It's popular belief, and proven to an extent by a few odd bits of evidence that popped up after the war, that Adolph Hitler was obsessed with the occult and supernatural. It is also widely reported that the Nazis experimented with supposed "super-soldiers" that were trained to excel in battle in certain terrain and environs. Armed with these plausible plot devices, the 1976 thriller Shock Waves presented us with a very different sort of "zombie", and thanks to Blue Underground, we now have the pleasure of experiencing the film on DVD.
An island hopping charter boat runs aground when it crashes into a derelict freighter off the coast of a small island. The crew and passengers abandon ship and discover a seemingly abandoned hotel, which is actually serving as a home to an old SS commander (Cushing), who has been living there since the end of the second world war after being ordered to scuttle his ship and cargo of Death Troops; Soldiers made up of madmen and criminals engineered to adapt to battle at sea and under it. When the Death Troops begin filing out of the water in search of revenge the castaways discover that for them, the war is just beginning.
Shock Waves is a very low-budget flick and it shows, most noticeably in the fact that the Death Troops are supposed to hate the light, yet they only seem to attack by day to accommodate the budget. There are also virtually no special effects to speak of, since the deaths are bloodless, and the "zombies" don't eat who they kill, they just kill period. However, Shock Waves is still a pretty spooky and entertaining film, powered by a great cast, some very nice camera work, and an intriguing concept that help to make up for the film's budgetary shortcomings.
The DVD from new company Blue Underground is a miracle in that it even exists at all. The original prints of Shock Waves were lost over 20 years ago, explaining why this film hasn't been available in any form since its original VHS release back in the early 1980's. Blue Underground teamed up with director Ken Wiederhorn and used his original 16mm to 35mm blow-up vault negative of the film and remastered it specifically for this release. While the print is grainy and has some flickering and coloring issues this is to be expected due to the source, and Blue Underground should be applauded for bringing this little gem back from near-extinction!
The DVD is also pretty loaded up with extra goodies, including a commentary with Wiederhorn, Fred Olen Ray and make-up artist, Alan Ormsby, as well as a short interview with actor Luke Halpin. There are also TV, Theatrical and radio spots for the film, an exhaustive photo gallery, and a load of promotional materials, posters, and production art. Not a bad amount of extras for a film that was very nearly lost forever, eh?
Shock Waves is a very fun flick and the DVD is a really pleasant surprise. Blue Underground is off to a great start, and, if they can keep it up, we horror fans have a lot to look forward to.