Horror Double Feature
together on a budget double feature DVD, They
Saved Hitler's Brain and The Frozen
Dead represent the sort of Nazi-themed exploitation pictures
cranked out before sleazy sex and gore came to dominate the
subgenre in the 1970s. Brain is
a real piece of scheisse, a complete waste of time. The
headlined by one-time Hollywood leading man Dana Andrews (Curse
of the Demon)
isn't particularly good, but should provide schlock fans with
a mildly entertaining experience regardless. Both flicks involve
fanatical postwar Nazi groups and living, disembodied heads.
(I suppose the title of the first movie is a dead giveaway.)
Saved Hitler's Brain, a loony cabal of National Socialists
based in the mythical South American country of Mandorus is
keeping Der Führer's severed noggin alive in a jar, waiting
for the right moment to launch the Fourth Reich. Their plan
entails wiping out most of the human race with deadly G-gas.
This makes 'em rather keen to get their hands on American scientist
Prof. Coleman (John Holland), the only person who knows the
formula for the antidote. After his assistant is blown up by
a car bomb the professor is kidnapped and spirited to Mandorus.
Coleman's future son-in-law Phil (Walter Stocker) just happens
to be an intelligence agent for Uncle Sam. A Mandoran freedom
fighter attempts to inform him about the kidnapping but is shot
dead before he can convey much information. Still in the dark,
Phil and fiancιe Kathy (Audrey Claire) fly to Mandorus to find
out what's going on. They're contacted by the younger brother
of the dead rebel (Carlos Rivas plays both roles), who fills
in the blanks via a lengthy flashback scene padded with WW2
stock footage... In the spring of 1945 Hitler ordered his head
surgically removed, placed in a life-sustaining apparatus (i.e.,
a jar) and flown out of Germany to escape the Allies. (They
had to cut off his head for that?) Setting up headquarters
in Mandorus, the disembodied Führer has been planning his
second shot at global domination ever since. Soon the deadly
G-gas will be unleashed on an unsuspecting world. It's up to
Phil, Kathy, and a handful of patriotic Mandorans (including
Creature from the Black Lagoon's
Nestor Paiva) to stop the Nazis.
Saved Hitler's Brain reminds me somewhat of Mesa
of Lost Women, if only because in both cases the potential
for 'So Bad It's Good' enjoyment is completely flushed down
the crapper. Aside from the goofy plot, Brain's
first half hour is padded with footage shot at least 5 years
later; the hairstyles, clothing and music are wildly inconsistent,
yet even this doesn't generate any laughs. The movie
is just dull, dull, dull. Hitler's severed head
mugging ludicrously within the jar, growling "Schnell!" as his
doesn't appear until very near the end. When this type of material
can't produce unintentional humor it's time to pull the plug.
The Frozen Dead (1966) is more
gratifying. Neither scary nor gory, it does contain some delightfully
lurid elements. A slumming Dana Andrews plays Dr. Norberg, an
expatriate German scientist living at a large country estate
outside London. In a basement lab he diligently pursues his
20-year goal of reviving a group of die-hard Nazis cryogenically
frozen at the close of WW2 to escape war crimes indictments.
Funding for the mansion and the experiments are provided by
a secretive group of unrepentant Nazis who (naturally) want
to resurrect the Party and a new Fourth Reich. The project isn't
going all that well, though. While successful in bringing them
back to life, Norberg's 'patients' emerge from the deep freeze
mentally defective. He and his creepy assistant Karl (Alan Tilvern)
have to keep them locked up in a cell at all times.
decades of failure Norberg seems a bit weary of it all, including
the Party. But Karl's been lying in his secret reports to the
money men, making it sound as if the doctor is on the verge
of a dramatic breakthrough. Thus a couple of Party honchos show
up at the mansion for a demonstration. Things are further complicated
when Norberg's niece Jean (Anna Palk) arrives unexpectedly from
America, bringing college friend Elsa (Kathleen Breck) with
her. Jean, of course, knows nothing of her uncle's ghoulish
experiments or radical political affiliations.
quickly Karl sees an easy solution to Norberg's dilemma of acquiring
a live human head in order to study various brain functions.
He arranges for one of the thawed-out Nazi corpsicles, one with
especially violent tendencies (Norberg's own brother, played
by a young Edward Fox), to strangle Elsa. Karl convinces Norberg
to take advantage of the situation and remove the girl's head.
It's put in a wooden box and hooked up to nutrient tubes; the
top of the skull is removed and replaced with clear plastic
for better viewing. The next morning Jean is told that her friend
awoke early, leaving rather suddenly for the train station.
things actually get interesting, despite the arrival of yet
another newcomer to Schloss Norberg: Dr. Ted Roberts
(Philip Gilbert), one of the dorkiest "heroes" I've
ever seen in a horror film. (Posture, man! Posture!)
He's something of a weasel, too.
As Norberg's new assistant, he's shown Elsa's disembodied head...
and actually thinks its cool rather than immediately
going to the police. He only turns against Norberg when Elsa's
condition threatens his chances of getting lucky with Jean.
Meanwhile, the Party bigwigs want her dead, fearing she knows
too much about her uncle's work. Elsa's head transmits telepathic
messages of warning to Jean in her sleep; in the film's goofiest
scene, Norberg demonstrates his amazing Wall of Severed Arms.
The Nazis all must die, of course, leading to an amusing climax
as Elsa gets her revenge. (What's the one thing a Wall
of Severed Arms could be capable of?) The coda
which manages to be both creepy and silly
is straight out of an EC
horror comic of the '50s.
Probably too talky and not gory enough for younger horror fans,
Frozen Dead gave this
40-year old enough cheesy chills to be worthwhile
Feature nostalgia strikes again.
is the first Catcom disc I've had a chance to view. Like Alpha
and Diamond's product, it's a bargain bin DVD priced around $5
in retail stores
if you can find it, that is
and $7 online. The super-low price readily compensates for the
inferior presentation of the films and awkward, less-than-user-friendly
It would appear the transfers used for the disc come from
16mm dupes, so there's plenty of grain and print damage to go
'round. Fortunately it is the lesser flick, They
Saved Hitler's Brain, which fares the worst in regards
to A/V quality. Audio is muffled throughout, with a 5-minute stretch
in the middle of the film rendered almost unintelligible due to
a loud, persistent fluttering noise. The
Frozen Dead, while a bit washed-out looking, is really
no worse than prints used for some of the substantially more expensive
Something Weird DVDs. (It comes off pretty much as I remember
from UHF TV broadcasts 20-30 years ago.) Aural quality is likewise
substandard though significantly better than Brain's.
even a few extras are chucked in the mix. Two Superman cartoons
from the 1940s are included but are extremely ragged, with
lots of missing frames; color balance is completely shot. (The
Man of Steel's cape is purple, while his tights are forest green!)
Also in pretty rough shape is a psychedelic drive-in intermission
ad, in Yellow Submarine-style animation,
touting concession stand goodies. A postwar Victory Bonds short
asks for one last sacrifice by the Home Front. But the real treat
comes in the form of three vintage TV commercials. One features
horror icon Boris Karloff pitching Ronson lighters; the others
are black and white toy commercials promoting the "Gung Ho Commando"
play set and "Tiger Joe" giant-size battery powered tank. These
war toy ads look remarkably good... and definitely brought back
some memories! 1/15/03
The double feature DVD reviewed above went OOP sometime in 2004.
Copies are now going for ridiculous prices at Amazon. They
Saved Hitler's Brain remains available on DVD via Rhino
Home Video's budget release.