Robin Pierce OnLine
Addressing the Geek Nation......
Shocktober 2021 13. The Witch (2015)
Shocktober 2021 12. The Frighteners (1996)
Shocktober 2021 11. The Others (2001)
Shocktober 2021 10 The Horror at 37,000 feet
Shocktober 2021 9. Van Helsing (2004)
Shocktober 2021 8. Kiss of the Vampire (1963)
Shocktober 2021 6. Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
Shocktober 2021 5. Race With the Devil (1975)
Shocktober 2021 4. The Return of the Vampire (1943)
Shocktober 2021 3. The Sorcerers (1967)
Shocktober 2021 2. Gargoyles (1972)
Shocktober 2021 1. The Man Who Laughs (1928)
Shocktober 2021 7 The Frozen Dead (1966)

“Bury me. Bury me. Bury meeeeeeeee” – Elsa

John Llewellyn Probert's House of Mortal Cinema: The Frozen Dead (1966)

Again, this one is one of those films seen early in my horror movie watching days, on a Monday late night show. As far as I’m aware, other than that one screening in around 1973, it hasn’t been shown on a TV near me since. This is one of two films that really stuck with me from the early seventies TV screenings and played on my mind a little bit. (For the inquisitive, the other one was Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte with Bette Davis, with its meat cleaver murder and the severed hand and head.)

In all truth, I hadn’t thought about The Frozen Dead in several years, until several months ago, I was leafing through an old book about horror movies that I’d bought back in the mid-seventies, and it featured on some of the colour photos in the middle. (Remember those coffee table style books by Alan Frank, published by Octopus Books? It was one of those.) And it got me thinking, and remembering.

The reason The Frozen Dead stuck with me all those years was that my undoubtedly well-meaning mother, who sat through a lot of horror movies with me back then, decided that halfway through this film, enough was enough and this one was just too much. The TV was switched off with righteous parental authority that couldn’t be reasoned with and off to bed I went. Troubled.

Troubled because I hadn’t had the satisfaction of seeing the horror resolved. I had no idea how, or even if, good won out in the end. And that’s an important part of the catharsis of horror movie, seeing evil vanquished. (Or at least it was back then.) Dracula could stalk all the victims he wanted – we could go to bed secure in the knowledge he’d been vanquished - at least until the next time. And that was pretty much the rule that practically all horror movies obeyed. It was practically an unwritten law. This is why Halloween (1978) was so un-nerving. It broke the great unwritten law.

Back to the point. My main memory of The Frozen Dead was of a severed head in a box. And it talked. There were shots that became burned into my memory that featured this tormented woman’s head, in the dark, and she was talking.  And I never knew what became of her. Did they find her? Did they humanely dispose of her? Did they keep the talking head in a box on a table, like an early version of Alexa?

The Frozen Dead! (1966) –

So, forty-eight years later, I tracked down the film and sat down to watch it. Would what preyed on the mind and sleep of a naïve thirteen-year-old have a similar effect on the mind of a sixty-one-year-old, numbed by decades horror film watching?

All in all, it’s a standard mad scientist movie of the time. The British horror movie era ushered in by Hammer, and jumped upon by Amicus was at the tail end of what I think was its golden age. There would still be some good ones released over the next six years, but horror in general was about to be shaken up by the subversive and ground-breaking likes of Rosemary’s Baby and Night of the Living Dead. Both of which would expose the Hammer movies as being a bit genteel, when only a small handful of years earlier, they ruled the macabre roost.

Dana Andrews plays Dr Norberg a Nazi scientist working secretly in an English castle for his Nazi masters. (Nothing screams undercover as effectively as buying an English castle as your home.) Remember, was filmed only 20 years after the end of WW2. Several high-ranking Nazi elites have gone into hiding after the war, and are working secretly to seize power back. Norberg has been involved with cryogenic freezing, and has twelve frozen Nazis in his castle.

Freezing them isn’t the problem. Thawing them out is. Those he’s brought back have all been brain damaged, as if they only have one memory. One’s in perpetual tears because he’s regressed to a time when he was deprived of something as a child, another bounces an imaginary ball, one has found religion and yet another is a homicidal maniac having only memories of being murderously angry (this one is played by a very young Edward Fox)

At this point, it’s all pretty standard. The high entertainment value is listening to Dana Andrews trying to slur his way through a German accent he keeps forgetting about in mid-sentence. Norberg should really have been played by Peter Cushing, but I guess he was busy at Hammer.

Pleading for more time with his Nazi overlords because they’ve just sprung on him that there are a few more Nazis to revive than the three he has remaining in cold storage – around eleven THOUSAND more – he tells them that he needs to experiment on a living brain, and intends to sever the head of an ape and replace its cranium with a plastic dome, while keeping the brain alive, to see what it’s doing and why his method keeps failing.

Unexpectedly, his niece comes home a week early from college, bringing a friend with her. This gives Norberg’s assistant an idea to get himself back in his master’s good graces. Fresh brain coming right up, as he murders the friend. THIS, around forty minutes in, is where the film really begins to pick up.

Important note, the niece Jean (Anna Palk) is under the guardianship of Norberg. Her father “died” – but in reality, and unknown to her, is the homicidal zombie in her uncle’s basement lab. Now the friend, Elsa (Kathleen Breck) is beheaded, and has various tubes feeding her nutrients and stuff – basically keeping her alive and carrying the waste away. (I have no idea how she talks because she has no lungs, but, y’know – it’s still the stuff of nightmares seeing this head in a box, in darkness, muttering every now and again)

Elsa manages to establish a telepathic link with Jean, who has visions in her dreams of Elsa being buried without a head – not for one second believing the cover story that Elsa went home early, and getting a handsome young doctor (Philip Gilbert) who’s there to assist Norberg, to help her instead.

Elsa also manages to establish a link with the brain damaged zombies AND (get this) a wall of disembodied arms Norberg has as part of presumably an earlier experiment.

THE FROZEN DEAD (1966) Reviews and overview - MOVIES and MANIA

It all goes south when Jean discovers her father whose only instinct is to strangle her and is sadly shot by the police in the process. (Shortest lived reunion ever…) Meanwhile, the disembodied arms strangle Norberg and his Nazi boss, at the command of Elsa.

The final scene has the surviving cast members gathered around Elsa’s hear as she whispers “Bury me… Bury me… Bury meeeeeeeee….” The camera closes in on her – and the film finishes. All these years, I’ve wondered what became of the head – and I STILL DON’T KNOW.

Cinema Sunday: The Frozen Dead (1966) | Magazines and Monsters!

Overall, though – the effects with the head raise this one above the normal horror movies of the period. I can see how that would’ve stuck with me, and yeah – I can kind of see where my old mum was coming from. It’s a messed-up movie with some haunting images. The only other one she ever switched off was The Devil Rides Out (1966) where someone under a spell was being manipulated to suicide. So THOSE were her limits – suicide and talking severed heads. Good Lord!

More Screams incoming soon, brace yourselves. We’re not done yet. 

 Copyright © 2010 - 2021 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.

About Me
From the Bridge
Piercing the Veil Podcast
Reviews & Features
The Atomic Vault
Camp Hack'n'Slash
Shocktober Film Fest
Shocktober Crypt