Tuesday 21 June 2011

Shock Waves (1977)

SHOCK WAVES, also known as ALMOST HUMAN, was directed by the magnificently named Ken Weiderhorn in 1977 and stars Brooke Adams, Luke Halpin, Peter Cushing and John Carradine.  Set in the Caribbean, it begins with a terrified young woman being rescued from a drifting dinghy; in hospital she recounts what led her to be in that predicament.

SHOCK WAVES is a good example of a cross-genre movie, otherwise known (by me) as a have-your-cake-and-eat-it movie.  You've got zombies, to get the horror fans in; you've got underwater action and bikinis to get fans of THE DEEP in; and as if that isn't enough, you've also got Nazis, to get the WW2 fans in.  Partly by chance, and partly by design, it also has a cast which will endear to film buffs approaching it for the first time now.

There are some good moments in it actually and the spooky atmosphere is sustained throughout.  Ocean-based movies that are actually shot on location almost always look good and are almost always quite exciting, simply by being set at sea: the ocean is a great location and can be used to suggest menace, adventure, isolation - you name it.  Plus it allows for crusty old sea captains, plucky sailors and bizarre passengers (all of which are present and correct here).  The best bits mostly come in the first two-thirds, essentially up until we are told what's going on, as if we hadn't already guessed: the eerie weather which presages the raising of the U-Boat, the discovery and exploration of the seemingly abandoned hotel.

Unfortunately, it then degenerates into a long and rather repetitive chase, as the survivors try to fight off the undead Nazis and get off the island.  The make-up effects by CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS star Alan Ormsby are really good, but there are too many shots of the Nazis rising from the sea; it's good once or twice but after that it's just overkill.

The cast is well worth noting.  Brooke Adams somehow went from this to Terrence Malick's breathtaking DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978) and hence a decent career in mainstream Hollywood productions.  Luke Halpin was the star of the TV series FLIPPER which I've never seen but I understand he and it were very popular in the 1960s; in this he's kind of Nick Nolte-lite but decent enough.  Cushing needs no introduction from me: I'm a huge fan and he's as dependable as ever in this, even gamely splashing about in the surf despite not looking too well.  Next to John Carradine, hoever, he looks in the prime of life.  Carradine is I suppose the US equivalent to Cushing but only in terms of the nature of his output and its prolific rate; he's nowhere near as good an actor and too early in his career settled for guest appearances in crummy horror movies.  He has a presence though and his gnarly, arthritic hands really suit his character here.

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