with varying degrees of impressiveness, while leading lady Brooke Adams makes a great damsel in distress.


    Shock Waves shows up on Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation taken from the only elements available. The movie was shot on super 16mm and then blown up to 35mm for theatrical play so expect a fair bit of grain and you won’t be disappointed. There’s some minor specks here and there but overall print damage is minor and detail is quite noticeably improved over the DVD that was release more than a decade ago. Colors never leap off the screen but they seem to look pretty natural here and while the underwater scenes are still appropriately murky, they definitely show improved depth and detail. Texture and skin tones look find and black levels are pretty solid here too. There are no problems to note with compression artifacts or noise reduction and while this might not win ‘transfer of the year’ it definitely represents the best presentation of the movie on the format that we’re likely to see any time soon.

    Audio chores are handled by a DTS-HD Mono track in the film’s native English with optional subtitles provided in English SDH, French and Spanish. Dialogue and the film’s eerie score both benefit from the added depth that the lossless track provides here. There are no hiss or distortion related issues to complain about, this isn’t a fancy mix by anyone’s standards but it certainly gets the job done without any problems.

    Carried over from the previous DVD release is the audio commentary from director Ken Wiederhorn and make-up effects technician Alan Ormsby that is basically moderated by Fred Olen Ray. It is an interesting track worth listening to if you haven’t heard it yet as it lets Wiederhorn talk amiably about working with Cushing and Carradine on the quick shoot as well as working with the younger actors in the cast. There’s a fair bit of discussion here too about the makeup used to bring the Nazi zombies to life as well as the location shooting and the toils and tribulations of shooting underwater scenes. Ray, who also worked as a still photographer on the film, keeps the conversation brisk and well-paced.

    New to the disc is a twenty-one minute piece called Nazi Zombies On A Budget which is an interview with the film’s cinematographer, Reuben Trane. Here he talks about his experiences shooting the film with Wiederhorn, who was a good friend of his from before they took on this project together. He then shares some interesting memories about shooting indoors and outdoors for the film and the challenges that occurred there and then he offers up some interesting anecdotes about the cast and the guys who got all made up to play the zombies. Also new to this disc is Notes For The Undead, a fourteen minute interview with composer Richard Einhorn. He talks about how he came on board to work with Wiederhorn on the film, his love of horror films and some of the tricky bits involved in creating the moody synth score featured in the film. We also hear from Brooke Adams for just over seven minutes in Sole Survivor. Here she talks about getting cast in the film, her thoughts on her co-stars and her own performance in the picture and more. Complimenting those three new interviews is the From Flipper To Shock Waves eight minutes interview with actor Luke Halpin, which appeared along with the commentary on the old DVD release. He looks back on the making of the movie quite fondly and tells some stories about Adams, Cushing and Carradine.

    Rounding out the extras are a trailer for the feature, a TV spot, two radio spots, a huge still gallery, animated menus and chapter selection. The Blu-ray case is housed inside a fancy embossed cardboard slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    Blue Underground has done a fine job revisiting Shock Waves for its worldwide Blu-ray debut. Both the high definition transfer and lossless audio provide strong upgrades over their DVD counterparts and the additional extra features are a nice touch too. The movie itself remains an atmospheric and genuinely creepy picture featuring some fun performances and some genuinely iconic imagery. All in all, a great release befitting an excellent film!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Damn, for some reason this is almost twice as much on amazon.ca as it is .com. Looks like I'm heading to Diabolik!