Thursday, June 06, 2024

The Frozen Dead

I don’t know if Herbert J. Leder is the only filmmaker to write, produce, and direct a Warner Brothers double bill, but I feel safe saying he is the worst. Both THE FROZEN DEAD and IT, a killer Golem movie starring Roddy McDowall, were filmed in color by Leder in Great Britain, but released in the United States in black and white.

Dana Andrews — a long way from LAURA — stars in THE FROZEN DEAD as a Nazi mad scientist in London twenty years after the fall of the Third Reich. Undeterred, Andrews moves forward with his heady scheme to rejuvenate the 1500 Nazi soldiers he placed in suspended animation during the war. Unfortunately, their brains don’t work, leaving Andrews with drooling idiots in full Nazi uniforms stinking up his lab (one of them is played by Edward Fox, future star of THE DAY OF THE JACKAL).

To Andrews’ and Leder’s credit, everything is played completely straight. Even the mere hint of camp would have made this material insufferable rather than silly. Though Leder’s direction is unexceptional, some of his images are indelible: a trio of Nazis hanging in a meat locker awaiting eventual reanimation, a wall of dangling arms (foreshadowing!), the decapitated but still living head of a young woman (Kathleen Breck) who can somehow communicate psychically with her best friend Anna Palk (THE SKULL), Andrews’ innocent niece.

No matter how many times filmmakers attempt it (here’s looking at you, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE), a disembodied talking head on a tray is impossible to take seriously (which is why the great RE-ANIMATOR didn’t try), and who knows what Andrews was thinking in his scenes with Breck. Too static and talky to work as a thriller, THE FROZEN DEAD wins points for its ridiculous premise and Andrews’ professionalism, but not enough points to recommend.